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Are you a researcher at one of our partner universities? Do you have product, service or license opportunities in mind right now, or want to develop the commercial potential of your research in future?

Future Founders is our training offer designed specifically for academics to embrace enterprise opportunities. If you’re serious about making commercialisation a reality, this is the course for you. 

Future Founders is delivered by Zuas, experts in innovation focussed on the university sector and maximising impact by bridging the gap between academia, industry and government. Their team has supported more than 20 universities and research institutes.

You’ll be signing up to a programme of workshops which will build your entrepreneurial capability and accelerate your idea development.


The workshops will cover:


• Diagnosing opportunities and exploring the market

• Accelerating development and de-risking opportunities
• Business planning and business building
• Enterprise financing and fund-raising

The next course begins on 19 September 2024. 

Please read the FAQs below, then speak to your technology transfer team to ensure it’s suitable for you, and apply by 23 August 2024.

Meet some of our Future Founders

Frequently asked questions

Our current funding for Future Founders covers places for academics from Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and York Universities. Please read the FAQs and discuss with your Technology Transfer team then apply.

If you are a researcher at  Sunderland or Teesside, you may still be able to apply – please speak to your Northern Accelerator lead to discuss whether funding is available for this cohort or future courses. 

Please speak to your technology transfer team to ensure the course is appropriate for you, and then apply by completing this short application form by 23 August 2024. 

Please hold the course dates in your diary and we will confirm whether your application has been successful shortly after the closing date. 

Yes, as long as you’re an academic at one of our partner universities and have a keen interest in developing the commercial potential of your research now or in the future, you’re welcome to apply.  Please set out your reasons for wanting to attend on the short application form.  We’ll be working in small groups throughout the workshops and those without their own ideas will be contributing as a resource on someone else’s idea.

The course leaders will be under non-disclosure / confidentiality agreements.  There are likely to be academics from all Northern Accelerator universities on each cohort.  Our advice would be that you should share as much or as little as you are comfortable doing – you won’t have to reveal anything during the workshops that would threaten your ability to secure IP later.

Whether you’re attending Future Founders or not, your technology transfer team at your own university can also help you understand what you should do to protect your IP.

No, but we do ask that you seek your Head of Department’s agreement to apply (there’s a question on the application form about this), and discuss your intention to apply with your university’s technology transfer team. This is so we can ensure Future Founders is the right course for you. 

We are encouraging a broad range of ideas from across institutions and disciplines. Ideas might be components, products, scalable services, or license opportunities, educational or health platforms, or molecules, software or data assets… the list is endless!

In short, no!  The programme is set up to maximise the benefits from peer to peer learning and may be tailored to the needs of specific cohorts.  Switching between cohorts is therefore not possible.

As well as attending the scheduled sessions, there will be homework between sessions. For the most part this takes a couple of hours. You’ll see from the dates there is a two-week break between modules 2 & 3. Homework after Module 2 will probably take around twice as long. 

The next course will take place on the following dates: 

  • Thursday 19 September, 9am-5pm
  • Thursday 26 September, 9am-5pm 
  • Thursday 10 October, 9am-5pm 
  • Tuesday 15 October (9am-12noon, online) 
  • Thursday 17 October, 9am-5pm 

All of the Thursday sessions will take place at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Durham. 

The Tuesday half-day session is online, via Zoom. 

There is no cost to you as an individual, or to your department. 

However, the course is a significant investment in you, so we do ask that if you are unable to attend for any reason, you give us as much notice as possible so that we can offer a place to another applicant. 

Future Founders is provided via Northern Accelerator. 

At Durham, Newcastle and Northumbria Universities, the course is funded through UK Shared Prosperity Funding via the In-TUNE partnership from Durham County Council and North of Tyne Combined Authority. 


At Sunderland, Teesside and York Universities, Future Founders may be accessed through Northern Accelerator if local funding is available.

The course covers: 

  • Diagnosing opportunities
    • Overview of the development and commercialisation process
    • The realities of the spin-out journey (case stories)
    • Diagnosing the opportunity – needs, barriers and limitations, solution routes
    • Exploring the market opportunity and applications to target first
    • Customer segmentation and personas
    • Competitor analysis and competitive advantage
  • Accelerating development
    • Overview of the scoping process
    • Exploring the total business system for ‘musts, gaps and risks’
    • Designing and executing market, customer and user research
    • Freedom to operate and protecting IP
    • Accelerating development, managing and mitigating risk
    • Key milestones and action planning
    • Market engagement – how and when
    • Prototyping and testing
    • Introduction to business planning
  • Business planning and finances
    • Building a credible team, legal responsibilities of directors
    • Business modelling and brand building
    • Introduction to financial statements and budgeting
    • Overview of the funding requirements of a business and cash flow
    • Writing the business plan
    • Different sources of funding, different types of investors and what they look for
    • The fundraising process – step by step
    • Avoiding the pitfalls and closing the deal
    • Building and managing relationships with important investors
  • Fundraising and pitching
    • What’s in a pitch? And who is it for?
    • Top tips for pitching
    • ‘Pitch school’ – build your winning pitch
    • Feedback from your cohort and course leaders
    • Honing your pitch
    • Pitch delivery day!

Future Founders will equip you with the skills and knowledge to recognise and embrace commercial opportunities from your research. Your university’s technology transfer team will work closely with you to do this, and you may be interested in getting involved (if you’re not already) with other elements of Northern Accelerator’s support, such as our pre-incorporation funding or executives into business.

We’re investing in you and we want to help you make an impact with the outcome of your research, so we’ll ensure we put you in touch with the right people at your university to progress those opportunities.

Many of our previous participants have gone on to launch their own spin-out businesses, with the research they progressed throughout their time on Future Founders. 

“The content of Future Founders was excellent. The opportunity to meet other academics involved in spinning out businesses from Durham and other institutions was invaluable. The opportunity to discuss the business and emerging contract opportunities with the course organisers was extremely valuable.”