Free blended learning programme for pre-starts and businesses, running January-July 2020, Lancaster University
Lancaster University is delighted to host Lancashire’s first NatWest Pre-accelerator programme. Applications currently open; deadline 14th January 2020
Since 2016, NatWest’s programmes have supported nearly 12,000 entrepreneurs nationwide, leading to the creation of more than 1,000 jobs and helping businesses attract more than £224m in investment. NatWest is particularly proud that there is an even spread of men and women on its programmes.
Due to start early next year, the free programme, which runs over 24 weeks, combines online and offline activities and covers key business topics such as ‘customer discovery and validation’, ‘mindsets’ and ‘behaviours’, and ‘financial viability’.
There are vibrant communities of small and micro-business owners across Lancashire, many of whom aren’t aware of what support is available, or even of each other. This programme is a really exciting opportunity to access not only this fantastic content, but also to join a network of like-minded people working hard to transform the regional economy through innovation projects of all shapes and sizesSimon Harrison, Enterprise Programme Manager at Lancaster University
It kicks off with an ‘Ignition’ event at Lancaster University on 28th January, where essential tools and techniques proven to help aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators develop scalable ventures will be introduced.
If you would like to take advantage of this opportunity, apply now by clicking here or if you are not quite ready yet, please read our FAQs below!
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can join this programme?
If any of the following statements describes you, then yes:
- I have an idea that I am developing within an academic programme, at University or College.
- I have an idea that I am developing in order to launch a start-up.
- I have a new start-up business.
- I have an established business and I am looking to innovate my business model and/or launch new products or services.
Do I have to pay?
It is entirely free to join and take part in the programme. You will have to cover the costs of getting to any of the events; however, there will be refreshments at all these events so that may save you money too.
What is a pre-accelerator?
A pre-accelerator seeks to prepare you and your idea or business, or at least determine your suitability, for participation in a more substantial accelerator programme. These programmes are typically very competitive to access, and very intensive to undertake. They are often used as a means through which funders and investors can spot promising talent, ideas and businesses.
The NatWest Pre-accelerator programme is a preparatory step towards their full Accelerator programme, but it will also serve to prepare you for the wealth of other similar programmes available. It will give you a distinct advantage in applying for any of these schemes because key decision makers will be looking to see that you have a clear understanding of your value proposition (the fit between your market and your products and services) and finances, and have adopted an entrepreneurial mindset.
What is a blended learning programme?
Blended learning is an approach to learning or training that combines online and face-to-face delivery.
Am I likely to be accepted?
In short, yes. The application process takes only a couple of minutes, so what have you got to lose!
What does this programme include?
The NatWest programme comprises three distinct types of activity:
- Face-to-face input: The programme kicks off with the Ignition event; a gathering of the whole cohort at Lancaster House Hotel where fundamental concepts will be introduced and explored to ensure everyone can make the most of the online aspects of the programme.
- Online input: The majority of the programme is delivered via the NatWest online platform on a self-access basis, meaning you can dip in at your own convenience and work at your own pace around your other commitments.
- Face-to-face networking: After each of the three modules, we will invite you to check-in at a participant networking event, which will give you the chance to discuss what you’ve been doing and learning with the other members of the cohort.
Can you tell me more about the Ignition event?
The Ignition event will run from 4pm to 8pm on Tuesday 29th January at Lancaster House Hotel. It will provide you with an opportunity to meet the other members of the cohort, and the programme leaders, and to ask questions about the rest of the programme. In addition, there will be a number of input sessions, covering:
- What is an Entrepreneurial Mindset and why is it important?
- How do I develop an effective pitch?
- How do I produce a baseline Business Model Canvas?
Light catering and refreshments will be provided.
Can you tell me more about the Online modules?
The online modules are divided into three main content blocks, and within each block there are four modules. All of this content will be unlocked on the 28th January when you attend the Ignition event, and from that point onwards, you can access it as and when you please throughout the following 24 weeks.
Each module contains input, via text or video, as well as questions, exercises, activities, to help you understand it and apply it to your own project. You should expect to spend approx. 45 minutes working through this content, but of course there’s no limit to the amount of time you can choose to spend implementing your thinking. Overall, you could work through all of the content in 6-8 hours.
The modules are as follows:
- Value proposition
- Customer segments
- Customer discovery
- Validation & testing assumptions
Mindset & Behaviours
- The importance of mindset
- Understanding your mindset
- Building a growth mindset
- Understanding your finances
- Revenue Streams
- Cost Structure
- Financial Management
Can you tell me more about the networking events?
The networking events will provide additional opportunities for you to get together with your peers, to discuss what you’ve done or learned at key points during the programme. Each event will have a theme and some additional content, and we will be monitoring engagement levels and feedback on the online platform to seek to ensure that this is as relevant as possible.
Specific dates for these events will be released nearer the time, but we estimate they will fall as follows:
- Week commencing 9th March
- Week commencing 5th May
- Week commencing 6th July
Depending on numbers, the events will probably be held at Work in Progress on Lancaster University campus.
Light catering and refreshments will be provided.
Do I have to commit to the whole thing?
We hope that all the content will be of value to you and that you will find yourself fully engaged throughout. However, we recognise people have other commitments, and things come up unexpectedly, and that some people will be more familiar with different parts of the content programme than others.
While new content will be released every two weeks, you are free to work on it at your own pace, so if you prefer to work on it in fewer larger batches, that is entirely up to you. Equally, if you don’t chose to work through all of it, then that’s your prerogative; you won’t get ‘booted off’.
If you find that it’s not for you, that’s OK too, just try to let us know so we can stop wondering whether you are still engaged.
The networking events are entirely optional, although they will definitely add value if you do come along
How many other people will be on the programme?
There will be approximately 60-80 people on the programme in total. This ensures a vibrant mix of participants so everyone should be able to find people with similar interests, challenges, ambitions, etc, as well as people with different skills and experiences that they can share for mutual benefit.
Does it include funding?
No. However, businesses transitioning onto the NatWest Accelerator may find they positioned to unlock investment where appropriate through that.
Do I have to bank with NatWest?
No, no obligation at all.
Do I get a certificate?
Nothing official, sorry, but we will celebrate your achievements at the final networking event and share this across regional media channels.
Is there any other support available?
Both Lancaster University and UCLan are able to provide additional support to your pre-start or business venture, as well as direct you to other sources of support in the region. The majority of this is aimed at those who are based in Lancashire, but there are plenty of things available for those based elsewhere too.
Once you have completed the application form, we’ll get in touch to let you know more.
What is U Start?
U Start is the name of a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) project co-delivered by Lancaster University and UCLan. The project enables students and graduates of these institutions to access free pre-start support, and local businesses affiliated to these institutions to access free early stage support. This includes access to 1-2-1 advice, workshops and networking events, as well as additional online content for business modelling and freelancing.