Cabinet Office Announces Funding For “Social Incubators”


Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd gives money to socially positive start-up incubators

The Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd has announced government funding for two start-up incubators: Bethnal Green Ventures (BGV) and Wayra UnLtd.

Both organisations offer support for early stage companies that aim to improve quality of life in the UK. The BGV will receive £1.8 million over four years, with half provided by the government, while Wayra UnLtd, a partnership between Telefonica’s Wayra incubator and social enterprise network UnLtd, will get £1.2 million over the course of two years.

The £10 million Social Incubator Fund responsible for these grants was launched by the Cabinet Office in July 2012, and operates in partnership with non-profit organisations Nesta and Nominet Trust.

Money for tech for good

“We need disruptive agents, we need people to come in and challenge the status quo,” Hurd told the audience at Nesta headquarters in London. “If ever there was a time when we have to throw everything we’ve got at supporting people with brilliant ideas, to help them turn those ideas into successful businesses, it is now.

“It’s blindingly obvious to me that we are not doing well enough in the face of some admittedly very complex, stubborn social problems that undermine the country.”

“It is not easy, because I represent the public sector – a system that is fantastically risk-averse. At the Cabinet Office, we are determined to throw open our doors to new possibilities, new ideas and partnerships,” added the Minister.

Bethnal-LargeBethnal Green Ventures, launched in 2011, is Europe’s first accelerator created specifically for social tech start-ups. So far, it has successfully ‘incubated’ twelve companies including Good Gym, which approaches volunteering as a physical exercise, and Fairphone – a company which is building the world’s first “ethical” mobile phone.

The organisation will receive £1.8 million – £900,000 from the Cabinet Office and the same amount from Nesta and Nominet Trust, to finance its Social Innovation Camp. The money will be used over four years to develop up to 80 early stage technology companies tackling social and environmental problems.

Social Innovation Camp will offer £15,000 investment to 20 early stage companies per year, along with workshops, mentoring, legal and administrative support.

“We are delighted to support the Bethnal Green Ventures accelerator programme for tech start-ups working on things that matter,” commented Annika Small, CEO of Nominet Trust.

The start-ups will be housed in a newly refurbished space at Nesta headquarters in Chancery Lane, and have free access to Google Campus in Shoreditch. Applications for the summer 2013 programme at BGV open on 6 March 2013.

logos-wayra-4-rgb1 (Small)Meanwhile, Wayra UnLtd will use £1.2 million to invest into 30 digitally focused start-ups over two years in a purpose-built “Wayra UnLtd Academy”.

The facility will provide mentoring, work-space, fast-track access to influential decision makers and venture capitalists, and most importantly, “the potential to unlock the power of 300 million Telefónica customers globally”.

“We are massively proud to celebrate this new partnership to find, support and grow digital social enterprises in the UK. We are also thrilled the Government is giving this special partnership its full support and backing. Together we aim to address significant social issues through the use of digital technology combined with entrepreneurial talent,” welcomed the news Cliff Prior, CEO of UnLtd and Simon Devonshire, Director of Wayra Europe.

Round two of the Social Incubator Fund will launch in Spring 2013.

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