The University of South Wales (USW) is celebrating another year of success in supporting student and graduate entrepreneurs through a range of enterprise programmes and the expansion of its graduate incubators to all of its three campuses.
This agenda has been actively supported not only through additional funding from USW but by ongoing investment in this agenda from both the Welsh Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).
This critical support has resulted in more than 3,500 students being introduced to entrepreneurship through awareness raising activities including roadshows, shout outs, inspirational talks, and competitions to consider freelancing or starting a business. More importantly, USW had the highest number of graduate start-up businesses in Wales in 2021 according to the Higher Education Business and Community Interaction Survey.
According to Professor Dylan Jones-Evans OBE, USW’s Assistant Pro-Vice Chancellor for Enterprise, interest and activity in entrepreneurship amongst students and graduates remained strong across the University
“At the USW, the development of enterprising students and entrepreneurial graduates is an integral part of what we do” he said.
“Driven by our 2030 strategy to change lives and the world for the better, we continue to grow our capacity and culture of entrepreneurship by maximising positive impacts for our students, partners, and communities.
“Whilst there is much more to be done to maximise the potential of entrepreneurship within the university, the range of enterprise programmes, new initiatives, and the expansion of our graduate incubator networks, will make a real contribution in the future.”
One of the most successful new initiatives in supporting the strategic aim of building enterprise into every course, raising awareness of entrepreneurship amongst students, and discovering business ideas from across the institution, has been the appointment of an Entrepreneurship Champion within each of the 10 academic schools at USW.
Andy Thomas, senior lecturer at the School of Health, Sport and Professional Practice, was one those chosen as a champion to support enterprise across the university during the past 12 months.
“As a new role within the school it has been both a challenging and rewarding experience,” he said.
“Initially a mission of discovery establishing current enterprise activity, enterprise agendas, and looking to locate and support enterprising students, now the groundwork has been done, I look forward to developing our future plans to support our enterprising students ”
To enable students and graduates to realise their dreams of starting a new business, a range of funding and business support was provided by the USW.
A record £30,000 of funding was distributed to student and graduate businesses through a mixture of £250 test trade pots, awards between £250-£1,000 at the Bright Ideas Den, and £1,000-£5,000 through the Springboard Pitching Competition.
In addition, the Cardiff Start-up Stiwdio re-opened its doors to graduate entrepreneurs and a new Start-up Stiwdio space was refurbished at the USW’s Newport Campus. A third Stiwdio will be established on the Treforest Campus in the summer of 2022 to support science, computing, and engineering graduates to start and develop their businesses.
Victor Ojabo, a graduate from the School of Engineering, was supported to develop his new business – NDT South Wales – by enterprise staff at USW and now employs four people at his office at the Newport Campus. According to Victor, help from USW has been invaluable.
“USW Enterprise has supported me immensely throughout my business start-up journey, from developing my business idea and endorsing my Start-up Visa, through to receiving mentorship, ongoing business development, impartial advice, and a much-needed sounding board,” Victor said.
“Following Covid-19 restrictions, an office space at the Newport Campus Start up Stiwdio has helped NDT South Wales to achieve business growth and save on rental costs. When you support small businesses, you’re supporting a dream as every big business starts small.”
In addition to its own activities, USW has been involved in leading collaborative activity with other Welsh universities and colleges, delivering programmes such as the Summer Start-up Festival, Mix up and Pitch, and Hack of Change.
A ‘Wales Student Market’ was also created in partnership with other institutions to give students and recent graduates the opportunity to test trade and boost sales of their products and services.