By Daniel Hunter

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is making part of its surplus estate available to small businesses and social enterprises launched by ex-military personnel, for free, as part of the Government’s Space for Growth programme.

For the first time, the move will see disused military engineering workshops in Aldershot made available to support start-up businesses run by veterans and their families.

The scheme is being pioneered by X-Forces and Solv Ltd, both signatories of the Armed Forces Covenant, who are working in partnership to provide veterans with the support they need — from creating a product through to launch their own business.

X-Forces is a social enterprise, and delivery partner of the Government’s Start Up Loans programme. They have already helped launch over 300 small firms as well as delivering over £3.2m of Start Up Loan funding. Figures show that businesses set up with the help of X-Forces by veterans have a default rate two thirds lower than the average for start up businesses.

Lord Astor of Hever, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, said: “As part of this Government’s ongoing commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant, I am delighted that surplus estate will be put to good use by helping small businesses and social enterprises.

“Former personnel will be able to incubate their innovation, receive advice from experts, prototype their ideas and put them into production. We want to make sure veterans and their families are supported properly, and this initiative will provide a well-deserved boost.”

The space will contain the facilities, equipment and expertise to enable people to prototype business ideas and to test products before taking them to market. X-Forces will provide advice, support and mentoring to help them develop a successful business model and apply for a Government Start Up Loan.

RAF Veteran Jamie Stumpe received support from X-Forces when setting up his business. He said: “It is always a massive leap going out on your own and starting your own business, you have loads of questions and uncertainties but with X-Forces help and support I was able to produce a solid business plan and cash forecast to help get my business from just an idea on paper to an operating business.”

Ren Kapur, CEO of X-Forces, said: “We have already helped hundreds of people use their creativity to start and grow innovative new businesses. We are delighted that the government is supporting Service-leavers with this new space. This site will enable many more to produce prototypes and take their ideas to market, enabled by a start up loan.

“Today is the first time that Government, charity and big business have come together in one location to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of ex-service personnel to encourage more big businesses to support the military community through X-Forces.”

Anthony Finbow from Solv Ltd said: “I am tremendously excited to be involved in this ground-breaking initiative at Aldershot.

“The future competitiveness of our nation will depend on the development of a sustainable maker economy and this represents a significant step towards achieving that aim."