The SETsquared Partnership, a unique enterprise collaboration between six universities, has been named top startup hub in the UK and Ireland by the Financial Times – and third best in Europe. 

The South West-based business incubator received the accolade in a Special Report on Europe’s leading startup hubs by the Financial Times and Statista.

SETsquared, a collaboration between the Universities of Exeter, Bath, Bristol, Southampton, Surrey and Cardiff University, provides a wide range of support programmes designed to help turn ideas into thriving businesses.

It supports tech-based businesses throughout their lifecycle, from idea through to investment and scaleup and develops entrepreneurial thinking for students, academics and businesses.

With six business acceleration centres and a range of sector-based innovation and investment support programmes, SETsquared has helped more than 5,000 entrepreneurs raise £4.4bn in investment and created 15,600 jobs with an estimated economic impact of £15.7bn since its inception in 2002.

The Financial Times report, compiled alongside Statista and Sifted, ranked 125 startup hubs across 21 European countries using data and feedback from alumni and independent experts, including investors, and it also examined the success of emerging companies.

The report rated each startup hub across six categories: mentoring and training development, infrastructure, legal assistance, business development, networking and funding. 

300 jobs created by SETsquared Bristol’s tech firms

Independent experts, including angel investors, entrepreneurs and academics also added their evaluations, and additional scores were awarded for the most successful startups to have emerged from each hub.

“It’s fantastic to be recognised as one of the top three startup hubs in Europe. It’s a testament to the expertise and hard work from teams across our business acceleration centres and universities and to the culture of collaboration across the ecosystems that we are part of,” said Marty Reid, executive director of SETsquared.

“We don’t offer cookie-cutter-style acceleration. Our portfolio of support is really built around the diversity of startup’s needs, bringing together networks of mentors, advisors, and business connections to get ventures investor-ready or engaged in their target markets. 

“We hope this ranking shows the enormous potential of regional ecosystems working together to build the globally leading companies we need to take on our biggest challenges.” 

Bristol Startups 2.0

Joe Pearce, head of business support at the University of Exeter and business acceleration and student entrepreneurship lead, added: “It’s hugely gratifying for our efforts to turn innovation into thriving business that provides social benefit and drives economic growth recognised in this way, and a proud achievement for SETsquared and all six of the universities that make up the partnership.”

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