Somerset County Council and the four Somerset District Councils have joined forces to fund and launch an exciting new scheme to give start-ups and early stage businesses the best chance of success. Called Somerset Catalyst, it is part of a wider business support programme that is rolling out across the county. 

The launch of Somerset Catalyst builds on a successful trial that ran in 2019. Its goal is to give start-ups and early stage businesses the best chance of success. The programme will run annually, commencing in September, for a six-month duration.

The bespoke programme features one-to-one expert coaching for the ten chosen businesses and will be tailored to focus on the specific elements each business needs to succeed. There will also be workshops hosted on key aspects of running a business, a peer support group, business review panels with industry experts, help to access business finance and profile-raising marketing support.

The 2020 programme has been adapted to a hybrid model, using virtual technologies as well as face-to-face interaction. So, if you’ve ever thought about setting up in business or you’re already running an early stage business and are ready to accelerate your growth, Somerset Catalyst could be the boost you need to realise your ambitions.

Applications for the 2020/2021 programme are now closed. We would like to thank everyone for their interest and for taking the time to apply for the programme. Applicants will be contacted individually to let them know if they have been successful.

If you would like to be kept up-do-date with the latest on the Somerset Catalyst programme and be the first to know when applications are open for next year, please register your interest at hello@somersetcatalyst.co.uk.

MEET THE TEAM

Peter Birkett

Somerset Catalyst Programme Lead and Mentor

Peter, alongside David Bream, is responsible for developing the full Somerset Catalyst programme and pulling together the team of experts that will support businesses on their journey.

Peter Birkett began his career as a research scientist at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, later leading research teams and becoming General Manager of a major research department. In 2001, following privatisation, he founded and led a start-up company (cueSim Ltd) manufacturing advanced flight simulator products. After successfully seeing the company through development to production, he moved to become Chief Executive of Southampton Science Park in 2007. In his time at the Science Park, he conceived and implemented a series of challenging development projects and transformed the working environment into a vibrant community of innovative high-tech businesses with significant growth ambition. Since retiring in 2019, he has continued to work as an independent consultant, providing support to early stage businesses.

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Peter Birkett began his career as a research scientist at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, later leading research teams and becoming General Manager of a major research department. In 2001, following privatisation, he founded and led a start-up company (cueSim Ltd) manufacturing advanced flight simulator products. After successfully seeing the company through development to production, he moved to become Chief Executive of Southampton Science Park in 2007. In his time at the Science Park, he conceived and implemented a series of challenging development projects and transformed the working environment into a vibrant community of innovative high-tech businesses with significant growth ambition. Since retiring in 2019, he has continued to work as an independent consultant, providing support to early stage businesses.

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David Bream

Somerset Catalyst Programme Lead and Mentor

David, alongside Peter Birkett, is responsible for developing the Somerset Catalyst programme and pulling together the team of experts that will support businesses on their journey.

David is a Chartered Engineer with a BSc in Physics, MSc in Digital Systems, Diploma in Marketing and an MBA. He is Chairman of Governance at the UK Intellectual Property Regulation Board, responsible for regulating UK patent and trademark professions. He is the Founder and SETsquared Programme Director, Southampton, where he helps early stage businesses to create a business plan, supporting them through the process of gaining funding and helping them develop the commercial skills to drive the business forward.

David spent his early career working in R&D in signal processing and high-performance computing technologies before moving into the mainstream computing industry where he progressed through various sales and management positions. David was also the founder and MD of a consultancy and solutions company operating in the field of enterprise application integration software.

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David is a Chartered Engineer with a BSc in Physics, MSc in Digital Systems, Diploma in Marketing and an MBA. He is Chairman of Governance at the UK Intellectual Property Regulation Board, responsible for regulating UK patent and trademark professions. He is the Founder and SETsquared Programme Director, Southampton, where he helps early stage businesses to create a business plan, supporting them through the process of gaining funding and helping them develop the commercial skills to drive the business forward.

David spent his early career working in R&D in signal processing and high-performance computing technologies before moving into the mainstream computing industry where he progressed through various sales and management positions. David was also the founder and MD of a consultancy and solutions company operating in the field of enterprise application integration software.

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Philip Sharpe

Somerset Catalyst Mentor

Philip is dedicated to helping early-stage businesses reach their potential through the Somerset Catalyst programme, offering participants on the programme one-on-one bespoke coaching and support.

