Newcastle is the powerhouse for innovation in the North East of England. Although many people associate Newcastle with football and friendly Geordies, it is one of the fastest growing tech scenes outside of London. Newcastle has been a center of technology for years; it had the first trains and street lights as well as being one of the first televised regions in the UK. Fast forwarding to the economic crisis of 2008, unemployment hit the city hard, but Government-funding initiatives to improve the start up loan saw Newcastle soar. It is currently a creative hub for tech, energy and innovation as the city strives to be the key to science in the UK.

Location | Facilities | Educational Establishments | Financial Support | Real Talk | Infographic

Location

Newcastle, also known as Newcastle upon Tyne, sits in the Tyne and Wear county. It holds fantastic links by road, rail, sea and air to the UK and abroad. It is only a 3 hour train ride from London and 1 and a half hours from Edinburgh providing quick links to both the English and Scottish capitals. Newcastle also boasts an international airport allowing for global business.

Facilities

Accelerators, the City Council and the Universities have implemented facilities to make Newcastle the North East center for science, tech and innovation. Science Central (which will hopefully develop into Science City) is a £250 million flagship project. The aim is to bring academia and business together to create a global centre for urban innovation. It consists of 24 acres dedicated to science with 500,000 sq ft of commercial building space. At its heart is The Core that was opened in 2014. This central building is an ecosystem of entrepreneurs and innovators.

Ignite100, one of the most prominent accelerators here, started Campus North – a 10,000 sq ft venue operating incubator programmes for business tenants. Residing in this building is also TechNorth. They are a government-funded initiative delivered by Tech City UK to attract tech entrepreneurs to the north.

Business & IP Centre Newcastle is a source of information for start ups. It is an initiative started by the City Council and the British Library. They have a network of partners that can help across all sectors in IP, start up advice and business support.

Other facilities include The Toffee Factory and the Universities.

Educational Establishments

Newcastle has 2 quality Universities to its name: Newcastle University and Northumbria University. These educational establishments are involved in ground-breaking R&D and provide much of the talent needed by growing tech start ups due to Newcastle’s high student retention rate.

They are also financers to the start up scene such as Newcastle University’s involvement in Science Central.

Financial Support

Newcastle contains the North East Enterprise Zone that gives financial incentives to businesses such as reduced business rates and enhances capital allowance. This is located over 10 sites that are within the 3 key areas of the Low Carbon Vehicle Corridor on the North Bank of the River Tyne and Port of Blyth. The North Bank of the River Tyne is 1 of 5 CORE (Centres for Offshore Renewable Engineering) in the UK.

In terms of grants and funding, there are several options:

Let’s Grow is a £60 million regional growth fund to support capital investment and R&D projects. It is available to companies of all sizes, but provides higher levels of support for SMEs. It is run as a series of quarterly competitions.

 Go Digital Newcastle, on the other hand, is a £2,000 grant for broadband and IT equipment. They supply connection vouchers for SMEs, charities and social enterprises to connect or upgrade to superfast broadband valued at £3,000 for free.

The EU’s JEREMIE fund is a £125 million pot that provides equity and debt finance for firms based in or relocating to the North East. It ranges from £1,000 to £1.25 million in finance.

Another major player is the Atom Bank which is a ‘digital only’ bank that provides products such as mortgages and current accounts for businesses.

Real Talk

To get a firm idea of what Newcastle is really like, we had a chat with Newcastle based start ups to share first-hand experiences and get a real feel for the city.

SoPost

SoPost Logo

SoPost helps brands run product sampling activities more effectively than ever before. They launched their product sampling business in 2013. Currently with 9 employees to their name, they are striving to build the most powerful product sampling platform to provide the best solutions for major brands across the globe.

SoPost claims that Newcastle is a pool of great talent and gives them a huge competitive advantage. Due to lower costs in Newcastle compared to London, they are given the chance to be more daring with their work.

As business tenants in The Core, they are firm believers that Ignite100 and Science Central are key resources in the start up scene. The Core has provided them to innovate and grow as well as allowing them to conduct business efficiently. In terms of impact, Ignite100 has been at the heart of the efforts to create and grow the start up community, which was close to non-existent 10 years ago.

