Project inspired by Massachusetts Institute of Technology provides economic boost for Leeds

A project inspired by the work of a famous US academic institution has been set up to support entrepreneurs affected by the Covid-19 crisis in Yorkshire.

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)

An online initiative called Leap has been launched by Team Leeds, the Leeds City Region cohort participating in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP).

MIT REAP is a global initiative designed to help regions accelerate economic growth through innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDE).

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In response to the pandemic, the Leap initiative has been created as a free online programme for budding entrepreneurs to gain the information, tools and mentoring support to kick-start business ideas that may have come to light during the lockdown. Participants in the project can go at their own pace. It comprises written, audio and video content, compiled by partners across the Leeds City Region.

The course covers a wide range of topics and issues linked to running a small business, including funding, structure, and marketing and growth strategies.

Dr Martin Stow, the newly appointed Team Leeds champion and director of the University of Leeds innovation hub, Nexus, commented; “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.

“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 led Team Leeds for the past two years.

The entrepreneur David Aspin, founder and owner of Munroe K and a member of Team Leeds, said: “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.”

The leader of Leeds City Council, Coun Judith Blake, said “This year has been extremely difficult 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.”

Coun Blake added: “Following the fantastic work we did with MIT earlier in the year when we hosted the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (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.”

Roger Marsh OBE, chairman of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the NP1 (Northern Powerhouse 11) Board, said the relationship with MIT had enhanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities that businesses face.

He added: “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.”

To sign up to the Leap initiative, please visit: https://idea-community.mn.co/ and register to join or visit: https://mitreapleedscityregion.com/

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