NatWest and RBS are launching a network of eight new business accelerator hubs. These will offer free workspace, mentoring, a startup “bootcamp” and a free programme of up to 18 months of advice and support.The hubs will be opened in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester and Belfast, with two more locations announced next year. NatWest is teaming up with organisation Entrepreneurial Spark for the hubs. Entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to pitch to potential investors, and “growth awards” worth up to £50,000 will be available to offer cash injections to the businesses when they need them. “By opening up our premises and providing [startups] with support and a far reaching network of contacts, we are backing the businesses of tomorrow and helping ambitious entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level,” says Alison Rose, CEO of commercial and private banking at NatWest. “This is good for them, good for us and ultimately good for the UK economy. We have a trusted partner in Entrepreneurial Spark and together we can really make a difference to those businesses at the start of their journey.” The hubs will be rolled out over the next two years, beginning with Birmingham early in 2015. NatWest will look to situate hubs in existing banks premises where possible. Building on the Entrepreneurial Spark model which has already proved very successful in Scotland, applicants will be welcomed from any sector and do not need to be NatWest or RBS customers.
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