For the third year in succession the University of South (USW) is the top-performing higher education institution in Wales for helping graduate start-up businesses get up and running.
Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show USW is also the 11th out of 220 universities across the UK for new graduate business support – just falling short of a top-10 place by five new start-ups.
In 2021-22 USW supported 123 new businesses to get going, an increase of 52% from the 81 helped in 2020-21, and a significant rise on the 15 supported just seven years ago in 2015-16.
The figures highlighting the increase in numbers supported by USW to start fledgling graduate businesses has coincided with the opening of the University’s third Start-up Stiwdio, a dedicated incubator space for USW graduate businesses. The first Stiwdio opened its doors at USW’s Cardiff Campus in 2019, followed by a Newport Campus Stiwdio in 2022, with the third Stiwdio opening its doors this year at USW’s Treforest Campus.
According to Dr Louise Bright, USW’s Executive Director of Engagement & Enterprise, the figures show how the University’s focus and investment into entrepreneurship is paying dividends.
“Enterprise is a thread which runs through all we do at USW and we focus on building it into every course – our strategy is to help our students thrive in their chosen sectors, and there is no better way we can support them than by helping them to establish their own businesses in industries they know well.
“The backing we offer at USW is university-wide – ranging from theoretical and practical knowhow taught on our courses, to our vibrant schedule of extracurricular start-up workshops, pitching and networking events, test trade, start-up and growth funding alongside specialist business bootcamps, innovative ‘wage subsidy’ Launch Programme for freelancers and ongoing links with successful business leaders, including our alumni, and business support providers. We are hugely grateful for the ongoing support from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and Welsh Government Youth Entrepreneurship which has helped to enable the delivery of these activities.
“This activity is delivered in partnership with our Careers USW Enterprise team, and business advice available through the USW Exchange – which offers entrepreneurs access to support from our academics – further strengthens our offer.
“The HESA figures show that the foundation USW gives to new businesses is sector-leading, strong, and reliable.”
USW’s Faculty of Business and Creative Industries is strongly represented among the graduate start-ups shown in the HESA figures, making up 77% of the new enterprises. The majority of these operate in the film/TV/media and music industries. There were an increased number of new graduate businesses from USW’s Faculty of Life Sciences and Education in the latest figures, increasing from nine to 24, with a significant number from Creative and Therapeutic Arts and Music Therapy courses. The remainder were made up of businesses established by graduates from the Faculty of Computing, Engineering, and Science.
Richie Turner, who is Community Manager at USW’s three Start-up Stiwdio sites, said the specialist support the facilities offer further enhance the University’s entrepreneurial work.
“When the Stiwdio in Cardiff was established in 2019, it was the first standalone university-based business incubator in Wales, with the aim of encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship among our student graduate and alumni population, and providing a safe haven in which they can test and develop enterprising ideas.
“It’s fair to say that it’s been a major success, with businesses started at the Stiwdio – ranging from drone surveying to audio engineering, to the holistic development of goalkeepers, and a dice storage items for dungeons and dragons – being as varied as they have been fascinating.
“The Stiwdio in Newport is going from strength to strength and welcoming new entrepreneurs on a regular basis, while the Treforest site is building a strong reputation as the place for graduates to see their business ideas flourish.
“The Stwidio’s offering – which includes support for the entrepreneurs from external business experts – alongside the other enterprise support we offer here at USW, is proving to be a strong combination.”