The Spark Project

Support to start-up and growing social enterprises in West Sussex.

The Spark Social Enterprise Project received funding from the Interreg 2 Seas Programme 2014/20. This was co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund under subsidy contract No 2S01-043.

The partners involved in this international project were University of Brighton, West Sussex County Council (UK), De Punt and Sociale Innovatie Fabriek (Belgium) and Stadsgarage-Seinwezen (Netherlands). The project was delivered between January 2016 and March 2020.

The main aim of the Spark Project was to support social enterprises to develop and deliver sustainable and high-impact innovations leading to increased growth. This was achieved through the creation of tools and the implementation of various complementary support activities.

What was delivered

  • A comprehensive piece of research involving 160 social enterprises and stakeholders to identify barriers to growth through innovation.
  • A Strategy and Action Plan.
  • Involvement of 60 stakeholders across UK, Belgium and the Netherlands in Action Plan activity.
  • Creation and implementation the Innovation Roadmap tool in 75 social enterprises (across UK, Belgium and the Netherlands); this tool provides a methodology for the delivery of innovation in a structured way to maximise the benefit from it.
  • 25 established social enterprises in the UK completed the Accelerator programme, which included:
    • one-to-one sessions
    • peer-to-peer learning
    • specialist training
    • three international safaris (visits, workshops and training sessions with social enterprises from the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands over three weeks: 12-16 June 2017 in the UK, 2-6 October 2017 in Belgium and 12-16 March 2018 in Netherlands)
    • an international conference on Open Innovation methods (50 more completed the Accelerator programme in Belgium and the Netherlands).
  • Creation and launch of My Start Up Social Enterprise, an online learning platform for start-ups, including the delivery of several events to promote the use of the tool and webinars on subjects such as innovation, impact assessment and business modelling.
  • The Social Enterprise Innovation Accelerator network, which now has more than 400 members and includes:
    • social enterprises
    • policy makers
    • support organisations
    • other stakeholders from across the world.
  • Evaluation of the impact of the Accelerator programme and the My Start Up Social Enterprise tool, in the social enterprises that participated.
  • An event with MEPs in Brussels, in November 2019 to raise the profile of social enterprise and its role in the economy and society.
  • A project dissemination event in Brighton in December 2019 for stakeholders and support agencies to discuss and learn how the Spark project's tools and knowledge can be used in the future. For example, appropriate links were established with the Hot House programme to ensure whenever possible that the Spark tools are used in the delivery of this programme.
  • A project's website, which features links to all the resources above, including the initial piece of research, the Action Plan and the Evaluation of the Accelerator and the start-up tool.
Find out more about the Spark Project (external link)
Spark Project logo
Last updated:
19 March 2021
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