The Telefonica start-up chief and a life sciences expert have been appointed as "entrepreneurs-in-residence" at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Professor Timothy Dafforn and Telefonica's (owner of the O2 mobile operator brand) Simon Devonshire have been hired for a year, and will be used to provide key expertise in the Department and help UK businesses grow, said BIS.

Dafforn will work with BIS in the specialist area of synthetic biology. He has already founded two tech spin-out companies through combining his work as director of knowledge transfer, life and environmental sciences at the University of Birmingham.

Devonshire will be the new "scale-up" entrepreneur, advising BIS on how to help small businesses achieve business growth and build exports.

He is director of Wayra Europe, Telefonica's European digital startups organisation. He has co-founded six startups, three of which now have multi-million pound revenues.

Skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock said: "Both Simon and Timothy bring a range of experience and knowledge of the needs of small businesses. It is that expertise that we are bringing into the department to make sure that this country is the best place for a business to start up, scale up and thrive."

Dafforn said: "Over the year I will draw together government, industry and academics to catalyse the development of new opportunities based on synthetic biology. New technology often results from a close interaction between the academic science base, industry and government."

Devonshire said: "The UK is right at the heart of the global digital economy, with more startups, more engaged investors and a more active ecosystem than anywhere else in Europe. I am looking forward to working with the UK government to put the policies in place that reinforce the UK as a powerhouse of entrepreneurship and to drive further growth."