Connections and catalysts

Dr Martin Stow, Nexus Director, University of Leeds

I recently had the great privilege of hosting some of our region’s most innovative and forward-looking start-up businesses, and the organisations which provide vital support for them, at the Embracing Growth round table.

The discussion explored how and why early stage businesses should embrace opportunities to scale up and ways in which to overcome some of the barriers faced in areas such as raising funds and attracting skills and talent. One of the key recurring themes was collaboration.

At Nexus, we’re well-versed in making those vital connections for business – adding value by establishing links with the world-class research, facilities and talent available across the University of Leeds as well as the wider innovation ecosystem.

Our collaboration teams at Nexus work closely with the entrepreneurial minds behind those businesses, providing a concierge service, which makes it as easy as possible for them to connect with innovative academics and other advisory business support.

They have also forged a series of new working relationships with senior academics at the University of Leeds, who are adding their knowledge, insights and research skills to support our members and deliver some truly ground-breaking results.


Nexus aims to be a catalyst for innovation and enterprise across the Leeds City Region, so it was good to hear from the business owners and entrepreneurs at the round table, about what they need from initiatives like ours to help them develop their ideas and grow.

It also became clear from talking to participants that recruiting and retaining talent is a key challenge at every stage of growth, whether you’re a fast-growing start-up or a more established scaling business. For scale-ups in particular, which typically need to grow at pace, helping them to navigate the process is a major part of the support we provide to our members.

We can offer long-term strategic relationships with the University and its talent pool to help businesses find people with the right fit and help them to avoid recruitment pitfalls.

For example, Ligentia – an international supply chain business with blue chip clients – has maximised the opportunity to work with the University by recruiting top talent, including their new Global Technology Director, for its new tech hub based at Nexus.

And Edge Analytics, leading specialists in demographic analysis and forecasting, who offer year-in-industry placements and research projects, have recently worked with the University to solve complex challenges and identify future employees through their engagement with the University’s world-leading academics.

Whilst Vet AI, the ground-breaking vet-tech start-up, has been able to employ some of the University’s brightest AI talent through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership – a meeting of minds between academia and industry, which sees a graduate or postgraduate placed within a business to solve a strategic challenge.

Connections – with the right people and expertise; and through the linking of thoughts, innovations and ideas – are fundamental to business growth.

Those connections will take on an international perspective for the Leeds City Region in January 2020 as part of its participation in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP): a two-year programme, run by the Sloane School of Management, which is designed to drive growth and innovation within our region.

Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University, is leading the Leeds cohort. Leeds has also been chosen to host the only workshop to take place outside of Boston during the programme. Our fellow cohorts will join interactive workshops at Nexus and have the opportunity to witness the inner workings of the Leeds City Region innovation ecosystem through a number of tours and events.

Our involvement in MIT REAP is a clear demonstration of our commitment to ensuring that our region and the businesses based here have access to the expertise, facilities and support systems they need to embrace growth.

In the same way that MIT in Boston is known for being the place to go for businesses who want to work with academics, we want the University of Leeds, through Nexus, to be the role model for collaboration in the UK.