Originally trained in Applied Physics, Philip has worked in the defence and aerospace sector throughout his career until retirement in 2014; he started in research and development and moved through project management and HR then senior management. Philip spent nearly 20 years commercialising technology at QinetiQ developing a portfolio of early stage businesses and ventures spanning a wide range of physical sciences. As Proposition Development and latterly Ventures Director at QinetiQ, he focused on: innovation, proposition development, business mentoring, growth strategy, funding (including AIM flotation), private equity, trade sale exit, mergers, and acquisitions.

Mentoring early stage businesses and facilitating their success has been his passion for many years. Since 2011 Philip has been a non-executive director of the Southampton Science Park and a business coach on the Park’s successful Catalyst Program. Philip has also worked with SETsquared on their Entrepreneurship programme (part of the Digital Business Accelerator Hub) and other new business support projects.

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Originally trained in Applied Physics, Philip has worked in the defence and aerospace sector throughout his career until retirement in 2014; he started in research and development and moved through project management and HR then senior management. Philip spent nearly 20 years commercialising technology at QinetiQ developing a portfolio of early stage businesses and ventures spanning a wide range of physical sciences. As Proposition Development and latterly Ventures Director at QinetiQ, he focused on: innovation, proposition development, business mentoring, growth strategy, funding (including AIM flotation), private equity, trade sale exit, mergers, and acquisitions.

Mentoring early stage businesses and facilitating their success has been his passion for many years. Since 2011 Philip has been a non-executive director of the Southampton Science Park and a business coach on the Park’s successful Catalyst Program. Philip has also worked with SETsquared on their Entrepreneurship programme (part of the Digital Business Accelerator Hub) and other new business support projects.

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Kate O'Sullivan

Somerset Catalyst Mentor

Kate is the Managing Director and Owner of multi-award-winning PR agency, ADPR. With over 15 years’ experience, Kate is passionate about helping businesses to grow and succeed through the power of communications.

With over 15 years’ experience, Kate has worked alongside many different companies ranging from global organisations through to SME’s and start-ups. Kate’s experience has immersed her in a wide range of sectors including travel & tourism, health & fitness, marine, retail, professional services, defence and food and drink. She takes a strategic approach to marketing and PR, ensuring that activity is aligned to help her clients reach their goals.

Kate is a firm believer in good leadership and people development and works closely supporting her team to develop their own skill sets and professional interests. Under Kate’s ownership, ADPR has won multiple industry awards including Outstanding Small PR consultancy, Best Consumer Relations Campaign, Best Arts, Culture or Sports Campaign and Best Apprenticeship Employer. She was also named in South West Business Insider’s prestigious 42 Under 42 feature showcasing the region’s top business leaders and entrepreneurs under 42 years of age.

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With over 15 years’ experience, Kate has worked alongside many different companies ranging from global organisations through to SME’s and start-ups. Kate’s experience has immersed her in a wide range of sectors including travel & tourism, health & fitness, marine, retail, professional services, defence and food and drink. She takes a strategic approach to marketing and PR, ensuring that activity is aligned to help her clients reach their goals.

Kate is a firm believer in good leadership and people development and works closely supporting her team to develop their own skill sets and professional interests. Under Kate’s ownership, ADPR has won multiple industry awards including Outstanding Small PR consultancy, Best Consumer Relations Campaign, Best Arts, Culture or Sports Campaign and Best Apprenticeship Employer. She was also named in South West Business Insider’s prestigious 42 Under 42 feature showcasing the region’s top business leaders and entrepreneurs under 42 years of age.

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Dave White

Somerset Catalyst Mentor

Over a thirty-year career, Dave has helped over a thousand entrepreneurs finance and implement their plans for growth and will be doing the same for our Somerset Catalyst participants.

Dave is no stranger to the pressures of starting your own business, helping to found www.invaluable.com which is now the world’s largest online collectibles site, referring $5bn worth of business to Ebay each year. He is a founder member of the Digital Skills Partnership of the Heart of the South West LEP and works as part of the Enterprise Nation adviser team on Startup, Scale-up and Export programmes.

He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an approved assessor for EU Horizon 2020 Innovation Funding, and a senior member of the IT Faculty Board at Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

Dave has extensive experience in the Fintech, Rural Enterprise and Food & Drink sectors, where he advises companies on expansion, turnaround, digital transformation, sustainability and succession.

