Cities in action: Entrepreneurs for the Future, Birmingham

  • economy

Birmingham’s e4f programme provides tailored advice and a support network for technology startups.

Young startups benefit from tailored support and being part of a community. Birmingham launched ‘Entrepreneurs for the Future’ (e4f) in 2009 to help new businesses grow and develop. The programme focuses specifically on technology startups, and attracts new businesses in growth sectors such as IT, digital and cleantech.

The programme is free for the first six months, and begins with an in-depth diagnostic assessment to identify the needs of each startup and plan activities around these. An ‘entrepreneur in residence’ offers personal advice, while e4f also offers guidance on legal, tax, finance, marketing and communications.

But one of the most important features of e4f is the community of tech startups it has developed. After the first six months, startups wishing to remain part of the community can take out a paid support package – and most do. As well as the physical office space e4f provides, being part of a community means entrepreneurs can meet others with similar interests and working in the same fields, build new contacts and learn from each other. The startups are encouraged to group themselves in terms of their areas of interest, and this has led to events such as a monthly ‘tech Wednesday’, bringing together technology professionals to discuss relevant topics, as well as a weekly games testing session.

Birmingham has five high quality universities, but has a history of ‘leaking’ its graduates to other parts of the country. By building a community and encouraging startups to collaborate, e4f is helping to retain talent, stimulate local economic activity and create jobs. The programme does not require prohibitively large resources, and therefore could be easily adapted and replicated in other areas. It was initially funded through the city council’s Working Neighbourhood Fund, but has since secured financing from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which was extended thanks to the programme’s success.

The programme was shortlisted for the EUROCITIES ‘smart jobs’ award in 2013. It was also featured in our 2013 'Cities supporting inclusive entrepreneurship' publication, available at the link below. 

To find out more about how e4f is helping to keep talent local in Birmingham, take a look at our ‘cities in action’ case study available at the link below.