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Digital Incubator

Funded by UK Research England, the North East Local Enterprise and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Digital Incubator aims to support the next generation of digital and creative freelancers, entrepreneurs and business start up’s.  

The Incubator is the perfect location for students, graduates and staff, with digital skills, to explore the possibility of working for themselves as freelancers.

Members are supported by a core team which will include a dedicated academic mentor, free access to regular workshops, one to one advice, networking and access to a range of industry standard hardware and software.

The Offer

Membership to the Digital Incubator includes a range of resources, tailored to support you to develop your enterprise skills and explore the possibility of working for yourself as a digital freelancer. At the start of your journey with us, we will discuss your ideas and help you to identify your specific skills and the areas where you would like support. We will ask you to complete an 'enterprise skills' matrix which will enable the team to signpost the relevant support available to you.

During your 12 month membership you will have access to:

Dedicated academic mentor 

Offering dedicated support as you start your journey with us and as you progress with your digital idea and begin to work with your first clients. The Digital Incubator also works closely with the University mediaHUB and our academic mentor can help to connect you with the relevant networks as you progress through your membership.

We have a pool of highly experienced business advisors covering general business advice, sales and marketing, social enterprise and business coaching.

Group events, networking and information sessions

We regularly host guest speakers covering a range of topics to help you inform your business knowledge and expand your network. We listen to the needs of our members and offer the topics that are important to them. Digital Incubator members also have access to the membership benefits of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, via the Enterprise Place, who provide mentoring opportunities and exclusive access to their events.

Co-working space and peer to peer support

Based in the heart of the Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter's within the David Goldman Technology Centre, the Digital Incubator is perfectly placed to allow you to drop-in between lectures to work on your ideas, catch up with one of our team, or attend one of our workshops. Our brand new facility is equipped with the latest technical hardware and software to allow you to develop your skills and work on live projects with clients. Our co-working space is also perfect for peer-to-peer conversations and collaborations with fellow members in the Digital Incubator community.

PR opportunities 

We are always on the lookout for good news stories and keen to shout about our start-up success stories. We work closely with the University’s central Communications team to develop press releases and case studies to share with the region's business community.

Funding opportunities:

We recognise that funding can be a barrier for some when starting a business. As a Digital Incubator member you will have the opportunity to apply for the following funding opportunities (subject to availability and eligibility) to help you get started on your business journey: 

ERDF funding

Once you have officially registered your business (and within 12 months of trading) you can apply for a £1k Start-up grant (subject to availability and eligibility). The team will work with you to identify items essential for the launch of your business and guide you through the process of applying. Digital Incubator members can apply for this funding via the Enterprise Place.

Santander Seed Fund

This limited and competitive pot of funding can be accessed by students and alumni of the University at either prestart or early trading. Find out more on our Santander Seed fund page. Digital Incubator members can apply for this funding via the Enterprise Place.

Commissioning Support Grant 

Once you have registered your business and are looking to work with an external client you will have the opportunity to apply for a small amount of commission funding to support you to deliver your first piece of external work.

The Application Process:

Step 1: Tell us all about it

Drop an email to digitalincubator@sunderland.ac.uk or complete the form at the bottom of this page, and pop in to talk to us about your skills. You will have a one-to-one conversation with one of the team. We love hearing about your ideas, however ‘out there’ you think they might be. We’ll ask questions you might not have considered before and get you to think about any gaps in your knowledge.

Step 2: Submit an application

We’ll ask you to complete an application form so we can assess if your idea is something we can support. You’ll need to provide a basic outline of your idea and any research you may have done so far. We’ll ask you for your thoughts on what support you think you need, as well as your contact/personal details.

Step 3: Pitch Perfect

We will arrange for you to work with our dedicated academic mentor who will support you to develop your initial presentation pitch and offer advice as to how to perfect it.

Step 4: Pitch it

Come and tell us more. We ask you to present your idea in a ten-minute panel presentation. What is your idea? What stage are you at? What support do you think you need? It’s honestly not Dragon’s Den and we just want to understand your vision and how we can help. The ‘panel’ will comprise of a member of the Enterprise team and someone relevant to your idea. That might be an academic or someone in our network who is operating in your sector and who could become a useful contact.

We’ll tell you straight away if we can support you and if successful, you will be offered 12 months membership. Not quite ready to pitch? We will give you some feedback and invite you to come back and re-pitch your idea. You might also decide to opt for a partial membership and attend some of our workshops until you are sure of your next step. We will also be invited to attend one of our Challenge Enterprise events which we host throughout the year.

The Internships and Enterprise project is receiving up to £3,326,399 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, European Regional Development Fund funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. 

For more information visit the gov.uk website.

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The University of Sunderland Digital Incubator team will use the details you provide on this form solely for the purpose of making initial contact following your enquiry. This information will not be shared with any third parties, will be stored securely within University systems and will be available only to staff with a need to access the information. If you do not wish to proceed with further contact with the Digital Incubator team your personal information will be deleted. If you continue to engage with the team a further privacy notice will be provided.