Coaches leading HIE's Pathfinder programme to support business growth

Pathfinder taster session date set as programme opens for applications

Published: 09/09/2020

A free programme to help businesses accelerate their growth has opened for new applications, with a virtual taster session arranged for 24 September.

Karen Simpson of My Primary tutor sitting in front of computer
Karen Simpson

Developed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the Pathfinder Accelerator programme provides fast-track training and mentoring and will be delivered completely online.

The six-month programme is designed to help participants build a company or launch a new product saving time and money. This upcoming programme starting in late October will focus on innovating a product or service using digital, data or artificial intelligence.

The programme is open to applications from existing and start-up companies from across the Highlands and Islands. Delivered by The Leadership Factory with coaching provided by UP Accelerator, it has helped start-up companies over the last three years to grow their businesses and launch new products.

Former Inverness based primary school teacher Karen Simpson took part in a previous Pathfinder Accelerator programme to explore how she could develop a bespoke online offering. Her business ‘My Primary Tutor’ initially offered one-to-one and small group tuition in person and online to early stage primary school pupils.

Using the advice she received through the programme, she has been able to take her services to a wider range of customers and expand the business.

At the time, Karen couldn’t have predicted that the online offering she developed on the programme would have such a significant impact on her business. It meant that when her physical tutoring spaces were no longer available during the COVID-19 lockdown, she quickly moved to delivering her business completely online.

Karen said: “I am really glad I joined the programme when I did as I would never have got my business successfully online without it. My company has expanded rapidly ever since, and I have tutors and students located across Scotland. For the first time, I’ve experienced a huge demand for my services to continue throughout the school holidays.”

Programme participants benefit from experienced business coaches through tailored online workshops and masterclasses. They will get the opportunity to engage with experts and develop contacts, source funding and will plan for future growth.

The support provided will dramatically reduce the time and expense it can take to test the commercial viability of new ideas.

The programme helps to improve their businesses through innovation and forms part of the HIE-led Northern Innovation Hub (NIH). The Hub is a set of carefully targeted projects to strengthen innovation and increase competitiveness among businesses across The Highland Council area.

The NIH project received £11m from the UK Government and £1.7m ERDF support as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal. The Deal is a joint £315 million initiative supported by both the UK and Scottish governments.

Although previously targeted at SMEs in the Highland Council area, the Pathfinder Accelerator programme has now been extended for anyone interested across the whole of the Highlands and Islands area through additional funding from HIE’s digital programme.

Andrea McColl, senior development manager at HIE, said: “Now more than ever companies need to adapt the way they operate to engage with their customers. Pathfinder is one of the many HIE company support programmes designed to help innovate companies achieve their growth ambitions. With a focus on digital, data and AI for this programme, we hope to receive applications from a wide range of sectors across the region.

“Commercial success of any new idea depends on a strong business model and being able to reach the right market. The Pathfinder programme not only guides companies and start-ups through this process but assists with funding, networking and expert insight.”

UK Government minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said:

“The Pathfinder Accelerator programme offers great support for business start-ups and I encourage entrepreneurs across the Highlands and Islands to take advantage of what’s on offer. This is one of several schemes supported by the UK Government’s £11 million City Deal investment in the Northern Innovation Hub which is helping to create jobs and opportunities.

“The UK Government is investing more than £1.5bn in City Region and Growth Deals across Scotland to fund innovative projects that secure the future of our economy.”

Find out more information about applying to take part in the programme and signing up for the taster session at

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