Nurturing the brains of future technologies

Deputy PM NIck Clegg visits the Electric Works to meet some of the small business and mentors who have started up there
Deputy PM NIck Clegg visits the Electric Works to meet some of the small business and mentors who have started up there
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Digital entrepreneurs developing software for activities as diverse as buying a car, carrying out academic research and booking a venue for a gig have embarked on a pioneering development programme in Sheffield.

The Dotforge Accelerator, launched by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and backed by the UK’s digital enterprise development agency, Creative England, is designed to nurture the brains behind the disruptive technologies of the future.

The idea was originally conceived by Lee Strafford, founder of the Sheffield-based Internet Service Provider Plusnet and a member of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership board.

He argued that there was a wealth of creative and digital talent in the region, which could be used to mentor potential entrepreneurs, who might otherwise never launch their potentially revolutionary ideas in the real world.

Lee Strafford’s idea was taken up by the LEP as part of its CloudCity Programme to boost economic growth by attracting technology-based jobs to the city region and won support from Creative England.

Creative England secured funding for Dotforge from the government’s Regional Growth Fund before launching a competition to find people with best business ideas and partners who might want to help them launch their business.

More than a hundred individuals and teams applied for the six places on the Dotforge programme. The six winners can continue to operate from their home bases, but they will also have a desk at Electric Works, on Sheffield’s Digital Campus and access to facilities and individuals who can help create successful businesses.

During the next three months, the start-ups will go through a rigorous programme, designed to help them develop a saleable product or service and test whether it will enable their new business to grow.

In addition to funding and mentoring, Dotforge winners will take part in a ‘bootcamp’ designed to help them build their entrepreneurial skills.