Case Study: Skillsforge

Skillsforge, based at York Science Park is an EdTech company offering software solutions to universities. Established over 15 years ago, Skillsforge was created by a within a University of York research project to address the lack of effective progression monitoring and supervision for postgraduate research programmes. It now works with over 24 universities across the UK and Australia, and is currently looking to expand into Canada, New Zealand and Ireland.

Make It York has been a part of Skillsforge’s business journey for over two years. They are looking to develop the business with the aim of leveraging their investment against some possible grant funding, the Make It York Business Team were able to point Skillsforge in the right direction and towards the most appropriate funding for their business needs.

Over the past two years, Skillsforge have been supported by Make It York through several successful grant funding applications:

  • Three successful applications through the AD:VENTURE Programme. These allowed the business to make investments in small, capital items such a laptops and software and which meant that earlier this year as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Skillsforge were ready and prepared to quickly adapt in operating the business remotely
  • Two successful applications for Digital Enterprise Funding. This funding helped them with their internet and telephony connections as they moved into new offices in the Innovation Centre at York Science Park. They were also able to access support from specialist business consultants during the COVID-19 pandemic to enhance their software solutions
  • Qualified for two out of three opportunities offered through SparkFund which has allowed SkillsForge to significantly enhance their product and apply for international standard accreditations such as ISO 27001 and ISO9001 Certifications.
  • A successful application was also made to the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DIT) Tradeshow Access Programme which helped to gain essential market knowledge and make new contacts overseas.

In recent months, as well as grant-funding Skillsforge were signposted to the ‘Investment Readiness Programme ’ – a programme which helps get your business ready for investment and working towards building a successful pitch and Pitch Deck presentation through a series of guided webinar sessions. At the end of the process Skillsforge will also benefit from some one-on-one professional support from a high-growth entrepreneurial coaching business. They are potentially able to benefit from the new incoming Connecting Innovation programme, provided by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Skillsforge is continuing to work with Make It York as it seeks out new opportunities for future growth and development of their business.


“As a business we’ve always been aware that grant funding was out there to help and support growth and development, but it was about finding out where it was, how to access it and also finding the right fit for our business needs.

Being supported through the process and being able to achieve success offered huge benefits for us. As we were able to invest in making sure we could continue to operate Skillsforge remotely, we were ahead of the curve as lockdown beckoned earlier this year, due to COVID-19, and we were working efficiently from a virtual office a week before the official lockdown was announced.

We haven’t always received huge pots of money but it has given us streams of income at times when we have needed it.

Applying for grant funding can often seem daunting, with the thought of long and complex applications, but as long as you have a good product and fit the eligibility criteria, I have always found it to be a very efficient and the process is often easier than expected. Having the support of a Business Growth Manager from Make It York, to guide you through it and direct you towards the right grants for your business, makes it even easier.

However, business support isn’t just about getting help applying for and being successful for grant funding applications. Make It York have been able to put us in touch with the right people, and direct me on the right route to grow my business. Through Louise Saw’s recommendations I’ve made beneficial connections with the Knowledge Transfer Network, been offered tailored business advice and been able to expand my business skills on funded training opportunities like ‘Investment Readiness’.

If you are a small to medium sized business in York looking to grow and develop your business then you are crazy if you are not making use of a Business Growth Manager at Make It York!”

Gary Fawcett

CEO, Skillsforge