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History of Enterprise Educators UK

Enterprise Educators UK (EEUK) was established in 2001 but was then known as UK Science Enterprise Centres (UKSEC).

The catalyst for the development of UKSEC was Science Enterprise Challenge funding provided by the UK Department for Trade and Industry (DTI). The first round of £28.9m in 1999 established 12 Science Enterprise Centres (SECs) and a second £15m round in 2001 added one new Centre and drew 39 additional institutions into the initiative through a consortia approach. The aim of the SEC initiative was to establish a network of university-based centres of excellence in the development of commercialisation and entrepreneurship skills in the field of science and technology.

At a meeting of SEC Directors in Manchester in November 2000 it was recognised that the group was stronger together than as individual centres and an opportunity was identified to maximise the impact of the SECs and their associated institutions by creating an association which went on to become UKSEC, a formal national network.

The primary purpose of UKSEC was to share knowledge and best practice related to enterprise and entrepreneurship education for both faculty and students. However a secondary purpose which gradually increased in focus between 2000 and 2004 was to act as one voice to promote the value of enterprise and entrepreneurship education to the wider Higher Education community and to UK Government. A UKSEC Management Board was established with each SEC Director automatically allocated a place on the Board; the other Board members voted a Chair and Vice-Chair into office. A grant was secured from the Office of Science and Technology and each Centre contributed fees to enable UKSEC to operate.

UKSEC activity focused on developing a programme of Best Practice Events run in partnership with and hosted by each SEC in turn. Partnership working became central to UKSEC’s approach to the delivery of its services and enabled the organisation to quickly reach a critical mass of activity on a national scale and to start to reach out internationally.

By 2004 the focus of UKSEC was still primarily on activities designed to increase the enterprise and entrepreneurship skills of those students and academics working in scientific disciplines but the enterprise landscape was changing rapidly and it became necessary for UKSEC to adapt if it was to continue to be an effective and valued organisation.

While science and technology driven innovation was still a UK Government priority, the importance of innovation in service provision and in other discipline areas was attracting increasing attention and universities responded by extending their enterprise and entrepreneurship education into different discipline areas and beyond the curriculum into extra-curricular activities such as student enterprise clubs and societies.

UKSEC, with its links through consortia membership to many of the newer and less research intensive universities, responded to the shift in focus by including events in its Best Practice series that had no particular science and technology focus. These events proved popular and started to attract attention from institutions that had no prior links with the SEC consortia.

As SEC funding came to an end and the model of 13 consortia with one clear lead institution started to break down, UKSEC recognised that there was an opportunity to revise its membership model and in 2005 every HEI in the UK became eligible to join. Governance was addressed through the adoption of a new constitution that introduced elections for Management Board positions including those of Chair and two Vice-Chairs such that the organisation became a true membership organisation run by the members for the members.

In 2007 UKSEC became Enterprise Educators UK (EEUK), reflecting the much wider remit of the organisation beyond that of just science and technology and in 2008 the organisation became an independent entity – a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee.

Since 2008 EEUK has extended its membership reach further and now welcomes as members Further Education colleges and other organisations with a clear enterprise education remit. The membership has grown considerably to over 100 institutional members representing around 1400 educators and practitioners. Activities have also extended. The original best practice events, now called ‘Enterprise Exchange’ events are still at the core of EEUK activity but in addition EEUK distributes research funds and bursaries, raises awareness of members’ activities and achievements, contributes to policy development and, in partnership with NCEE, runs an annual international conference (IEEC) and national enterprise educator awards (NEEA).

The above content has been abbreviated and adapted from the following paper:

Beresford, Richard and Beresford, Kate (2010) 'The role of networks in supporting grassroots good practice in enterprise education', Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 15: 3, 275 — 288

Available here.

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