The North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) has launched the region’s first social enterprise incubator – designed to nurture entrepreneurs who want to use business as a force for good.

Innovate for Good is a facility designed to hothouse entrepreneurs who share an aim to change the world for the better with their ideas, products, processes or services.

Based within the BIC’s new Innovation Zone at its Sunderland business park, the incubator is designed to provide the collaborative working space, practical tools and specialist support to stimulate new ideas and solutions to challenges of today’s world.

Twelve businesses have become the facility’s first cohort, working on projects with the potential to tackle issues including inequality, poverty, isolation, climate change, ill-health and disability. Their ideas include everything from dementia support focused on using arts, activities and culture as an alternative to the traditional respite care model, to specialist training to get more disabled and disadvantaged women into IT roles.

The aim of the incubator is to create a new community of next-generation social enterprises – businesses that value their social purpose as highly as profits, with profits reinvested or donated to improve people’s lives and the environment. According to a recent report* by Social Enterprise UK, this thriving sector of 100,000 businesses contributes £60 billion to the UK economy, employs two million people and is outperforming mainstream counterparts in nearly every area of business including turnover growth, job creation and innovation.

BIC Chief Executive Paul McEldon said: “Social entrepreneurs play a crucial role in the UK economy and are on a mission to change the world – but they can’t do it on their own. Innovate for Good is all about creating the right environment to develop, test and structure their ideas, giving them the best possible chance of success.

“As a successful social enterprise ourselves, the BIC is dedicated to finding and encouraging ethical and sustainable ways of doing business and we have 25 years’ experience to share.”

Expert social enterprise advisers from the BIC will provide guidance throughout the programme and a panel of experienced social entrepreneurs will act as mentors.

The BIC’s Social Enterprise Manager Kevin Marquis said: “The North East has always been a hotbed for social enterprise. Industrial challenges and societal issues have led to the emergence of innovative solutions and the social enterprise model is best placed to address and deliver these.

“Social enterprises are in our neighbourhoods and on our high streets – from coffee shops and care homes to banks and bus companies. The sector is going through something of a revolution with the rise of conscious consumers who take more interest in the ethical practices of who they buy from. We are incredibly excited to help drive forward this momentum, encouraging a new wave of dynamic social enterprises who have the potential to make a real difference to the North East.”

The BIC plans to recruit a second cohort of entrepreneurs to join Innovate for Good later this year. To register interest email