‘Running the gauntlet’, the East of England Development Agency’s (EEDA) investment competition and business education programme was launched in May with up to £2m on offer for entrepreneurs with investable businesses in the East of England. In the last two years nearly eight hundred businesses have used ‘running the gauntlet’ as the springboard for business development and investment. Many have gone on to attract private equity running into millions of pounds - among them Camrivox, Compound Photonics and Short Fuze (Case studies available).

This year EEDA is partnering with four investors: CREATE, Low Carbon Accelerator, NW Brown Group and SEP. The investment panel will be chaired by Doug Richard of Library House. An enhanced business education programme is a further feature of this year’s ‘running the gauntlet’. Aimed at getting entrants’ business plans in the best possible shape to attract investment, East of England entrepreneurs can again gain free access to The Gauntlet (normally £299), the virtual investor devised by Library House and the London School of Economics. Thereafter, over £250,000 of in-kind advice and guidance is available from some of the UK’s leading commercial organisations: Bailey Fisher, Cambridge Marketing College, Grant Thornton, HSBC, Microsoft UK, Mudhut Communication, Sagentia, Taylor Vinters, The Commercialisation Company.

A series of boot camps scheduled for Cambridge (14 June), Norwich (20 June) and Chelmsford (4 July). The programme, which will involve ‘running the gauntlet’ investors and partners, will be structured around The Gauntlet to help strengthen the entrants’ submissions and improve their chances of success whilst offering an excellent networking opportunity. Entrepreneurs can enter online at www.runningthegauntlet.com between 2 May 2007 and midnight on 2 September 2007. Those who register early will have the chance to win a place (worth £1000 each) on ‘Ignite’, an intensive week-long summer school for entrepreneurs run by the Cambridge Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning or to gain a place on Microsoft UK’s small business management course.

A shortlist of fifty will be announced at an event on 12 September 2007. They will be invited to pitch to the panel of investors who will then select ten finalists to go forward for more detailed discussions. Investment plans (which will be subject to due diligence) will be announced at EEDA’s ‘Destination Growth’ event on 6 November 2007.

Richard Ellis, EEDA’s chairman said: “The East of England is fortunate in having one of the country’s highest concentrations of entrepreneurs. The diverse interests of our four investors who span a wide range of sectors from green energy and IT to healthcare and biotechnology should inspire wide-spread interest from innovators across the region. I look forward to seeing who comes forward and who will make the most of the opportunities ‘running the gauntlet’ offers.”

Chairman of the panel of investors, Doug Richard said: “Being entrepreneurial involves being agile, acting quickly and being prepared to work harder than the competition. There is a 'readiness gap' among entrepreneurs at the moment, in other words there are not enough businesses ready for investment or for the scrutiny this entails. ‘Running the gauntlet’ is designed to address this gap through its high quality education programme and the involvement of investors eager to work with high-impact entrepreneurial talent. I commend it to all entrepreneurs who harbour a burning ambition to succeed.”