May 2024


Innovation Grant leads to multiple benefits for Lime's mission to help young people

"It’s been quite a journey and Robert and everyone I have dealt with at Warwickshire County Council and Coventry City Council has been incredibly helpful."

A small business on a mission to empower young people to build a better future has experienced “phenomenal” momentum shift triggered by an ERDF Innovation Grant accessed through Warwickshire County Council and Coventry City Council.

Lime works with local authorities and the police service to engage with young people through the creative and immersive technologies that are so central to their lives.

Founded in 2010 by Mark Ashfield, the business, based at the University of Warwick, is now reaching out to more young people than ever before thanks to an online platform launched with the ERDF Innovation Grant, accessed through the Coventry and Warwickshire Innovation Programme.

That grant, managed by Coventry City Council, following guidance from Warwickshire County Council Business Growth Advisor, Robert Dyer, has led to growth and progress that Mark never envisaged. Lime is now reaching out to more young people in more communities, locally and even internationally.

“We exist around a mission to help young people choose their own better futures,” said Mark. “We bring together researchers, tech developers and engagement specialists to design programmes and interventions using the creative and immersive technologies that young people love to use.

“Our work is quite wide-ranging, but our new online platform brings it together, combining a disparate group of apps and technology all in one place. The ERDF grant funded the platform and has triggered a whole new phase for the business.

“I was always quite confident that the business could succeed, but was not just sure how to scale. That is now happening as the grant has enabled us to amplify our impact without having to over-resource the business. The momentum shift since acquiring the ERDF funding has been phenomenal.

“It has in turn attracted more interest and funding and led to a partnership with the University of Warwick which has been very supportive and offered us an office and research lab. Having a base at the University is brilliant because we can draw on expertise as and when needed. It is a great asset to have such immediate access to academic expertise and students.

“I’m working with the psychology department which led to me being invited to be part of the first ever Social Economy Growth Programme in the Midlands, through Aston University. That has led to Lime acquiring more funding from Innovate UK, which resulted from Warwickshire County Council and Coventry City Council securing funding for Immersive and Creative Industries. Robert made me aware of this new Launchpad grant and we were delighted to have been successful with our bid to secure funding from this competitive application process. This Launchpad funding will bolt on gamified learning and artificial intelligence to enable us to provide an even more personalised delivery to each young person using the platform.

“As a result of all of this, I was approached by the London School of Economics which invited me to join their Global Social Entrepreneurship programme and to see how we might scale this internationally. We are talking to schools in Australia, Sri Lanka and southern Africa. It’s been incredible how it has built and continues to build.

“It’s been quite a journey and Robert and everyone I have dealt with at Warwickshire County Council and Coventry City Council has been incredibly helpful. Our business is all about making a difference to the lives of young people and the support we have received from the councils is hugely helping us to do that.”

The impact of Lime, with a core staff of just four, is growing all the time to vindicate Mark’s decision, back in 2007, to jettison his career as a sales director for a media company.

“I had a reasonable career in corporate life but wanted to do something different, something that had public benefit,” he said. “One day when I was working in London with the Metropolitan Police, I overheard a conversation where they said they couldn’t break the cycle of violence among young people. They wanted a new approach. That’s where I got involved very much with the approach of ‘action research’ – talking to the people you are having an impact on.

“We worked with young people in Waltham Forest to make a film about life on the streets. It was more of a project than a business but everything just grew from there. We showed the film in schools and wrapped some education around it and West Midlands Police heard about it and got in touch…and it’s been evolving ever since. It started the whole research process where we started to understand that the reason these things were happening was that something profound had changed in society. There was a pattern of growing vulnerability among young people because they struggled to form an identity and were being influenced by all kinds of things online and offline.

“I am thrilled with the progress we are making and the impact we’re having, and so grateful for the support we have received. Without the grant it would have taken perhaps five years longer to reach this point because we would have to develop the technology piecemeal, whenever that money was available within the business. The grant funding has accelerated the process and perhaps even saved it. Will the issues be the same in five years time? Would we have missed the window of opportunity to make a difference? The grant has been critical.”

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