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HRH The Duke of York visits new Oldham-based startup accelerator that will help development of North’s digital and tech sector

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HRH the Duke of York today visits the new Open Future_ North start-up accelerator, currently under construction in Oldham, which will help the development of the North of England’s digital and tech sector.

The facility – which is being developed by Wayra UK, part of Telefónica Open Future_, with Oldham Council – will open in 2017, and will help entrepreneurs in the Greater Manchester area develop new tech businesses, creating jobs and growth, said Gary Stewart, director of Wayra UK.

Gary Stewart, Director of Wayra UK, said: “We are delighted to have the support of HRH the Duke of York, and his backing highlights the potential of this new venture, which could be truly transformative in terms of encouraging digital innovation in the North of England. Throughout history, the Greater Manchester region has been an engine driving the UK economy forward. Now, this new facility will help the next generation of entrepreneurs develop their ideas into business reality, encouraging the growth of the digital sector in Greater Manchester and creating new highly-skilled jobs.”

Open Future_ North is a new multi-functional hub designed to scale young digital business in Oldham and across the Greater Manchester area. Building work on the new facility started in September 2016 and is part of a £1 million investment by Oldham Council to help businesses thrive in the town’s Independent Quarter.

From early 2017, start-ups will gain access to a state-of-the-art co-working space in Oldham, as well as business support including mentoring, training in entrepreneurship and business skills, and access to Wayra UK’s networks of partners and investors.

Prior to HRH’s visit, Wayra UK will evaluate start-up applications to Open Future_ North, and will announce the winning companies who will join the 2017 programme during the royal visit. Businesses selected to join Open Future_ North may subsequently be asked to join the full acceleration Wayra UK programme, where they could receive £68,000 in investment through cash and equivalent services.

The launch of Open Future_ North forms part of a wider strategy, led by Telefónica Open Future_ – a global innovation and entrepreneurship network – to work alongside local and regional partners to reinvigorate entrepreneurial ecosystems, energise local economies and democratise entrepreneurship.

In Oldham, the aim is to support grassroots entrepreneurship and attract start-up talent, investment and business mentors from across the Greater Manchester area. Oldham is seen as an ideal site for tech sector development, given the town’s young and diverse population, investment in regional infrastructure projects, passionate local business leaders and direct transport links to Manchester.

Jean Stretton, Leader of Oldham Council said: “We are very excited about the development of Open Future_ North. When it opens its doors in 2017 to its first set of start-up companies, Oldham can be the birthplace for exciting new digital businesses that will not only create local jobs and investment, but could even develop tech ideas that can change the world. This project really opens up opportunities in Oldham and Greater Manchester to tech entrepreneurs that simply didn’t exist before.”