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Dave is no stranger to the pressures of starting your own business, helping to found www.invaluable.com which is now the world’s largest online collectibles site, referring $5bn worth of business to Ebay each year. He is a founder member of the Digital Skills Partnership of the Heart of the South West LEP and works as part of the Enterprise Nation adviser team on Startup, Scale-up and Export programmes.

He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an approved assessor for EU Horizon 2020 Innovation Funding, and a senior member of the IT Faculty Board at Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

Dave has extensive experience in the Fintech, Rural Enterprise and Food & Drink sectors, where he advises companies on expansion, turnaround, digital transformation, sustainability and succession.

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Laura Trapnell

Somerset Catalyst Mentor

Laura is a Partner and Head of the IP and IT team at Paris Smith LLP. She will be supporting Somerset Catalyst participants on their IP – from ownership issues, strategy and protection to enforcement.

Laura spent many years at niche intellectual property firms and teams in London and joined Paris Smith in 2012 to head up the IP and IT team. Her experience covers all aspects of commercial intellectual property and IT law for multinationals through to SMEs and individuals. She has a particular expertise in the Tech and Food and Drink sectors.

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Laura spent many years at niche intellectual property firms and teams in London and joined Paris Smith in 2012 to head up the IP and IT team. Her experience covers all aspects of commercial intellectual property and IT law for multinationals through to SMEs and individuals. She has a particular expertise in the Tech and Food and Drink sectors.

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Adrian Braine

Somerset Catalyst Mentor

Adrian has an extensive career supporting start-ups and SMEs, particularly relating to immersive technologies and implementation, offering participants real-life expertise and knowledge to take their businesses and ideas to the next level.

Adrian is the co-founder of Root21, a technology accelerator working with hi-tech start-ups and SMEs focused on 5G and Immersive technologies, and a business coach at the University of Southampton Science Park. He is also the CEO and founder of Candescence, a company providing expertise in entrepreneurship, technology acceleration, go-to-market strategy and growth for companies in cutting edge 5G and Immersive technologies. Adrian is a member of UK5G’s Working Group for SME Engagement and has been a consultant on “Digital Connectivity and 5G Networks” for Enterprise M3’s Local Industrial Strategy.

In a career spanning more than 40 years, he has held international director level positions in management; marketing and engineering that provide a rare combination of technology innovation and commercialisation. He has been the driving force for more than 20, multi-million-dollar products in the electronics, software and semiconductor industries.

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Adrian is the co-founder of Root21, a technology accelerator working with hi-tech start-ups and SMEs focused on 5G and Immersive technologies, and a business coach at the University of Southampton Science Park. He is also the CEO and founder of Candescence, a company providing expertise in entrepreneurship, technology acceleration, go-to-market strategy and growth for companies in cutting edge 5G and Immersive technologies. Adrian is a member of UK5G’s Working Group for SME Engagement and has been a consultant on “Digital Connectivity and 5G Networks” for Enterprise M3’s Local Industrial Strategy.

In a career spanning more than 40 years, he has held international director level positions in management; marketing and engineering that provide a rare combination of technology innovation and commercialisation. He has been the driving force for more than 20, multi-million-dollar products in the electronics, software and semiconductor industries.

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Simon White

Somerset Catalyst Mentor

Simon is Partner & Co-founder at Altitude Partners and a Partner in James Cowper Kreston Corporate Finance, and specialises in raising investment, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and operational management.

Simon has built and run a leading M&A business and is the former founder and partner in charge of BDO Stoy Hayward’s South Coast Corporate Finance business. He spent seven years as a direct private equity investor, both raising and investing equity across a broad range of industries.

Simon subsequently became managing director of his own trading business which he grew and then sold to a large private group. He has raised and invested more than £800 million into trading businesses and has over twenty years of experience in the Private Equity market. Simon has provided strategic advice to management teams in growing businesses across a broad range of sectors.

 

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Simon has built and run a leading M&A business and is the former founder and partner in charge of BDO Stoy Hayward’s South Coast Corporate Finance business. He spent seven years as a direct private equity investor, both raising and investing equity across a broad range of industries.

Simon subsequently became managing director of his own trading business which he grew and then sold to a large private group. He has raised and invested more than £800 million into trading businesses and has over twenty years of experience in the Private Equity market. Simon has provided strategic advice to management teams in growing businesses across a broad range of sectors.

 

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