Free Enterprise programme to support SMEs, sustainable firms and fintechs

  • Ulster Bank has relaunched its free Enterprise programme to boost support for high-growth SMEs, and businesses focused on climate, fintech and B-Corp (social and environmental performance).

    The initiative is now open to applications from Northern Ireland SMEs and businesses who will join the programme in June.

    Ulster Bank said it will support over 1,400 organisations at different stages of growth through the course, with a particular focus on those companies that grow their turnover or employment by more than 20% each year.

    The bank now also states it will commit at least 25% of space on the programme to climate-focused businesses whose main objective relates to environmentally sustainable practices.

    This is building on Ulster Bank's sponsorship of the forthcoming UN COP26 climate summit, to be held in Glasgow in November 2021.

    Ulster Bank recently conducted a report into SME recovery in the UK, which found that working with SMEs to increase productivity, and driving a shift towards sustainability were two priorities which, if addressed, could help unlock £140bn of economic growth by 2030.

    RELATED: £50k grants for large NI businesses now available for online applications

    Mark Crimmins, Head of Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, said: “The findings of our recent Springboard to Recovery report showed that scale-ups will be crucial to economic recovery post Covid-19.

    "Scale-ups are 50% more productive than other SMEs, but only a small percentage of all businesses fall into the scale-up category.

    "That’s why we’re relaunching our Ulster Bank Enterprise programme to help more SMEs reach this next level of growth and productivity.

    “Combined with increased representation and support for female led businesses and Black, Asian and ethnic minority entrepreneurs, throughout our new cohort and a focus on businesses with sustainability and purpose at their core, we’re excited to be opening our doors again to support the next generation of business success stories in Northern Ireland.”

    During the pandemic, the bank moved its Enterprise programme to a virtual model, offering coaching sessions, virtual events, and one-to-one support to entrepreneurs who would normally be based in the physical accelerator hubs.

    RELATED: PwC warns most UK family businesses have no sustainability strategy

    Over the course of this year, it aims to support those on the programme through a blended model, resuming use of its Belfast hub once coronavirus guidelines allow, in conjunction with virtual aspects of the programme.

    The bank is additionally offering a Business Builder programme, which is a digital qualification offered to early stage start-ups; and Dream Bigger, an education programme aimed at 16-18 year olds, encouraging them to consider entrepreneurship as a career choice.

    The NatWest Group which Ulster Bank is part of, announced it is committing to supporting 35,000 UK entrepreneurs through its Enterprise programmes in 2021, and a further 200,000 interventions with future entrepreneurs through mentoring, webinars and coaching.

    To date, the group said its initiatives have created nearly 1,300 jobs and contributed in excess of £103m to the UK economy - with nearly half of all businesses supported since launch female led.

    Businesses applying for a place on the Accelerator programme need to be new or existing customers of NatWest Group. 

    Interested businesses can apply to join the June cohort at the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator site.

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

    Got a news-related tip you’d like to see covered on Sync NI? Email the editorial team for our consideration.

    Sign up now for a FREE weekly newsletter showcasing the latest news, jobs and events in NI’s tech sector.

Share this story