His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent heard from local entrepreneurs and graduates taking their first steps into the world of business during an official visit to Croydon last Wednesday.

The Duke visited Sussex Innovation Croydon as part of a tour of the borough examining the impact of recent economic development – meeting its young people, start-ups and established businesses. Following a trip to Croydon College in the morning, His Royal Highness spent nearly an hour learning more about Sussex Innovation’s community of early-stage businesses, before departing for the nearby global headquarters of consultancy firm Mott MacDonald.

On arrival, The Duke met with Executive Director Mike Herd and Centre Manager Saffron Saunders, who outlined the current state of economic growth in Croydon, as well as explaining the involvement of the University of Sussex in the region.

“The University has had strong links with Croydon for many years, and we were keen to stress that relationship to His Royal Highness,” said Mike Herd. “We’re here making an investment in the area because we recognise real drive and enterprise from the local population, and we’re committed to being part of the story as it goes from strength to strength.

“Today’s visit is a great opportunity to showcase the range of work we’re doing in Croydon – from the ambitious start-ups we support, to the young people gaining entrepreneurial experiences, to the larger organisations benefitting from access to our portfolio of innovations.”

Co-founders Patrick Price and Imam Choudary of Heads Above the Cloud demonstrate a 3D VR model

The Duke was introduced to the founders of three start-up businesses: Heads Above the Cloud, KnowCo, and Hozah.

Heads Above the Cloud demonstrated an interactive 3D VR model of a university campus that they are building on behalf of fellow Sussex Innovation members INTCAS. The Duke next spoke to apprentices at risk management software company KnowCo, before learning more about Hozah, a ‘no-fuss’ automatic payment solution for car parks.

The Duke meets David Fowle and Naomi Bishop, co-founders of Hozah

Graduates taking part in Sussex Innovation’s Catalyst scheme also shared their experiences of working in a variety of placements during their year with the organisation. The scheme, now in its fifth year, seeks to bridge the gap between start-ups lacking the resources to hire and mentor interns, and recent graduates keen to engage in meaningful work.

Finally, The Duke met with representatives from Superdrug, whose head office is based locally. The retail chain is currently working with Sussex Innovation to evaluate opportunities to collaborate with academics and entrepreneurs and bring innovative technologies, products and services into their business. The initiative is part of the BRAIN project, an ‘open innovation’ network supported by the European Regional Development Fund.

Heads Above the Cloud create immersive, interactive environments for use in construction projects, real estate and building management.

Hozah simplifies parking by allowing drivers to make automatic payments for their parking.