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First aquaculture & animal health business accelerator programme opens

Published: 17/01/2022

Businesses from the aquaculture and animal health sectors are being encouraged to consider applying for the latest Pathfinder Accelerator programme.

Developed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Pathfinder is a free six-month development programme for small to medium sized businesses.

Delivered mostly online, Pathfinder provides fast-track training and mentoring for entrepreneurs looking to build a company or launch a new product.

Businesses have until 18 February to apply to be part of this cohort, which starts in March. HIE has created a partnership with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and their centre of excellence for research and knowledge exchange in the rural and veterinary sector - the Rural and Veterinary Innovation Centre.

Expert support will be given to participants to improve health, welfare or production efficiency in animal health and aquaculture. Solutions supporting the transition to circular models and net zero carbon systems will be welcomed.

Applications for the programme are now open. Potential participants can register for 1-to-1 sessions with a coach to find out what they can expect to gain if they sign up.

Andrea McColl, senior development manager for life sciences at HIE said:

“We are excited to offer this sector focused Pathfinder in collaboration with SRUC, supporting the opportunities in the sector for businesses and organisations to do things differently and develop new products and services. Companies at different stages of their business journey will come together, benefit from expert input and also learn from each other by sharing experiences, challenging ideas, and networking.”

Martin Welch, founder of Skye-based KelpRing, is a previous participant of Pathfinder. He has created a system that provides a natural habitat for cleaner fish (wrasse) within a salmon farm.

Martin said: "I’m not a businessman, I’m a fisherman. The Pathfinder programme was a real bonus for me… as a non-business minded person, it forced me to focus and tackle real-world business scenarios and create the end results I needed for my fledgling business. I’m actively using the tools I learned to use on the course - and it’s working well!"

Meanwhile, twelve businesses from the Highlands and Islands started the latest edition of the Pathfinder Accelerator programme on Friday (14 January).

This is the eighth group to start on the six-month programme since it began in 2018 and will be delivered completely online, providing expert training and mentoring to support their business needs.

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said:

"The Pathfinder programme is a fantastic opportunity for start-ups and entrepreneurs, and I encourage those in aquaculture and animal health to find our more and apply.

"The UK Government is investing £11 million in the Northern Innovation Hub to support the growth of new and emerging businesses and social enterprises, and across Scotland we are providing more than £1.7 billion to support regional projects, level-up communities and build back better from the pandemic." 

The businesses taking part are:

  • LOVAness (Inverness) - LOVAness Ltd - Develops novel fortified drinking water solutions.
  • Mind Yourself Ltd (Lerwick, Shetland) - A mental health / tech start-up to support health and wellbeing that will ultimately reduce mental health hospitalisations. 
  • Noctiluca (Tain)- Transformational coaching, by women for women, to reveal authentic leadership and enhance contribution, leading to a richer and more fulfilled life.
  • Norscot Joinery Ltd (Wick) – Design, manufacture and supply of sustainable, accessible and adaptable timber frame homes in the UK.
  • Shetland in a Box (Vidlin, Shetland) - Gift subscription boxes from the Shetland Islands
  • SkyeLab CIC (Portree) – A Living Lab on the Isle of Skye providing training, demonstration, test and validation of digital health and care innovations with a focus on remote and island communities.
  • Swallowfield Smallholding Ltd (Beauly) – Producing volumetric post and beam buildings from Scottish timber.
  • The Lovat Loch Ness (Fort Augustus) - A seasonally inspired hotel and restaurant that delivers a Highland experience where you can recharge, reconnect and reawaken.
  • The Strategy Collective (Burray, Orkney) - helps small and micro businesses to grow by building e-commerce ready websites then providing marketing support to get you noticed
  • Ur Cup (Ballachulish) - eliminating single use plastics and reducing your carbon footprint without changing your lifestyle choices
  • Wester Ross Carbon Capture Research Facility (Poolewe) - Providing carbon capture technology to carbon dioxide producing businesses through bioengineering and technology.
  • Windswept and Interesting Ltd (Nesbister, Shetland) - Developing Kite Turbine autonomy to scale and reduce the cost of clean energy systems

The Pathfinder Accelerator programme forms part of the Northern Innovation Hub, which is being led by HIE on behalf of the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal partnership, with £11m from UK Government and £1.7m through the European Regional Development Fund Scotland programme 2014-2020.

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

The programme provides businesses at all stages in their development the opportunity to test a new product or process to ensure its fit for the market.  It combines weekly workshops sessions, masterclasses and one-to-one coaching sessions. The aim is to build a new company, or launch a new product, in a shorter space of time with substantially less money.

The programme will be delivered online by training specialists Skillfluence Ltd who have developed and designed a new course structure including an e-learning platform to make the course more accessible.

Skillfluence Ltd will partner with Investing Women Angels to provide business advice and support to the participants. They will provide coaching and mentoring as well as help develop networking, sourcing, funding, and planning for future growth.

Places are available for businesses, social enterprises and entrepreneurs from across the Highlands and Islands, due to additional funding from HIE.


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