The Growth Impact Fund, a social impact investment fund developed by Big Issue Invest (BII) and UnLtd, has made its first investment aimed at tackling the underrepresentation in the workplace of people from neurodivergent backgrounds.
The Fund has invested £300,000 in neurodivergent talent platform Neuropool, which aims to get more than 10,000 neurodivergent people into employment by 2030.
The company was established by Jack Dyrhauge, an Autistic / ADHD Entrepreneur. The tech-for-good organisation builds neurodivergent talent pools for leading brands like Universal Music Group, the Financial Times and universities like the university Bath and Bristol.
Dyrhauge says: “There over half a million adults with Autism in the UK who are unemployed and if you extrapolate that to people with a much broader range of neurodivergent challenges you realise both the scale of the problem but also the massive pool of untapped potential that UK businesses could be accessing. Only 4% of FTSE100 firms have neurodivergent hiring initiatives* and Neuropool aims to change that.
“In the UK, the economy has severe labour shortages in many sectors and some of this can be met helping this pool of talent transition into the workplace.
“Lack of intervention in schools or early in life is one of the reasons for these problems, but this will not help those adults who have already been through the education system and didn’t get the help they need. Women are gender diverse groups are particularly vulnerable and are underdiagnosed.
“We are working with individuals, who identify as neurodivergent, and employers who seek diverse talent. We have set ourselves an ambitious but achievable target, of getting more than 10,000 into employment over the next seven years and that is only the start! We are proud of the progress that has been made so far and with the funding from the Growth Impact Fund and its underlying investors, we can really accelerate everything.”
Mike Jim first signed- up with Neuropool in 2020, whilst studying Robotics Engineering at the University of Bath, and was mentored by Jack via weekly calls in order to gain employability skills. He was offered his first role at Small Robot Company in November and then went on to secure his internship at Universal Music Group in Summer 2022. He now works as a Mentor and Ambassador at Neuropool attending bath events to inspire other students about his journey.
Mike, 24, from Bath, said: “Amidst a global pandemic and a difficult time for everybody, Jack provided me with the strength, courage and determination to pull through and secure a job during my gap year at University. His personal mentoring and experiences, alongside others at Neuropool armed me with the skills and knowledge as a struggling Autistic individual to find my first dream placement as a Robot Operator at Small Robot company.
He continued: “This programme allowed me to feel less anxious about my job hunt and dealing with failure and rejection whilst going through interviews. I have never seen a programme like this that is run by neurodiverse people, it allowed me to feel that I wasn’t alone.”
The Growth Impact Fund completed the first close of fund raising of £8.2m in December with support from a range of organisations including Bank of America, Big Society Capital, Great Manchester Authority, and charitable foundations. It aims to raise up to £25m.
Sarah Faber, Investment Director for the Fund, at Big Issue Invest, said: “We have attracted some very committed institutions and individuals to support the Fund. Everyone agrees that something is needed to rectify inequalities in social investment, and by doing things differently we hope that we can scale up some amazing entrepreneurs, making a difference to their communities who might not have been supported otherwise.
”We are very excited by what Neuropool has achieved so far, and we think with the Growth Impact Fund’s support it can scale much more quickly.”
Mathu Jeyaloganathan, Head of Investment at UnLtd, said: “We’re very pleased to be announcing the fund’s first investment so soon after welcoming new investors on board. With their support we will be aiming to put some money behind some diverse-led social enterprises tackling inequality in the UK.”
Mark Hodgkinson, Chief Executive of Scope, an investor in the Fund, said: “We are delighted to be a part of the Growth Impact Fund and excited to see this first investment. Talented disabled people have been locked out of employment for too long because of outdated attitudes and a lack of tailored support. This fund will support innovative and disabled-led businesses. It will mean more disabled people have the opportunity to get in, stay in and progress in work.”