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Female entrepreneurs get university business boost through a memorial fund

A new accelerator programme for female entrepreneurs has been established at Northumbria University thanks to a generous £63,000 grant from The Susan Dobson Memorial Fund.

The funding will establish the accelerator for an initial four-year period and see £15,000 awarded to female founders each year.

The three-month programme will be open to applications from female entrepreneurs from Northumbria University - either current students or recent graduates. It aims to support women with viable business ideas, who have started trading and are looking for support to grow. The ultimate goal is to help launch successful female-led start-ups that create jobs and prosperity for the North East.

The accelerator will include:

  • Workshops on business fundamentals such as growth strategy, finance and brand development.
  • Meet the entrepreneurs’ sessions, where other successful female entrepreneurs will share their expertise.
  • Peer support/networking sessions to encourage collaboration and support among the group.
  • 121 mentoring to help participants develop their business idea and entrepreneurial skills.

In addition, all participants will have access to Northumbria University’s Business Incubator space - Innovate Northumbria - as a home for their growing start-up business.

At the end of the programme, each of the participants will present their business idea to a panel. Those considered to have the best chance of developing into a sustainable local business - and creating job opportunities - will receive a share of the £15,000 annual fund.

The award has been made possible in memory of Susan Dobson, who grew a thriving international business in the North East before dying of breast cancer at the age of 47. Throughout her professional life, Susan was committed to combatting the challenges facing the North East following the decline of heavy industries. Her memorial fund recognises and supports women’s entrepreneurial achievements in the North East, for the benefit of the regional economy.

“Susan was passionate about there is no limit as to what women can achieve. She would have been proud of the success of the next generation of female entrepreneurs in the North East and the Susan Dobson Memorial Fund is delighted to support the female accelerator programme at Northumbria University in her honour.”

Mary Scott, Susan’s daughter

According to the latest report by the Higher Education Business and Community Interaction Survey (HEBCIS), Northumbria is now the top-ranked North East university for graduate start-up businesses based on turnover. In the period 2020 – 2021, the combined turnover for Northumbria graduate businesses exceeded £95 million. Northumbria’s Incubator continues to impact nationally and is ranked 5th of all UK universities. A proven model of support, ensuring 12 consecutive years Northumbria has been in the top 10, and ten years in the top 5.

Projects like this are being funded with money raised by the University’s fundraising campaign, Higher Education Without Barriers.

Northumbria is partnering with alumni, businesses, and other supporters to provide a range of financial initiatives, mental health and wellbeing services, and community-based projects, to make participation and progression in higher education more achievable for academically talented students, regardless of their social or economic circumstances.

To find out how your business can get involved, contact Peter Storey at:


Below: - Northumbria University Incubator

Northumbria University Incubator


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