SETsquared Bristol’s guide to regional business support resources

Posted by 

Kimberley Brook

We understand that it’s tough starting out with a new startup, so we’ve put together this guide to the business support services we offer, as well as other options available regionally. 

Kimberley Brook, Interim Director at SETsquared BristolGeneral business support


SETsquared Bristol’s incubation programmes are for high-growth potential technology startups with a UK-registered business. Membership includes tailored business support, coaching, training, an expert network of advisers, mentors and investors, and a community of inspiring startups to work alongside. 


If you’ve got a great idea that doesn’t meet the requirements for our incubation programmes and don’t know where to begin with incorporating, building a network and getting your first customer, then we’d suggest the START programme. This free in-person programme, funded by the West of England Combined Authority and led by the four regional universities and techSPARK, provides training and help for people with business ideas within the West of England to set up their first enterprise and grow their idea into a fully realised business.  

If you are outside of the START catchment area or are looking for virtual support, the Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme provides training and support for those who want to find out how to take their business ideas forward. 


If your company is not at the right stage for SETsquared Bristol, or is not technology enabled, there are some excellent business support organisations in Bristol and Bath that can help grow your business and drive your success: 

Sector specific support

There is also a lot of regional support for those operating in specific sectors. This non-exhaustive list provides support in some of the key sectors we see at SETsquared Bristol. 


The Future Finance project is an innovation accelerator for companies operating in the finance sector to enable and encourage businesses to have a digital adoption approach.  


If you’re working in the digital creative space or have a business that focuses on artistic development, take a look at the following organisations: 

  • Pervasive Media Studio, an internationally recognised space that supports artists and creatives to conceive of and produce ground-breaking work. 
  • Bath Spa University’s The Studio supports anyone with a project or idea in the creative technology space with up to 12 months of free desk space. 
  • MyWorld is a global centre for creative technology innovation that supports local creative tech companies with funding and support programmes to help them create and develop their first prototypes. 


  • The Health Innovation West of England’s Innovation Exchange offers a range of support to innovators, from networking sessions to funding opportunities, and helps healthcare providers find and adopt innovations that meet their needs. 
  • Health Tech Hub at UWE Bristol offers tailored support for product development and prototype testing including access to state-of-the-art technology and specialist support from academics. 


  • Quantum Frontier is a vehicle for supporting the commercialisation of quantum technologies, offering links to academia for R&D projects, business training and support and connections with quantum-trained talent who are part of the National Quantum Programme.  


  • UKTIN is the innovation network for the UK telecoms sector bringing together industry, government stakeholders and academia to catalyse R&D investment, cooperation and commercialisation. It has specific programmes for those operating in the telecoms sector around innovation, IP creation and telecoms standards. 

Support for underrepresented founders

There are certain programmes which seek to support underrepresented founders through business support and training. These include: 

  • Our Enterprising Women programme, a fully-funded inclusive business support programme to help women take their business or idea to the next stage. 
  • Babbasa works with under 30s living in Bristol from minority ethnic or low income households to provide training and support to find new careers or to set up new businesses. 
  • The Black South West Network seeks to support people from Black and minoritised communities to achieve their goals, whatever it may be. 

Support for academic, student or graduate founders

The six universities that make up the SETsquared (Bristol, Bath, Cardiff, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey) are specialists in commercialising academic research. SETsquared has supported over 5000 entrepreneurs working in the most challenging fields of science and technology, and helped businesses raise over £4bn in investment and funding.  

Many students, PhD students, post docs and researchers have the ambition to commercialise exciting and innovative research and can access support from their universities to do this.  

Student / graduate 

If you are a recent graduate or current student of a UK university, there will usually be a student enterprise team who can help you realise some of your business ambitions. 

  • For current students or recent graduates of the University of Bristol, the Basecamp Enterprise team provides tailored support for anyone with a business idea, a social enterprise, or a challenge or project set by an organisation. Its New Enterprise Competition provides training and mentoring to early-stage teams with the possibility of winning a financial award plus incubation support. 
  • Runway is open to students and graduates at the University of Bristol to support the creation of sustainable, high-flying, high-impact companies through infrastructure and entrepreneurial knowhow. Its annual awards provide early-stage teams with the opportunity to bid for financial awards to help start a business. 
  • If you or a member of your team has graduated from any higher education institution (undergrad or postgrad) in the past three years then you could be eligible for UWE’s Launch Space, where you can apply for a free 12-month residency for your startup. 

Researcher / academic 

For PhD students, researchers and academics at UK universities, we would always recommend engaging with your Tech Transfer Office team first to find out what support they can offer with the creation of your company, and whether there are any internal funding awards such as Impact Acceleration Accounts which could pay for the development of your minimum viable product or allow you to undertake further development. Other training opportunities which may be suitable include: 

  • iCURe - an extended programme for university research teams with commercially promising ideas. The programme offers funding for business founders and travel to industry meetings and trade shows to test the market and grow your business network. 
  • ConceptionX operates across multiple deep tech sectors to support PhD students to explore the opportunities to take their research into the real-world.  

Whatever your business sector, mission or goals, there will be support available for you – do take advantage of it for the best chance of success. 

Find out more about SETsquared Bristol’s Incubation programme.    

Read more business advice and tips. 

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