Entrepreneurs in Norfolk are being offered the chance to bid for £4,000 of consultancy support following a link up with two colleges.

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City College has launched a Gazelle-InnoTech competition after teaming up with South West College in Northern Ireland.

Launched in 2011, the Gazelle initiative is a partnership of five colleges and business figures such as Dragon’s Den starts Peter Jones and Doug Richards, which aims to bridge the gap between education and employment by creating a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Dick Palmer, college chief executive, said the InnoTech scheme was just the beginning of its support for local start-ups and entrepreneurs.

And he urged businesses and entrepreneurs to let the college help turn ideas into reality calling on them to use its expertise to help get products and business ideas ready for market.

“Being a Gazelle college means that we are here not just to support the development of enterprise and entrepreneurship for our students, but also for the wider community we serve. City College Norwich is home to a wealth of technical expertise in just about every key business sector and we have industry-standard facilities which entrepreneurs and start-ups could potentially make use of when they are not being used for teaching.

“Combine our specialist vocational skills and excellent facilities – such as product prototyping alongside the project management, marketing and other business development skills of our faculty staff - with the growing connections we are building up with business mentors and advisers through the work of our StartUp Lounge and you have quite a package of support. My message to start-ups, entrepreneurs and those who simply have a really good idea is: come and talk to us and discover how we can help you turn your idea into a commercially viable product.”

The new InnoTech-Gazelle competition is for start-ups in software, ICT, design or electronics, who are being invited to pitch for £4,000 worth of tailored consultancy and support to help develop their ideas and bring them to market.

The initiative has come out of the success of The InnoTech Centre at South West College in Northern Ireland.

The competition is open to any entrepreneur or start-up business that has been trading for less than two years and which is looking for research and development support for a software, ICT, design or electronics project.

And it is being made available for the first time to new businesses in Norfolk, Suffolk and East Cambridgeshire.

The closing date for the competition is 5pm, Thursday January 31 2013.

The five competition winners – who will each receive a package worth £5,000 (£4,000 of R&D consultancy and support from The InnoTech Centre plus up to £1,000 expenses) – will be announced on Thursday 28th February 2013 at a special event to be held in The StartUp Lounge at City College Norwich.

Further information about the competition and an application form are available at www.ccn.ac.uk/innotech. Anyone interested in finding out more can do so by contacting Gary Howard, Director of Employer Partnerships, Norfolk Educational Services on (01603) 773 297 or at Gary.Howard@ccn.ac.uk.

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