Ulster Bank's entrepreneur scheme has 'helped to create 650 jobs'
An entrepreneurship support programme by Ulster Bank has helped create over 650 jobs, according to a report.
The research commissioned by Ulster Bank said the accelerator in Belfast had supported 264 entrepreneurs since it was set up three years ago, with the firms raising £15m.
Companies supported in the scheme include TapSOS, which has created an app enabling those with hearing difficulties or serious speech impediments to contact emergency services, and cyber security firm Uleska.
Lynsey Cunningham, entrepreneur development manager for the bank, said: "These figures show that the model of connecting brilliant ideas and people with practical support and guidance can deliver outstanding results.
"I'm proud of the work that we've done to date to build a vibrant entrepreneurial community in Northern Ireland and I'm excited about what we still have to do."
The hub had been a self-contained entity called Entrepreneurial Spark but is now a fully-managed accelerator. However, it remains at its headquarters in Belfast's Lombard Street.
Ms Cunningham said: "The Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator will continue the fantastic work done to date, with the same outstanding and expert team, and we'll be bringing greater clarity to how we support both early stage businesses, as well as those high-growth prospects that want to scale up.
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"Our aim is to support even more entrepreneurs, help create even more jobs and facilitate start-ups to bring in even more investment.
"We know this is a really compelling proposition and we are pleased to be offering start-up and scale-up businesses fully-funded office space, mentoring, access to expertise, knowledge, networks and supply chains," she added.
The bank said it was also making changes to its programme to encourage the growth of businesses. Its acceleration programme for businesses lasts for between six and 18 months and is aimed at high-growth businesses looking to scale up.
The acceleration programme will provide coaching, free office space and business support, as well as access to the bank's network.
And a separate, 12-week programme will help early stage start-ups.
Ulster Bank sister lender NatWest recently announced it had also brought its Entrepreneurial Spark into the bank.
NatWest said its programme had enabled entrepreneurs to raise £255m, while 3,868 businesses supported by the programme had achieved collective turnover of £651m.
Last week, Ulster Bank announced pre-tax profits of £59m for 2017 on turnover of £184m - up from £58m the year before.
The bank said there had been a 15% jump in new lending to corporate clients, along with a 29% increase in small business drawdowns.
But chief executive Richard Donnan said Brexit was causing some firms to "put some things on pause".