New Networks Launched To Boost University Entrepreneurship

21 11 2008

Baroness Shriti Vadera, Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business, with (from left) Malcolm McVicar, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire; David Frost, Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce and Chair of the NCGE; and NCGE Chief Executive Ian Robertson.

Baroness Shriti Vadera, Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business, with (from left) Malcolm McVicar, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire; David Frost, Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce and Chair of the NCGE; and NCGE Chief Executive Ian Robertson.

Around 100,000 students and graduates will get the chance to develop world-class skills as entrepreneurs and business leaders with the launch of the first University Enterprise Networks (UENs).

Shriti Vadera, Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business launched the Networks at a reception at the Microsoft Offices in London yesterday, Thursday 20 November, as part of Global Entrepreneurship week.

These Networks are the first of their kind and will focus on the areas of science, technology, engineering, maths (STEM), Innovation and the Nuclear sector. The networks will be managed by the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship (NCGE).

The UENs will aim to establish a culture of enterprise in universities by providing training, advice and encouragement to students and graduates who want to develop their business ideas or wish to become innovative employees. Each network will be further supported by sponsorship from privately owned companies and Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). This will give students first hand experience of enterprising workplaces.

The UENs follow on from a commitment made by the Government in its Enterprise Strategy to further promote and support the development of enterprise.

Shriti Vadera, Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business, said:

“Making graduates more business savvy and entrepreneurial is essential to Britain’s long term competitiveness.

“I would like to see more University Enterprise Networks between businesses and investors to encourage this”.

David Lammy, Minister of State for Higher Education said:

“We need stronger links between business and higher education so that we can make full use of the expertise and talents within our universities and colleges.

“University Enterprise Networks are a new kind of partnership that will nurture the enterprise skills and entrepreneurial spirit of tomorrow’s business leaders, while also helping universities engage more closely with the needs of employers today.”

Ian Robertson, Chief Executive of the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship, said:

“The NCGE welcomes the commitment from companies, RDAs and universities in working with us to build the first University Enterprise Networks announced today. These networks will act as a catalyst for closer engagement between business, universities and the public sector, to respond to industry needs and contribute to UK competitiveness.”

“The NCGE’s role is to set up and manage the UENs in order that they create the right conditions for better, more responsive collaboration. The UENs will also ensure more students and graduates acquire the skills for enterprise and entrepreneurship they need to achieve business growth, whether as employees or in starting and running their own businesses.”

Pam Alexander, Chief Executive of SEEDA, speaking on behalf of the Regional Development Agencies involved in the UENs said:

“Regional Development Agencies are delighted to be involved in developing these exciting new University Enterprise Networks, which complement our important work to link universities and businesses and create the skills needed to emerge from the economic downturn stronger and better able to compete globally.”

Stephen Uden, Microsoft UK’s Head of Skills and Economic Affairs, added:

“We are looking at a long period of economic uncertainty. That doesn’t mean that business doesn’t go on, or that there won’t be opportunities for those who can take advantage of them. What it does mean though is that those leaving university need to have the right skills to succeed”.

“Nearly half (48%) of the undergraduates we surveyed would consider starting their own business. That’s great, as small businesses are the engine room of the economy, and also where many of the many of the most innovative ideas come from. This announcement and the STEM network represent good progress in starting to change that view.”

The three University Enterprise Networks (UENs) announced yesterday were the STEM, Innovation, and Nuclear networks. The STEM UEN will be led by the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) in collaboration with the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and sponsored by Microsoft and other major companies.

The first universities to express their commitment in principle are the universities of Cambridge, Cranfield, Hertfordshire, Oxford, Reading, and Southampton. SEEDA and EEDA will concentrate on technology based, high growth enterprises.

The Innovation UEN will be led by Advantage West Midlands (AWM) and supported by HP-backed Micro Enterprise Acceleration Institute, BT, and CISCO, with Coventry University. The UEN will focus on helping students understand how Web-based  Technologies can be exploited in the creation of new business ideas, and in helping small businesses collaborate with large co-operates in the development and launch of new products in the context of the “market”.

The Nuclear UEN will be led by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), and supported by Westinghouse UK. The first university to sign up to the network is the University of Central Lancashire. The Nuclear UEN will play a major role in helping graduates acquire the innovative skills that companies across the breadth of the nuclear sector seek.

A further fourth University Enterprise Network will be launched early in the New Year. The Manufacturing UEN. Led by the North West Development Agency (NWDA) will focus on “Advanced Manufacturing”.

The NCGE’s role will be to set up and manage the UENs in order that they create the right conditions for better, more responsive collaboration. The UENs will also ensure more students and graduates acquire the skills for enterprise and entrepreneurship they need to achieve business growth, whether as employees or in starting and running their own businesses.

For further information, see


Social enterprise in the US

8 05 2008

With the increased profile of social enterprise in the UK and recent criticisms of the treatment of social enterprise in the Enterprise Strategy, a new study of US research on social enterprise makes for interesting reading. 

