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Aston: BSEEN Project

EEUK member organisation

Aston University

Contact name

Carolyn Keenan

Contact email address

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Description of the initiative

The purpose of BSEEN is to encourage and support student and graduate enterprise, providing an opportunity to contribute to regional competitiveness and productivity in the West Midlands and reduce the trend of graduate drift from the region to the South East. The overall aim is to create sustainable profitable businesses and new jobs by increasing the number of students and graduates starting businesses to reduce graduate unemployment rates; and by building a culture of enterprise among students and graduates by giving them the knowledge and confidence required to start a business or secure graduate level employment. More information can be found here.

 

Development and delivery

BSEEN was a collaborative initiative led by Aston University in partnership with Birmingham City University and University of Birmingham, part-funded by ERDF. This programme ran from October 2012 until December 2015 and has been funded again from June 2016 until May 2019.

The delivery model consists of pre-introductory workshops to inspire and inform, allowing beneficiaries to learn more about their enterprise potential as well as developing the skills required to create a business. Those who develop a business idea, submit an application form and discuss their proposition in front of a selection panel. 

Once accepted onto the programme participants attend an intensive five-day start-up boot-camp run by practitioners. Support after the training includes a business mentor, access to a business grant and 12 months free incubation space, which provides a business address, meeting space for clients and support from peers and the BSEEN project team.  A variety of professional services practitioners also engage with the project via round table discussions or surgeries.

Impacts

760 students, including undergraduate, postgraduate, PhD and MBA students attended an enterprise workshop; 482 attended a boot-camp; 235 businesses were set up; 130 survived for 12 months and 78 jobs were created. 

24% of participants said they would not have started a business without BSEEN, while 97% stated that the training was useful to develop the skills needed to start their business. 52% were still running their BSEEN business; of these 97% planned to expand their business and 12% planned to start another venture.  The BSEEN project won the NCEE HE Team Enterprise Award at the 2016 ICEE Conference.  It is cited in the local economic partnership’s (LEP) Strategic Economic Plan for good practice in supporting Start-ups and the Project Manager was invited to be a panel member at a Universities UK conference entitled Universities, communities and business: collaborating to drive growth and power innovation.

Impact measurement

An independent evaluation of the project concluded that BSEEN has delivered a successful programme of business start-up and enterprise support for students and graduates; evidenced through feedback from participants, management, delivery and strategic stakeholders. The project also developed a range of case studies of the successful businesses that started up during the project.  These have given to a variety of visitors to the university by the Vice Chancellor. The BSEEN incubator is often visited by overseas academics and has been used in two high profile presentations in China for the 2016 UK-China Education Policy week.

Entrepreneurial organisation

BSEEN has contributed to Aston University becoming more entrepreneurial by developing individuals with enterprising mind-sets and skills, and enhancing the employability outcomes for students.

Further impact can be seen on the benefit of the activities on the ‘student experience’ as well as on student recruitment as enterprising students increasingly make choices based on the support offered to entrepreneurs.

Next steps?

BSEEN successfully bid for funding from the European Regional Development Fund to deliver another business start-up programme from June 2016 until 2019.Four Birmingham-based universities are part of the collaboration including Aston, Birmingham City University, Newman University and University College Birmingham.  This will help to further embed the collaborative working practices for supporting student and graduate entrepreneurs across the city of Birmingham.

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