About the START Programme

START is a new and exciting pilot programme for the West of England region and will be delivered by a consortium of four universities: The University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE Bristol), The University of Bristol, The University of Bath, and Bath Spa University.

Led by UWE Bristol, partnered with techSPARK, the programme is funded by the West of England Combined Authority, and will provide a package of support and development for 150 pre-start and early formation tech/digital businesses across Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset.

We will support founders at the very earliest stages of their journey to give them a better chance of success, and through inclusive and equitable recruitment processes and programme design, we will seek to address the underrepresentation of tech founders who are women, disabled, and/or from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse backgrounds.

The Combined Authority was set up in 2017 to make decisions and investments that benefit people living and working in Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

Together, our aim is to deliver economic growth for the region and address some of our challenges, such as productivity and skills, housing and transport.

UWE Bristol is recognised for its strength and leadership through our wide-ranging economic activity and support for innovation and growth. The University has successfully run a large number of economic development programmes across the South West, including Scale Up 4 Growth in the West of England and Gloucestershire and the Digital Innovation Fund. We are passionate about supporting local economies and have awarded over £7m of grants to the region’s businesses, generating £15m of local investment.

UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone (UEZ) – one of four UEZs originally commissioned by UK government – is based at our Frenchay Campus. The facility brings together the whole innovation pipeline, creating unique opportunities to drive forward enterprise, supporting the region’s local economy. It includes

  • Future space – an innovation centre for around 50 fast-growth businesses
  • Launch Space Incubator – supporting early-stage high growth tech startups
  • HealthTech Hub – tailored SME support for product testing and prototyping, advancing technology for independent living, health, and well-being
  • Robotics Innovation Facility – providing training, research and consultancy services to entrepreneurs, businesses, and public sector clients
  • BRL Hardware Incubator – support and grow-on facilities for high tech businesses from the robotics, health technology, biosciences and biomedicine sectors.

University of Bristol – Engine Shed

Engine Shed is Bristol’s acclaimed enterprise and innovation hub, located by Temple Meads station. It creates income from workspace and event space hire to seed projects and partnerships to drive sustainable and inclusive innovation activity for the region. Its activities include:

  • SETsquared Bristol – home of our partner tech incubator which supports around 80 high-growth, high-impact startups and scaleups 
  • Engine Shed training programmes – develop your business idea, start a business or leadership skills
  • Innovation Labs – bringing startups or corporates together with PhD students to solve challenges
  • Student enterprise – access for students to our space, advice, ideas, and startup funding
  • Investment Activator Programme – supporting companies raising equity investment in the South West
  • Community partnerships – providing access to space and networks to promote a diverse workforce for the future
  • Bristol Technology Festival – a founding partner of the festival which attracts annually over 50,000 visitors. 

Our people give Bath Spa its heart. Staff bring passion to their teaching and their areas of expertise, inspiring our students to become thinkers, doers and makers. This, along with our visionary courses and focus on student wellbeing, gives Bath Spa students the skills they need to thrive.

Whether we build satellite campuses, strategic educational partnerships, or long-standing links with other bodies, we will focus on our core attributes of nurture and creativity and our determined ambition to make a difference, in order to add value to individuals and communities locally, nationally and globally.

The University of Bath has a nationally-leading position in the higher education sector, as endorsed by the accolade of University of the Year 2023 from The Times and The Sunday Times.

Our reputation for research and teaching excellence is backed by the assessment from the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) – 92% of the University of Bath’s research was classified as world-leading or internationally excellent. In addition, we have demonstrated a continuing commitment to Knowledge Exchange, contributing to societal and economic prosperity. The 2022 Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) results found the University of Bath to have substantially outperformed in Working with Business, IP and Commercialisation, and CPD and Graduate Start-Ups. Our three-year estimated turnover from spin-outs was £16 million.

The University of Bath is part of the global #1 SETsquared partnership, which has helped over 1,000 start-ups raise more than £1 billion in investment. Our SETsquared Bath Innovation Centre supports entrepreneurs leading knowledge-based innovative or disruptive technology ventures with high commercial growth potential. We have successfully led Regional Development projects, working with companies to provide tailored support through our established and validated SETsquared escalator. We are supporting and upskilling entrepreneurs and high-growth companies with ambitions to scale and access bid support for both grant R&D and investment funding. Bath companies have raised over £128m in the last 12 months.

techSPARK is a not-for-profit community dedicated to connecting, educating and strengthening tech ecosystems from Swindon to Swansea. We work with tech and digital businesses from startups to scaleups, SME’s to global corporations to help them thrive through our networks and knowledge.

techSPARK connects with over 35,000 people monthly; highlighting the best in tech in the West and bringing people together through events and programmes.