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HIE Pathfinder programme invites applications from enterprising Highland businesses

By Calum MacLeod

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The 2022 Pathfinder cohort programme coaches will initially be operating mainly online.
The 2022 Pathfinder cohort programme coaches will initially be operating mainly online.

Life sciences and technology firms, particularly those looking to tackle climate change, are being encouraged to consider applying for the latest Pathfinder Accelerator Programme from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

The free six-month development programme is open to small to medium sized businesses across the Highlands and Islands region and targeted at firms in the life sciences, healthcare, animal health, aquaculture technology, IT, and engineering sectors.

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

Applications for the programme are now open. Potential participants can register for a taster session on Wednesday, November 10, for an insight into what they can expect to gain if they sign up.

Andrea McColl, senior development manager for life sciences at HIE, said: “Pathfinder is all about accelerating the growth of businesses in the region through innovation and entrepreneurship. Participants bring their ideas and these are scrutinised and tested for their commercial viability. Specialists provide coaching and mentoring as well as help to develop networking, source funding and plan for growth.

“For this next cohort we are particularly interested in helping firms that want to contribute to improving the environment or develop a circular business model and the transition to a net zero economy.”

The next programme starts on January 14 2022 and will have a focus on climate change solutions.

The application deadline is December 14.

Kyle Smith of Lochaber firm Energy Mutual is a previous participant of Pathfinder. He said: “One of the benefits of being part of the Pathfinder programme is that it started to open up all the other doors that you didn’t realise were out there in terms of support for small businesses in the Highlands. Having that initial contact has been really helpful.”

Based in Fort William Energy Mutual supports independent renewable energy generators through an online asset management platform. Kyle applied for the Pathfinder programme to help focus the firm’s strategy and gain the knowledge and tools to take it to the next level. Since participating in Pathfinder, Energy Mutual has begun to expand and will continue to increase its offering and further innovate.

The Pathfinder Accelerator 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.

It will be delivered by training specialists Skillfluence who have developed and designed a new course structure including an e-learning platform to make the course more accessible. Skillfluence will partner with Investing Women Angels to provide business advice and support to this year’s participants. They will provide coaching and mentoring as well as help develop networking, sourcing, funding and planning for future growth.

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