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Barclays Eagle Labs £12m grant plans to fuel tech start-ups in the regions

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Barclays plans to support more than 17,000 technology entrepreneurs based outside London over the next two years under a new £12 million government grant which has opened for applications.

The bank’s tech business incubator, Eagle Labs, won the grant in January and will add it to the £10 million a year it already spends on business support through its network of 38 advice centres and online meet-ups.

It plans to reach up to 22,000 start-ups in total, with a target to channel 80 per cent of the money to companies outside the capital. Its initiatives replace some of those run by Tech Nation since 2018, which supported more than 5,000 businesses.

Barclays said its programmes aim to address the “key challenges” facing the British tech sector, such as “widening regional and local growth opportunities” and to give specialist support to sectors such as health, digital security, sustainability and agriculture-related tech.

Its advisory board includes Charles Ebubedike, chief executive of the healthcare company Clinova, and Vishal Chatrath, a serial entrepreneur and chief executive of the quantum computing software startup QuantrolOx.

Initially Eagle Labs is extending its existing “funding readiness” training, delivered over three months by its London-based partner Capital Enterprise, a consultancy; launching a 12-month scheme to connect founders of health and agriculture technology start-ups with potential customers or partners, run by the Edinburgh-based tech incubator Codebase; and providing leadership coaching from experts at Cambridge Judge Business School.

It has also called on regional business support providers to submit bids for funding to provide training tailored to local needs. Later this year an innovation consultancy called Plexal, based at the former Olympic park in east London and owned by Delancey, a property manager, will launch a six-month training scheme for start-ups looking to grow. It will target “companies with a desire to solve some of society’s challenges”.

Further schemes will be aimed at people trying to get their ideas off the ground, as well as female-led and black-founded tech firms. All participants will have access to mentoring and an information website, which is where the bulk of the support will be delivered.

Paul Scully, minister for tech and the digital economy, said the government wanted the grant “to give UK tech businesses the best start”, adding: “This is central to our plans to make the UK a tech and science superpower.”

Hannah Bernard (pictured above), head of business banking at Barclays, said the £12 million digital growth grant would help Eagle Labs to “amplify” its existing support for tech start-ups and fast-growing companies. Since 2015 it has worked with more than 9,600 companies.

Asked if tech entrepreneurs would notice any gap in support between the closure of Tech Nation last month and the ramping up of the Eagle Labs schemes, she added: “We have not attempted to say that we would do what Tech Nation does — we bid on the basis of a new programme of events. We had the infrastructure there, a cadence of events, that we have then amplified.”

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