A SUPPORT scheme which aims to keep talent in the region by supporting entrepreneurs to grow their business is ready for its next cohort.

Durham City Incubator, which is based at Aykley Heads, offers intensive support for businesses which have been trading for less than 12 months as they go for the next stage of growth.

The entrepreneurs receive training and advice on issues from financing and marketing to legal issues and business strategy.

Now, after helping its first eight small businesses achieve national recognition and investment funding, it is appealing for the second wave of applicants to the programme.

Sarah Slaven, operations director at Business Durham, said: “It’s fantastic to see that the nurture and support these entrepreneurs are receiving is already working. The aim is to help them have businesses with real longevity and these entrepreneurs keep their talent in the region. There’s nothing like this in County Durham and we look forward to seeing the next businesses joining us.”

The incubator is a collaboration between Durham University, New College Durham and Business Durham, the economic development organisation, which works on behalf of Durham County Council.

It was developed as part of a wider drive to grow the city economy and to offer Durham University graduates and New College Durham students high quality facilities and business support to grow their ventures in Durham.

Mark Cullen of Raw Botanics Ltd, which produces ethically sourced hemp oil for health and wellbeing, said the incubator was instrumental to the successful launch of his business.

He said: “Through the DCI's on-going program of seminars and 1-2-1 workshops, we learned how to prepare and submit a professional business plan that secured our business funding from one of the region’s leading investment firms, Northstar Ventures. The advice, guidance and connections we’ve gained has truly allowed us to turn our idea for an e-commerce business into reality.”

Other companies it has helped range from technology and food firms to those selling portable seating mats and developing plastic recycling methods.

Each business owner gets a mentor, six months or support, a £2,500 grant and can use discounted workspace.

Dr Tim Hammond, director of commercialisation and economic development at Durham University, said: “Creating a new business is an exciting career choice for an increasing number of our students. The Durham City Incubator builds upon the enterprise support provided within the university.”

Dawn Fairlamb, vice principal at New College Durham, said: “As a college, regional and economic development is extremely important to us. We want to ensure that our students’ talents are harnessed and nurtured, so they can reach their full potential and make a positive contribution to the local economy.”

Durham City Incubator is part of Durham Internships and Collaborative Enterprise (DICE), which is part funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programme.

To apply visit dcincubator.co.uk