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Alumni event marks three years of Pathfinder

Published: 11/03/2021

A fully funded business growth programme aimed at nurturing life sciences and technology businesses is celebrating the completion of its third year.

Pathfinder Accelerator was developed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to help businesses bring new ideas to market quicker.

To mark the milestone, an online event is being held today (11 March) bringing together Pathfinder alumni from the past and present as well as speakers from across the UK, which include Rachel Hanretty, founder of Mademoiselle Macaron.

Since Pathfinder Accelerator began in 2018, it has supported 45 businesses and social enterprises to build a company or launch new products, saving both time and money.

Through the programme, companies receive advice from experienced business coaches in the form of tailored online workshops and masterclasses to help participants develop contacts, source funding and plan for future growth.

Among the companies to benefit from the six-month programme is eco woolly hat maker, Welan, based on the isle of Tiree. Owners, Jason and Yvonne Lancaster moved to Tiree from London in 2018 and a year later the Tiree woolly hat was born.

Yvonne said: “We are really glad that we took part in the Pathfinder Accelerator programme. It was a great experience and the mentors were a huge help to us in terms of our pitch and it was fantastic to see how other businesses do things We got a lot out of it. The advice we received was invaluable and our business has gone from strength to strength thanks to the programme.”

Six cohorts have successfully been delivered over the three years by The Leadership Factory with coaching provided by UP Accelerator. The last two programmes were adapted to be delivered online due to Covid-19. Participants find the experience both valuable and supportive to their business growth.

The programme forms part of the Northern Innovation Hub, a project led by HIE, with £11m from UK Government as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal and £1.7m through the European Regional Development Fund Scotland programme 2014-2020.

Although previously targeted at SMEs in the Highland Council area, the Pathfinder Accelerator programme was extended in 2020 for anyone in the whole of the Highlands and Islands region with additional funding from HIE.

Andrea McColl, senior development manager life sciences at HIE said: “We are delighted that we could support this group of businesses across the region through Pathfinder and we are looking forward to continue to do so for another three years. We have shown over the last year that online support sessions deliver the same value to businesses.

Commercial success of any new product or service 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 networking and expert insight. Our delivery partners for the last three years, The Leadership Factory and UP Accelerator, have worked with many leading businesses and having access to their experience and contacts has been extremely valuable for our participants.”

Andy Kelly, Director at The Leadership Factory said:

“It has been a privilege to work with so many great businesses from across the Highlands & Islands area. The potential of the businesses across the region never fails to amaze and there is a real entrepreneurial spirit that the programme is able to support. The Pathfinder Accelerator has helped life science and technology entrepreneurs receive a step up in their ambitions to create jobs and growth in the area.”

The next Pathfinder Accelerator programme will launch in Summer 2021. For those interested in future sessions, please visit to register your interest. Any sector from life sciences, technology, IT, health and care, aquaculture and energy are encouraged to apply.

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