Our History


We are an organisation founded on a purpose: to promote positive social and economic change by supporting entrepreneurship and enterprise.

Our purpose has been at the forefront of all that we do, since our inception in 1980. Founded by David Irwin and David Grayson, we started as Project North East, a social enterprise supporting individuals across the North East of England to enter self-employment by launching their own businesses in the face of a troubling economic climate.

Since our founding almost forty years ago, we have developed a reputation for impact and innovation in enterprise. We are trailblazers, responsible for launching the world’s first youth enterprise centre and one of the world’s first technology colleges.

From our beginnings in the North of England, we now operate internationally, supporting some of the world’s largest organisations to develop enterprise in over 55 countries to date. Since 1980, we have directly supported over 10,000 businesses to start-up, supported 80,000 people with their professional development and distributed £23m of funds.

Follow our timeline to find out more about our history spanning almost four decades.