Six very different County Durham start-ups get help to grow

Entrepreneurs from County Durham are set to benefit from the hugely successful Durham City Incubator (DCI) accelerator programme.

The latest six companies on the programme together make up one of its most diverse cohorts yet, covering sectors including TV production, e-commerce, and FinTech – as well as value-driven social enterprises and awareness-raising training platforms.

The wide variety of start-up businesses and social enterprises hope to follow in the footsteps of Low Carbon Materials (formerly Plastech Innovation/Sphera), Elvet Recruitment, and Rare Rockets, which have all completed the DCI programme since its inception in 2018.

DCI is a joint venture between Durham University, New College Durham, and Business Durham, the business support service of Durham County Council. The programme works to help County Durham entrepreneurs launch start-ups with high growth potential and support new companies (which have been trading for under 12 months) to achieve their goals.

So far, the six-month accelerator programme – delivered primarily using boot camps, one-to-one support, workshops, seminars, and networking events – has supported 56 entrepreneurs across seven previous cohorts. Many have gone on to establish successful businesses achieving national recognition and securing additional investment funding.

The companies from this latest cohort include:

Addressing Domestic Abuse (CIC) – Community interest company that offers bespoke training and support to social housing providers in identifying and responding to domestic abuse.

Dive into History Ltd – TV production company investigating historical structures along British waterways. Founder Gary Bankhead also features on Sky History Channel programme River Hunters.

LEXI Menswear Ltd – High-quality men’s underwear brand for gay and bisexual men.

Divergent Brains Ltd – Training provider offering training, mentoring, and support to organisations raising awareness around neurodiversity.

Lonewolf Technologies Ltd – Software company that is developing a platform for compliance departments of investment banks and hedge funds to detect insider trading.

Ofdin Ltd –Technology consultancy specialising in innovation for digital inclusion and capitalising on the team’s breadth of experience within FinTech.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, cabinet member for Economy and Partnerships, said: “The Durham City Incubator programme has seen massive success across the county, and we’re excited to welcome the latest cohort of businesses as part of our drive to help the local economy grow and flourish. It’s also great to see the amount of academic talent retained from local colleges and universities in County Durham.

“What’s particularly exciting is the broad range of companies taking part in this eighth cohort. It’s a testament to the dynamic nature of the DCI programme, which can help businesses and entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to launch their companies, set a trajectory for growth, and achieve their goals.”

Dr Tim Hammond,  Director of Commercialisation and Economic Development at Durham University, commented: “The Durham City Incubator has established a very strong track record for supporting new business start-ups. The six-month accelerator programme is delivering a range of valuable support elements to our student and graduate entrepreneurs, many of whom have subsequently gone on to scale their ideas, raise investment and establish their businesses in County Durham.  I am therefore very pleased to see that there are four graduate start-ups in this eighth cohort.“

Si Chambers, Head of School Tourism, Digital & Creative Industries, New College Durham, said: “We are once again embarking on further opportunities for students at New College Durham through mentoring and network opportunities in the development of their business understanding on knowledge. We look forward to the year ahead and the continued collaboration with Durham City Incubator and our students.”

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