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Wales’ First Dedicated University Incubator to Support Graduate Entrepreneurs

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The University of South Wales (USW) has opened the Wales’ first dedicated university incubator at its Cardiff Campus.

The new facility – the Startup Stiwdio (Stiwdio Sefydlu) – has been established at the former Students’ Union to help encourage and support entrepreneurship among its student population, and provide a safe haven in which they can test and develop enterprising ideas.

Through initial financial support from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales’ (HEFCW) Civic Engagement Fund, it is aiming to deliver pre-commercial incubation facilities to 150 graduate-led SMEs over the next five years, through the provision of 18 desks,  four offices, and hot-desking space for up to 20 graduates.

At a cost of less than £6 per day, businesses will be able to stay within the incubator for a maximum of 12 months. The aim is to help entrepreneurs to graduate to other co-working sites within the Cardiff Capital region.

All those based at the Startup Stiwdio will be supported through USW’s entrepreneurship strategy funded by the Welsh Government. This will include access to programmes such as the 5-9 club, USW Start-Up, and Start-Up Days. In addition, all tenants will be registered on the incubator bootcamp, which is an intensive programme of start-up support for new firms.

While all business ideas are welcome, the Startup Stiwdio will initially focus on supporting creative and digital businesses to maximise the links with USW Faculty of Creative Industries, which is based in the Cardiff Campus.

As part of the process to encourage links with external firms, a number of organisations – including fast growing Bridgend firm United Worldwide Logistics and the major TV producer Bad Wolf – are offering enterprise scholarships to cover the full annual costs for graduate entrepreneurs. A range of other businesses are also offering free advice, mentoring, and support to those at Startup Stiwdio.

 The incubator is the brainchild of Professor Dylan Jones-Evans, Assistant Pro Vice Chancellor of Entrepreneurship at USW, He said he believes that the links being created with others operating within the local entrepreneurial ecosystem will help boost enterprise within the University.

“The Startup Stiwdio demonstrates yet again that entrepreneurship is at the heart of what we do at USW,”

Prof Jones-Evans sais.

“More importantly, we are not doing this alone and I am delighted that not only do we have local entrepreneurial firms stepping up to support our graduates, but that businesses such as NatWest and OrangeBox have also contributed furniture for use at the Startup Stiwdio.

“This means we can focus our resources on supporting those young people who want to become the entrepreneurs of the future.”

According to the Professor Julie Lydon, USW Vice-Chancellor, higher education in Wales needs to be more involved in encouraging entrepreneurship amongst its students.

“There are many reasons why universities should play a more active role in the promotion of a stronger enterprise culture and in the stimulation of entrepreneurship, including fostering greater levels of enterprise in young people and supporting graduates from every discipline to become successful entrepreneurs in their own firms,”

Prof Lydon said.

“I am proud that USW is launching a dedicated facility that will support our aims in developing those entrepreneurial graduates who will boost the economy in the Cardiff Capital region.”