Business development Rebecca Smith · 24 August 2015
University of Edinburgh’s record number of new businesses reflects entrepreneurial mindset among UK universities
In an impressive indication of itscommitment todeveloping new firms, the University of Edinburgh announcedit formed a record number of companies during the past year, bringing the total created up to 184 in five years. Some 44 startups were supported by the university in 2014, along with a further three spin-outs. Coupled with recent news that the Open University has teamed up with Innovate Finance to launch the world’s first introductory course to financial technology, it seems the UK’s universities are leading the charge in helping develop and sustain the nation’s taste for entrepreneurialism. Edinburgh’s first recorded spin-out was carried out more than 40 years ago, and it has since created over 400 startup and spin-out firms so while it’s not a new development, the rate at which it has been creating new businesses has sped up. Grant Wheeler, head of company formation at Edinburgh Research and Innovation, the university’s commercialisation arm, said: Edinburgh is now emerging at the largest technology hub outside London, and at the heart of that phenomenon is the university and its enterprise scheme. Some 343 people have been employed as a result of the formation of the various businesses established during the last five years. Wheeler credited the surge in companies to both the world-class research base? and the student entrepreneurs with new ideas, before adding that the progress also meant more and more have the potential to develop further. It seems many students are increasingly seeing starting their own business as a viable career path Direct Line recently found that 15 per cent of undergraduates had been inspired to create their own firm. The principal of Edinburgh University, Timothy O’Shea, added that the first-class support provided by the university and the wider enterprise support network play an important role not only in the student experience but in delivering impact for the world-class research coming out of our university. Edinburgh Research and Innovation aims to commercialise the research and academic expertise at the university to potential funders, investors and collaborators. Since its creation 40 odd years ago, ERI has been involved in inventions and innovations including the first Scottish university spin-out company to list on the London Stock Exchange and the first genetically engineered vaccine against hepatitis B. Among the initiatives developed by ERI, launch.ed provides a range of opportunities for current students or alumnI within two years of graduation, offering meetings with business advisers for those formulating ideas, bootcamps to put budding businesses through their paces, funding assistance and mentoring. The latest announcement from Edinburgh signals a milestone in both its commitment to developing entrepreneurialism in the UK, and away from London, as well as a wider reflection of how universities are proving instrumental in helping support and develop new businesses. Business research and development is the foundation of productivity and growth, while university research collaborations often provide firms with new technologies and ways of operating, as well as highly-skilled individuals. The CEO of Innovate UK, Ruth McKernan had responded to Ann Dowling’s review on business and university collaborations, and said while the UK had world-class universities, it had not translated enough into economic benefit. Edinburgh’s latest stats on the rising number of companies it has established reflect movement is heading in the right direction.
ABOUT THE EXPERTRebecca Smith
Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.