Putting Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector is a new casebook from faculty at Harvard Business School which argues that the social sector in the US should take an entrepreneurial approach as, despite the best of intentions and trillions of dollars worth of assets, nonprofits have been unable to solve many of US society’s worst ills.  The book notes that students are increasingly interested in courses and careers related to social enterprise. 

The Harvard findings are echoed in a survey by the US-based Aspen Institute Center for Business Education on MBA student attitudes to business and society.  The survey found that social issues, ethics and corporate reputation are becoming increasingly important to today’s MBA students.

Meeting the green challenge

29 04 2008

The following news items from last week indicate different ways in which the UK higher education, business, and voluntary sectors are meeting the “green challenge”:

  • The University of Strathclyde announced the establishment of Europe’s first post-graduate course to teach budding entrepreneurs how to turn environmental ideas into business ventures. The MSc in environmental entrepreneurship will be taught for the first time in September.
  • “Green policies” are already embedded in the practices of the twelve companies who received a 2008 Queen’s Award for Enterprise in recognition of their outstanding achievements in Sustainable Development.
  • NESTA announced the shortlist of UK groups competing for its million-pound Big Green Challenge prize fund, by coming up with innovative ideas to tackle climate change in their communities.

Despite this activity, greening the UK remains a challenge, as a recent survey of the UK’s SMEs by the Tenon Forum indicated that the UK’s entrepreneurs are baulking against implementing environmental measures (it cost an estimated £3.1bn to “go green” in past year).

[See also The greening of entrepreneurship]

Social enterprise and the Enterprise Strategy

20 03 2008

The NCGE takes a particular interest in social enterprise, having run a successful Flying Start Programme for Health, which resulted in a number of social enterprise start-ups, and commissioned a Social Enterprise Toolkit for careers advisors and enterprise officers. 

The reaction to the Government’s new Enterprise Strategy from stakeholders in the Third Sector has therefore been noted with interest.  The Social Enterprise Coalition has criticised the Strategy saying it only reiterated existing commitments to social enterprise – see Response to BERR’s enterprise strategy (which is cited in BERR’s report falls short on social enterprise and We need more support, say social entrepreneurs).

Enabled for enterprise

6 03 2008

In the article “when disability is the spur to a dream“, three business founders explain how being disabled was one among many entepreneurial challenges they tackled.  Each of the entrepreneurs says that disability has made them better listeners and problem-solvers for clients.  One key factor seems to be the availability of appropriate advice and support to enable individuals to launch their enterprises.

In London Enabled 4 Enterprise (E4E), a new initiative aiming to break down the barriers preventing the capital’s 800,000 disabled people from starting their own businesses, was launched last month.  E4E was established in conjunction with the Barriers and Opportunities Report which noted that 57% per cent of disabled people of working age in London are unemployed and often face difficulties getting business advice that considers their specific needs. E4E will help them overcome these hurdles through a series of workshops, accredited qualifications linked to an online learning programme, and regular informal network meetings. 

Meanwhile the Arural project, established to help disabled entrepreneurs set up in business, has spawned 13 new businesses with a further ten expected to begin trading in the next few months. The Disabled Entrepreneurs Project (DEP) was specifically designed to support disabled people in the South West to develop their ideas into business ventures.  The project is due to end this month, when all the businesses will be encouraged to access mainstream business advice to support them as their businesses grow.  The project has exceeded its aims as, having initially planned to give advice to 35 entrepreneurs, it has so far assisted over 60.

Supporting would-be social entrepreneurs

26 02 2008

With the increased profile of social enterprise in the UK, it is perhaps not surprising that a new YouGov poll has revealed that the majority of the public would choose to work for a social enterprise.  However, there are also increasing opportunities for graduates to take up a career in social enterprise by setting up their own business.

Working with the Office of the Third Sector in the Cabinet Office, the NCGE has commissioned a package of training and support materials to enable Careers Advisors and Enterprise Officers to understand the growing importance of social entrepreneurship in the UK economy. The Social Enterprise Toolkit supports staff working with would-be social entrepreneurs by providing PowerPoint presentations, case studies, role play materials, and a guide to further resources.  The resources have been prepared by Ingrid Bale of the University of Leeds and Andrew Ferguson of the University of York, and have been piloted during early February at training sessions for careers staff in the Yorkshire region.

Social enterprise in the news

12 12 2007

It’s pleasing to see that the 2007 Oxford University 21st Century Challenge, an international social enterprise competition run by the Saïd Business School and open to companies looking to develop both commercial and sustainable new ventures, has been won by a UK-based design consultancy, Red Button Design, founded by a recent graduate and two current students.  The competition attracted 182 entries from 23 countries.

Meanwhile new research from the Governance Hub and the Social Enterprise Coalition indicates that good governance is essential for social enterprises to thrive and be sustainable.  Research by the Open University into the governance needs of social enterprises has resulted in the publication of the report, For Love and Money: governance and social enterprise. This indicates that the social enterprise sector must make it a priority to strengthen links with governance advisers and consultants working at local and regional levels and provide them with appropriate training and support.