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Business & Economy

Durham University and Council partnership delivers £3.3 million for Durham

A recent report has concluded that a joint Durham University and Durham Council project supporting business growth in County Durham has brought in over £3.3 million in value to its participants to date.

Launched in May 2018, the three part Durham Internships and Collaborative Enterprise (DICE) project aims to support start-ups, scale-ups and local SMEs through a subsidised internship programme, Durham City Incubator (DCI) and a programme of enterprise interventions for Durham University students.

Since its inauguration, 74% of SME beneficiaries have experienced growth and 67% have been able to develop new products or services as a result of project support through the up to date knowledge and high-level skills of a Durham University student or graduate.

The report, developed at the end of phase one of the project, concluded that the DICE project has also resulted in an incredible 133% increase in the number of start-ups within the region with a net increase in start-ups accessing high levels of investment (classed as >£100k).

Made possible through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the part-funded internships have proven to be an excellent way to introduce students and graduates to the opportunities available to them, both in SMEs and in the North East.

Whilst ensuring the region benefits from retaining talent, the programme has helped local businesses weather the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ross Pottenger, Founder and CEO of Taxigoat talks of his DICE experience and how it has supported him to develop his business; “As with most start-ups, cash is extremely tight, a founder’s time is severely stretched, and competent resources are very hard to come by! But I’ve managed to help solve these problems through the excellent support of the DICE programme.

“Taxigoat has benefitted immensely from the recruitment of curious, creative and competent students from Durham University, at a significantly subsidised cost. The student support has enabled Taxigoat to grow at a rate that simply wouldn’t have been possible with the capital that was available.

“Aside from the benefits the DICE programme has brought to Taxigoat, I thoroughly enjoy working with all the students, offering them my own advice and guidance, which hopefully they will use in their future careers – perhaps even with us!”

The Interim Summative Assessment has shown 37% of DCI scale-ups – many of them Durham University students and graduates – will stay in Durham because of DICE. Keeping talent within Durham is important for economic growth and DICE has done a great job in supporting businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate and develop within the region.

Laura Dorian, DICE senior project development manager for Durham University’s Career and Enterprise, said; “The DICE project has resulted in some excellent internship opportunities for Durham University students and graduates.

“We are delighted that the Interim Summative Assessment has found such high levels of growth in the SMEs we have worked with. The last year has been very difficult for businesses in our region but we are hopeful that, through the support of the DICE project, businesses and entrepreneurs can continue to innovate and develop”.

The DICE project is now moving on to its second phase, which will also see the launch of the new Durham University ORBIT Centre, based at NETPark.

If you’re an SME or entrepreneur based in County Durham and interested in support to develop a new product, service or business idea, get in touch to see how the DICE project can support you at [email protected].