Funding the Future: Investing in the Leeds Startup Ecosystem

Earlier this year, Leeds City Council launched it’s Innovation@Leeds scheme and invited grant applications from organisations across the city that provide training, mentoring and other forms of support for people looking to develop their own innovation-led business. 

The scheme underpins the Council’s efforts to drive innovation and entrepreneurial activity within the region, and drive Leed’s recovery from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. With an emphasis on knowledge sharing, networking and enterprise-friendly activity, Innovation@Leeds scheme provides a launchpad for aspiring entrepreneurs that can help to tackle major problems like climate change and poverty, and establish Leeds as a thriving hub for innovation. 

Among the lucky recipients are Open Innovations, FinTech North, Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), Whitecap Consulting, AI Tech North, The Grad Soc, No Code Lab and Nexus in collaboration with NorthInvest. We rounded up just some of the brilliant projects – from events to workshops and peer support networks – that will be rolled out across Leeds over the coming months. Read on to find out how Leeds is supporting startup founders: 




So what is PARSE? First and foremost, it’s an acronym for Peer Advisory Roundtables for Startup Entrepreneurs (and one we’re grateful for, truthfully). But more important than that, PARSE is a free new initiative for tech entrepreneurs that seeks to harness the power of collaboration, for the benefit of founders, their businesses and the tech community here in Leeds. 

Delivered by Paceline and supported by Leeds City Council and Bruntwood SciTech (through the provision of meeting space), PARSE will bring together small cohorts of startup founders working in the tech space to share knowledge, experiences, and challenges in a series of formal two-hour sessions over the course of six months. 

Free to join and requiring attendance at a monthly roundtable, the PARSE programme is accessible by design – seeking to help founders from a diverse range of backgrounds establish careers in Leeds tech, regardless of their background or personal circumstances.  

“The Innovation@Leeds scheme underscores the Council’s long-standing commitment to the city’s innovation ecosystem, and its role in ensuring that people from different backgrounds have the means to make the most of their talents in fields such as digital and other emerging technologies.  

The PARSE programme will harness the power of collaboration by bringing together tech startup founders looking to develop their business here in Leeds. As a free initiative, PARSE aims to facilitate the entry of more founders from diverse backgrounds into the tech ecosystem, in order to further representation within the sector and beyond”

Eve Roodhouse, Chief Officer Culture and Economy, Leeds City Council

Open Innovations

Next up is Open Innovations. Now in the midst of a rebirth, as Open Innovations the organisation (formerly known as ODI Leeds) will continue to deliver data innovation at city scale – with their recent funding helping to facilitate a series of events that highlight the potential of using data in a radically open way.

Following the success of their virtual September warm-up conference, this October the team will deliver Planet Data 4 – a one-day event focused on how data & innovation can help us all address the climate emergency and achieve Net-Zero. The Innovation@Leeds grant will also fund a second event series, The Northernlands4, which will be hosted in collaboration with the The Embassy of The Kingdom of The Netherlands and offer up a plethora of content themed around innovation, including talks, provocations, artwork, and showcases. 


Fintech North

FinTech North – a community facilitator and ideas-sharing platform for financial technologies – will also be using the Innovation@Leeds funding to deliver a series of events that unite the city’s innovation community. 

Among the events to be delivered is a conference which will cover a broad range of topics – from equality, diversity and inclusivity to green finance and investment – and in addition to championing Leeds as a centre of fintech excellence the programme will support founders currently under-represented in the industry. 


Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) 

Also receiving funding from the Innovation@Leeds grants is Propel@YH – a digital accelerator programme for small and medium enterprises developing health tech innovations, run by the Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (YHAHSN)

Propel@YH provides organisations with access to a structured course of support and advice – enabling them to grow their business, increase market presence, and improve patient care around the UK. In addition to improving the health of the region’s population, the accelerator also supports health service transformation and increases the pace of innovation by creating strong links between the NHS, Higher Education institutions and industry. The programme already has an impressive list of graduates, with the 2020 cohort featuring Seeai and Written Medicine, and the Council funding will be used to support the next cohort in pioneering new health technologies.


The Grad Soc

Another of the successful funding applicants is The Grad Soc – an organisation bridging the skills gap between education and full-time work by lowering the barriers to entry for digital-skilled jobs. The Grad Soc’s internships are heavily training-based and offer flexibility for students seeking to gain real-world experience whilst studying, in order to get them over the hiring line and past the often lofty expectations of most companies looking to take on graduates. 

With the injection of funding from Innovation@Leeds, the organisation will be able to reach more employers than ever before, and also offer free places on their internship programmes to students in Leeds, widening participation across the city and opening up internship opportunities to students who may have otherwise been unable to engage with the programme. 

“We’re really excited to be involved in the Innovation@Leeds funding programme and to help support the next generation of entrepreneurs within the city, through provision of quality training opportunities – now made more accessible than ever before.”

George Biddle, Director of The Grad Soc

Nexus in collaboration with NorthInvest

Grow@Leeds, a programme designed to guide a diverse group of ten startups with global ambitions through a six-month schedule of workshops and one-to-one support, has also received a grant as part of the Innovation@Leeds scheme. 

The programme, which will help to scale businesses, aid international expansion and increase sales, is being delivered by NorthInvest, a not-for-profit investment organisation specialising in tech and digital start-ups, and Nexus, a vibrant community for entrepreneurs and innovators located on the University of Leeds campus.


Though the Leeds startup ecosystem has grown from strength to strength in the past 5 years, it’s undoubtedly a more exciting time than ever before to be a founder in the city. Are you a startup entrepreneur looking to build your business? Why not apply for some of the schemes and take your journey to the next level!


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