The Digital Business Acceleration Hub (DBAH), an ERDF-funded programme led by SETsquared Surrey between 2017 to 2020, has proven to be a vital springboard for participating companies to raise significant investment (over £80m) and wider economic and entrepreneurial impact.
In total, 270 start-ups participated in the Entrepreneurs Programme, a two-day intensive workshop to develop and pitch their business model, with 100 of these companies then receiving ongoing support through business acceleration hubs in Basingstoke, Farnborough, Guildford, and Woking.
From apps to AI, cybersecurity to robotics, it was tailored to meet the needs of early-stage digital start-ups, which received support to shape their business model for growth and success. It was set up to address a previously fragmented local innovation support infrastructure, which had led to variations in innovation uptake, sector development and economic performance.
The wide-ranging economic impacts of the DBAH programme include a high proportion of participating companies introducing new products to the market (88%), growing their existing market share (72%), and entering new markets (67%) as a direct result of the programme.
There have also been some significant stand-out rising stars of the programme, which have gone on to raise significant investment, totalling over £80m (see below).
Andrei Danescu, CEO, Dexory, reflects on the support he received: “Taking part in the DBAH programme provided solid foundations to move forward and grow the business. The Entrepreneurs Programme provided invaluable experience in pitching our proposition for the first time, and then the ongoing business incubation really propelled us forward and opened the door to raising investment.”
“Our solution was initially designed to serve the retail sector front-of-house, managing inventory on the shelf. However, for the last 2-3 years, we’ve successfully focused on the logistics industry, driven by the lack of visibility our customers have over warehouse goods and have won Innovate UK funding and significant investment. The DBAH programme set us on this trajectory, and we’re really grateful for that early support.”
Caroline Fleming, Director of Innovation Strategy (Incubation and Enterprise), University of Surrey, says: “It’s great to see the strong legacy that the DBAH programme has created. Not only has it acted as a springboard for digital business growth and engaged a new wave of innovative entrepreneurs, but it’s also unlocked wider benefits. Many participating companies have also benefitted from university-based knowledge and assets, including R&D collaboration, support, and academic staff resources. As well as opening up the wider SETsquared ecosystem of investors and opportunities to pitch for investment.”
Here is a snapshot of the companies that have gone on to raise significant investments:
- Dexory (formerly BotsandUs) has developed the warehouse of the future through the use of robots and a data visualisation platform to measure, track and locate goods across every logistics step, from inbound to storage, picking to outbound. It recently raised a $19m series A investment round. This follows a previous $2.6m pre-seed rounds in 2020 and a $13m seed round in 2022.
- RoboK was recently awarded £133k from the Department of Transport’s Freight Innovation Fund to trial the use of its artificial intelligence system to generate insights from video data, such as CCTV, to provide analysis on the likes of capacity and asset movement in real-time to reduce costly delays and inefficiencies.
- RazorSecure secured £1.3m investment to support its growth to become the leading supplier of rail cyber security products across the UK and globally. The funding was provided by Birmingham’s Frontier Development Capital (FDC) from the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI) Recycled Fund and will enable the company to expand across Europe and North America, creating at least 67 jobs in the UK.
- Tappter has secured a £200k equity investment from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Investment Fund as part of a wider £400k funding round to develop its multi-channel messenger app with ID verification and e-sign features for the residential sales and lettings market.
- Ufurnish, an online furniture sales platform, recently raised a further £3.4m in seed funding, which follows an earlier £1.8m pre-seed round in 2020.
- OutThink, the world’s first cybersecurity human risk management platform, which combines machine learning, natural language processing and applied psychology to identify individuals’ attitudes and behaviours, raised £8.8m earlier in 2023, led by AlbionVC.
- StaffCircle, which has developed HR software platform that helps firms to manage the performance of employees in different locations has raised a further £3m from existing investors.
- Sparkbox uses AI and in-depth data to help big brand merchandising teams make better stock and buying and pricing decisions, raised £1.5m in 2022 from Praetura Ventures.
- Lumio raised £1.1m seed funding in 2021 to develop its personal finance management platform, enabling users to instantly switch to the best savings and investment accounts in the marketplace.
SETsquared Surrey continues to support a diverse range of tech start-ups through its business incubation membership, which provides a bespoke package of support to suit ventures throughout their business growth journey. Find out more about SETsquared Surrey support
The Digital Business Acceleration Hub was funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and match funded by the University of Surrey along with seven other partners.