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NatWest Enterprise Expert Takes BeTheSpark Leadership Role

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Caroline Thompson has been named as leader of newly-launched innovation and entrepreneurship movement BeTheSpark.

Caroline is currently NatWest’s entrepreneur development manager overseeing the Entrepreneurial Spark Powered by NatWest hub in Cardiff. Now NatWest has become one of the first major businesses in Wales to pledge its support for BeTheSpark by funding Caroline’s secondment to the role of CEO.

BeTheSpark, launched last month, is a movement designed to connect like-minded people and bring together innovation and entrepreneurship.

Welsh Government, as one of the movement’s key stakeholders, will continue to support BeTheSpark by matching private sector sponsorship and the secondment of a Welsh Government official.

Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy & Infrastructure, said:

“I was delighted to launch the BeTheSpark movement last month.  It is vital that we put innovation-driven entrepreneurship at the heart of our effort to create jobs and boost the economy.  To do this we need to harness the power and impact of our combined efforts, recognising the role that each of us can play to push forward a shared objective.”

Nine of Wales’ most prominent figures from business and academia have joined forces to start this movement, aiming to build a community that will help transform Wales, inspire the next generation and ultimately trigger more start-ups, more innovation and commercialisation, more opportunities and more jobs.

The nine are Ashley Cooper of Catalyst Growth Partners; Professor Simon J. Gibson of  Wesley Clover Corporation; Professor Dylan Jones-Evans of University of South Wales; Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott of Swansea University; Dan Mines of the Admiral Group; Dr Drew Nelson of IQE plc; Hayley Parsons, founder of GoCompare.com; and James Taylor, the founder of SuperStars.

Caroline will take the CEO position in the newly formed BeTheSpark CIC, which will act as the backbone connector in building the Innovation Driven Entrepreneurship Community. The CIC will be chaired and directed by Ashley Cooper, Caroline Thompson and Dan Mines with the wider nine person existing panel chaired by Simon Gibson maintaining an active strategic direction role.

BeTheSpark is an output of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme, which Wales joined in 2015. It is a global initiative designed to help regions accelerate economic growth and job creation through innovation-driven entrepreneurship.

 Caroline said:

“I have worked for NatWest for28 years in a variety of roles and my time leading the Entrepreneurial Spark hub in Cardiff has been one of the most rewarding as it has allowed me to draw on my passion for entrepreneurship and innovation.

“Wales has a vibrant and expanding entrepreneurial economy, and the ecosystem which supports it is already strong. BeTheSpark is the natural next step in the evolution of this support structure, and will bring together a network of individuals and organisations who can harness the energy and talent which is already here and take it to the next level.”

Kevin Morgan, NatWest’s regional director for business banking for Wales, said:

“Wales is home to some inspirational companies set up by equally inspirational entrepreneurs. But we need to see even more entrepreneurship, innovation and collaboration, as well as investment, if we want our economy and our communities to flourish and prosper.

“NatWest has already brought Entrepreneurial Spark to Wales, providing free support, mentoring, networking and office accommodation for entrepreneurs in the flagship location of Cardiff’s Central Square. In its first six months the hub supported 64 businesses which between them created 95 jobs, raised £1.05 million in investment and saw a total turnover of more than £6.4 million.

“Businesses, academia and individuals across Wales are being asked to make a pledge to support BeTheSpark, and NatWest is proud to play its part by providing Caroline’s time, expertise and talent. This is a ground-breaking initiative and I’d urge others to think about what they too can do to help support economic growth and innovation by making their own pledge to BeTheSpark.”

Now BeTheSpark is calling on all stakeholders whether entrepreneurs, businesses, support agencies, academic institutions, or capital providers to actively support the programme by registering at www.BeTheSpark.Wales , following on twitter @BeTheSpark, using the hashtag #BeTheSpark in any activity that promotes Innovation Driven Entrepreneurship across a connected stakeholder group, promoting and providing digital content, joining the dots between the stakeholder groups and making a support pledge. Together we can make a difference.