Paddleboat Theatre Company

University of Exeter Startup Team launches COVID-19 Startup Support Fund

The University of Exeter’s Student Startup team has launched a new funding initiative, designed to support innovative projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new scheme, called the COVID-19 Startup Support Fund, supported by Santander UK and Research England, gives graduate entrepreneurs the opportunity to apply for grants of up to £2,000 to support projects that respond to some of the challenges caused by the pandemic. These could include innovating their current business model, developing new products or supporting initiatives to reach out and engage with new audiences.

The scheme has already awarded its first four grants, to PaddleBoat Theatre CIC, Jubel , Sancho’s and Paddle Logger.

Exeter-based PaddleBoat Theatre CIC was founded 2014 by 4 drama students. They are an award-winning theatre company committed to delivering high-quality inclusive productions and exciting workshops to children and families in Devon and across the South-West. Using their British Sign Language (BSL) skills and 5 years’ experience of working with Exeter Deaf Academy, the team will co-create an inclusive programme of creative activities for deaf children and their parents that will culminate with a professional show in Exeter.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, deaf children may feel even more isolated and these accessible activities will inspire and motivate deaf children’s creativity and give children a space to explore challenging themes more openly, allow them to use their ‘voice’ and open up their imagination.

The Student Startup programme provides a safe and supported space in which entrepreneurial students can explore and test their ideas, build a solid foundation of skills and experience and most importantly, try and fail and try again. 

There is currently a 64% survival rate of startups founded by UoE graduates who received support and funding through the programme, well above the national average.

Emily Davies, SETsquared Exeter Student Startup Manager says “We are immensely proud of our community and the success’ that many of our graduate entrepreneurs and startups have gone on to. During these unprecedented times, we hope that these Grants, along with ongoing access to advice and support, will help ensure that those business’ can weather this storm and continue on their entrepreneurial journey.”

For more information about the COVID-19 Startup Support Fund and details on how to apply, please contact Emily Davies (SETsquared Exeter Student Startup Manager) at

To see an example of PaddleBoat’s work for deaf children, click here and to find out more about the work of the companies mentioned above, visit,,

Date: 12 May 2020