Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership launches Accelerator to support entrepreneurs and help SMEs push boundaries in sustainability

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A new business Accelerator launched by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership will help local and regional entrepreneurs, SMEs and startups tackle the challenges of a transition to a sustainable economy.

In 2019, SMEs accounted for around half of turnover in the UK private sector, and three fifths of employment, highlighting the potential impact small business could have on addressing sustainability.  However, almost three quarters of UK SMEs are struggling to embed sustainability practices and put their ambition into action.

Dame Polly Courtice, Founding Director, CISL said: “SMEs and entrepreneurs have such enormous potential to drive the disruptive innovation and the change we need for a sustainable economy, but often there isn’t the support to get them to where they want to be. CISL has 30 years’ expertise and experience working with the private sector on sustainability, which we can share with small businesses and entrepreneurs. Our new Accelerator will help develop resilience in a changing world and support those with a vision of a sustainable future to help create it through their own enterprise.”

The CISL Accelerator draws on the Institute’s 30 years of experience working with global leaders across corporate, finance and policy sectors, its international network of 9,000 executives and practitioners, alongside the extensive Cambridge cluster of academics, innovators and entrepreneurs. It will provide tailored business support to accelerate innovation, and future-proof business success. 

John French, Executive Director, Accelerator Programme, CISL said: “Companies large and small are facing testing and highly interconnected challenges when addressing sustainability issues. Many of these require whole-system thinking in order to progress to solutions.

“The importance of the Accelerator is that it will offer opportunities to learn from others, particularly across sectors, and there is growing recognition that there are significant opportunities to be derived from addressing sustainability issues in a more collaborative fashion and in closer association with the research community.”

Alongside the business support provided by the Accelerator, CISL is also developing a new Sustainability Hub due to open in Autumn 2020. The Sustainability Hub will offer small businesses access to a flexible, innovative co-working space in the centre of Cambridge, where they can collaborate and share ideas with other innovators, researchers, corporations and startups. It will be housed in the pioneering Entopia Building, a world leading low carbon retrofitted telephone exchange building due to open in autumn 2020.

The new Accelerator and Sustainability Hub launched at an event last week in Cambridge, which set out CISL’s plans, bringing together leaders across the innovation, entrepreneurship, small business and sustainability sectors to discuss the project.

This work is part funded by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund. Businesses based in the Greater Cambridgeshire and Greater Peterborough area can apply to receive 12 hours’ free business support.

This new programme builds on CISL’s experience over the previous six years delivering the Unilever Young Entrepreneur Awards, which recognise and support young innovators tackling the planet’s biggest environmental and social challenges. The 2019 Award winners will be in Cambridge next week for an all-inclusive programme, helping the winners to achieve scale for impact, delivered by experts in sustainability and entrepreneurship.

For more information on the Accelerator download the brochure, or register your interest here.


To read more information, click here.

The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

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