New Leeds city region initiative helps would-be entrepreneurs take the ‘leap’

To support Leeds City Region based would-be entrepreneurs affected by the COVID-19 crisis, a new online initiative called Leap has been launched by Team Leeds, the Leeds City Region cohort participating in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s prestigious Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP). MIT REAP is a global initiative designed to help regions accelerate economic growth through innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDE).

In response to the recent pandemic, the Leap initiative has been created as an entirely free online programme for would-be entrepreneurs to gain the necessary information, tools and mentoring support to kick-start their business ideas that may have come to light during the recent lockdown. Participants can go at their own pace fitting in learning around their daily life commitments. It comprises written, audio and video content, compiled by partners across the Leeds City Region. The comprehensive course covers a full range of topics and issues in running a small business, from ideas to launch, including funding, structure, and marketing and growth strategies.

Newly appointed Team Leeds Champion and Director of University of Leeds innovation hub, Nexus, Dr Martin Stow, comments; “I’m delighted to be able to announce this brand-new initiative and look forward to future initiatives that we’ll be launching in the region moving forwards. The Leap programme aims to provide support for people who have been directly affected by the COVID-19 crisis – either negatively, through redundancy and long-term furlough, or positively, with a new-found love for the flexibility of working from home. We’re targeting people who have an idea for a business, but don’t know what to do next and people who want to start their own business, but don’t have the idea. It’s our hope that the two groups will learn from each other and perhaps collaborate on joint ventures as the Leap community grows. Team Leeds is firmly committed to making a positive difference to our region as we emerge from the COVID crisis.”

MIT REAP Team Leeds stood in a group on staircase in the Nexus building

Team Leeds, from left to right: Martin Stow (Director, Nexus), Jo-Anne Wass (Chief Operating Officer, Leeds Academic Health Partnership), Thomas Bridges (Director, Arup), Roger Marsh (Chair, Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership), Justine Andrew (Market Director, KPMG's Education and Skills), David Aspin (Founder, Monroe K), Prof Lisa Roberts (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, University of Leeds), Tom Riordan (Chief Executive, Leeds City Council). Also in Team Leeds not featured: Ben Ziff (Managing Director, Citipark at Town Center Securities) and Prof Adam Beaumont (Founder & CEO, aql and Northinvest)

“I’d also like to pay tribute to the incredible work of my predecessor in the role, Professor Lisa Roberts, who has made a huge contribution to our regional economy by putting research and innovation at the top of the agenda.”

Professor Roberts, formerly Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at the University of Leeds, is to become Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter. She has headed up Team Leeds for the past two years.

Eminent entrepreneur David Aspin, Founder & Owner of Munroe K and a key member of Team Leeds, comments: “The beauty of this programme is that it has been built for would-be entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs, so there is a clear understanding of the needs and challenges they face. Our partnerships with local government and academic experts across Leeds City Region ensure that we’re able to provide advice and expertise across every aspect of starting a new business.”

“As one of the most diverse economic areas and with the most growth potential outside the capital, the Leeds City Region has a real opportunity to drive innovation and business growth,” comments Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the NP11 (Northern Powerhouse 11) Board. “Our relationship with MIT has helped us to understand the challenges and opportunities that businesses face and to share learnings with other leading cities. The Leap programme is another example of how those shared learnings can be used to significantly increase the impact we have on innovation in our region.”

Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake said “This year has seen extremely difficult and unprecedented times for entrepreneurs and businesses across the city. Programmes such as these are so important, more now than ever, to help continue to drive growth and success.

“Following the fantastic work we did with MIT earlier in the year when we hosted the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP) international workshop, it’s great to see Team Leeds continuing this collaboration and partnership in a meaningful way to directly impact those who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As part of our continued work to support and protect businesses throughout and beyond the pandemic, the Leap programme will provide invaluable tools and strategies to help individuals get their businesses off the ground, whilst creating a supportive community to share their knowledge and expertise.”

Professor Adam Beaumont, CEO & Founder of aql said: “Speaking as an entrepreneur, investor and founder of many ecosystem businesses and organisations, including Northinvest, IXLeeds and aql,  the Leap scheme is a valuable programme that introduces a common language between entrepreneurs and other city stakeholders, helping them understand how to support us in breathing life into new ventures.”

If you’re interested you can find out more information about Leap initiative, or register to join the programme.