Tips for entrepreneurs starting up in the UK:
“Geography can play an important part in your success or failure, but don’t assume that you need to be 100% based in London. For me, Newcastle feels like the best kept secret in tech”

– Jonathan Grubin at SoPost

Shinobicontrols

shinobicontrols logo

Shinobicontrols is the leading creator of fast, responsive charting and user interface tools for native app developers, both iOS and Android. Launched in 2011, they are now part of a UK-based bespoke software development consultancy Scott Logic Limited. Out of the 190 staff members, 12 work solely for shinobicontrols.

For them, Newcastle holds fantastic transport links to other trading centers without the costs associated with operating in London. Several global companies are starting to base themselves in Newcastle making it an even more exciting place. With strong ties to the Universities and high-calibre graduates, it is easier to recruit quality staff. Moreover, the quality of life the region offers is great.

Newcastle has always been a center of innovation, but with bigger technology firms establishing themselves there, it is attracting more investment and thus, allowing start ups to spring up all over the city.

Tips for entrepreneurs starting up in the UK:
“Gain a really thorough understanding of your market and your potential competitors in order to truly develop your USP; and don’t forget that business is all about building relationships, so see every contact as a potential networking, sales or PR opportunity.”

– Jule Wilson at Shinobicontrols

MindMate

MindMate Logo

MindMate is an all-in-one assistance platform for people with dementia, their carers and family members to manage the condition better. Having started in early 2015, their app is now live with over 13,000 active users and they are currently trialing with the NHS.

MindMate participated in Ignite100’s accelerator programme which gave them good contacts across the UK. They think that initiatives, such as Science Central, are what help Newcastle in being a frontrunner in the innovation field. This strengthens the economy of the North East and helps SMEs grow and flourish. Location is also prime for the business as they were originally a Scottish company. It allows them to keep good links with Edinburgh, Glasgow and London.

Tips for entrepreneurs starting up in the UK:
“The UK, in general, is a very good place to start a company (especially compared to Austria and Germany). You need to have a strong team in place to start and be successful and should network a lot in order to get great contacts that can help you with starting, but also growing your business. […] you should not ignore [links] with London if you want to become successful.”

– Susanne Mitschke at MindMate

Leaf.fm

Leaf.fm logo

Leaf.fm is a mobile-first community of music fans that can discover and enjoy the music they love for free whilst artists engage directly with them. Established in July 2014, Leaf.fm are determined to become the world’s leading music platform.

The Newcastle start up scene is in full swing and is still constantly changing since they’ve been there. They described it as “a change that is happening because seeds were sown, watered and now it’s starting to show”. Initiatives such as Campus North and TechNorth simply add to the mix rather than being the key ingredients to Newcastle becoming an innovation center. However, Leaf.fm state that the biggest advantage of being based in Newcastle was Ignite100. It offered them no distractions, a great quality of life and cost effective business.

Tips for entrepreneurs starting up in the UK:
“Bring your 150%”

– Gilbert Corrales

FitGurus

FitGurus Logo

FitGurus is the toughest workout app for people who don’t want ‘easy’. Launched in 2014, this team of 4 aims to be the sole destination app for people who are serious about their training.

FitGurus find the start up community incredibly supportive in Newcastle because of initiatives like Ignite100 and the vast number of mentors that regularly give their time to SMEs. They’ve seen a shift in the start up scene in the last few years thanks to Ignite100, TechNorth and Sunderland Software City. For them, Newcastle is an “awesome location to be in business.”

Tips for entrepreneurs starting up in the UK:
“Talk and listen to as many people as possible. Make yourself publicly accountable for weekly progress, sharing what your company has achieved and the problems you’re having with the people you meet (ask first of course!). Offer help every time, without fail, even if you have zero idea how you’d be able to. If you can help, do it immediately. Move as fast as possible and accept you’re probably wrong most of the time.”

– Paul Slater at FitGurus

Infographic

To finish deciding whether Newcastle might be your dream start up base, we’ve created an infographic for you to digest bite-size stats on the city.

LocationInfo_Newcastle

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With a background in design, I started my career working in various UK based start ups. Branding, social media campaigns and digital design were my main strengths. Then, I dived into the business side of things. I am now a key researcher and creative content writer at CompanyFormations 24.7.

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