By Deborah Hetherington, Business Engagement Manager at Leeds Beckett University
The Ad:Venture programme aims to help businesses within the Leeds City Region reach their full potential. There are several partners involved in the project, each of whom offer their own set of specialist skills in order to assist startup and scaleup companies to grow.
Here at Leeds Beckett, we concentrate on the support we can offer to digital businesses. This can be made up of academic support in the areas of digital marketing, business planning, pitching techniques, the art of selling and so on. We also offer student research projects, access to our app studio, a wide range of masterclasses, events, funding, incubation space, and a variety of other business support. We have branded this arm of the Ad:venture project as ‘Digital Shift’.
When I was brought on to the project, I was tasked with increasing awareness of Ad:Venture specifically within Calderdale.
Leeds Beckett’s aim in Calderdale is two-fold; we want to play a valuable part in growing the expanding digital eco-system, and we want to have an impact on local startups’ bottom lines. We want to see more startups becoming scaleups and we believe our Digital Shift offering has a genuine and credible role to play in that journey. Within my first few months in Calderdale I have managed to meet with collaborators from local public, private and third sector partners who all share the same vision. We have a great relationship with the council and it’s rewarding to work with such a forward facing, innovative organisation.
I have been pleasantly surprised at just how much activity is already taking place throughout the Valley. There is a growing digital community made up of some fantastic co-working spaces filled with successful digital companies, a range of networking activities and strong local business support.
“We want to have a tangible impact on business outputs and productivity.”
Leeds Beckett wants to add to that business support by offering our vast range of academic and industry business knowledge and expertise to digital SMEs within the region. We want to have a tangible impact on business outputs and productivity. Through meeting with a range of startups already, the feedback we are getting around the programme is very positive. The spectrum of businesses I personally engage with is incredibly broad, ranging from a chatbot specialist whose company is one month old through to an e-commerce business who already have an impressive turnover and are looking to hire a management position imminently.
The type of guidance and support we give is bespoke to the company; from basic business planning and funding, right through to the more advanced industry coaching and assistance through the scaleup process. Andy Banks, Founder of Venture Forge, an e-commerce consultancy Firm, says about the Ad:venture programme: “The programme provides a good balance of knowing where I would need value input and equally where I don’t. It gives me confidence that the support we will receive will be right for us and not some kind of one size fits all approach.”
Andy goes on to comment on Calderdale’s potential as a digital centre: “We’ve got massive potential. Calderdale is full of great businesses looking to grow digitally. With the recruitment of digital people always being challenging, being located halfway between Leeds and Manchester puts Calderdale right in the middle of two pools of amazing digital talent.”
The University Business Centre, that officially opened at the end of September and already has an impressive array of tenants, is proving to be a successful catalyst for engagement.
We have started running monthly digital breakfast mornings allowing the digital community to come together and network whilst simultaneously providing knowledge transfer seminars from local industry experts on a plethora of sector specific topics. We are holding full day workshops specific to taking businesses to the next step of productivity, and not to forget the three-day Digital Shift Summit we held at the end of September.
The Summit saw a range of industry experts from the likes of marketing agency Woven, through to BJSS and Sky Betting and Gaming offering their expertise and knowledge to 40+ eligible businesses. The range of workshops from the event included ‘Practical Business Planning’, ‘Mentoring to Hire’, ‘Accessing Finance’ and ‘The Future of Video’ to name a few.
Feedback from the event was entirely positive, some of the delegates commented on the business planning workshop:
“The workshop was challenging but in a really good way.
Excellent and interactive, very useful exercises.”
“Really interesting, good session, highlighted gaps in what I’m doing and where I need to spend more time.”
As a university, we are very excited to play our part in growing the digital eco-system in Calderdale and we encourage all eligible businesses and intermediary organisations to get in touch to see if we can add value to your company and business relationships.
You can read more about how you can benefit from the project here.