Cardiff Met: Cardiff School of Art & Design’s Graduate Incubation Unit

The School develops highly creative graduates with the ambition, motivation and talent to start their own businesses and make a living from their practice. To help kick start their careers we launched a Graduate Incubation Unit three years ago to provide a shared creative studio space through which they could access mentoring and business and technical support and continue to use the School’s facilities. Each year we have refined the offer, demand for places has grown and graduates are joining it with an ever keener sense of what it takes to be a successful artist, designer or maker as the School’s commitment to embedding enterprise within the curriculum has developed.

Development and Delivery

We identified that many of our students had the ambition to launch sustainable businesses, social enterprises or creative practices but were stifled by the city’s lack of affordable and well equipped maker spaces. They also lacked the confidence to put their ideas into practice as they did not have ready access to on-going business advice and support. As a part of CSAD’s commitment to preparing its students for successful careers the Inc Space was therefore launched to help graduates during their first challenging year in business, through the provision of access to facilities, advice and external mentor and being able to experience and address these challenges alongside other like-minded creatives.

The University heavily subsidises the cost of the space and staff time to support the graduates. The graduates who successfully complete the application process pay a small fee towards the cost of their year including the mentors’ fees and the School has also been successful in being awarded a bursaries and grants to support some of the fees or other costs each year since the initial pilot. Much of the success of Inc is down to the support received from the external professional mentors, who, although paid, contribute very generously of their time and expertise to the Inc members.


In its first two years the Inc Space provided support for 18 creatives, all bar one of whom continue to practice. They range from fine artists and ceramicists to an illustrator/graphic designer, a pet home designer and a textiles designer. Some have extended their practice to include teaching and running workshops, including working for the University.

This year the Inc Space is hosting 15 creatives including the first partnership of three graduates who have set up a furniture design business that has just been commissioned to design and make furniture for CSAD’s new Fashion Design programme.

Each Inc Space member is paired with an external mentor and the mentors have reported how motivating and rewarding the role is, providing them with an opportunity to reflect on their own skills or practice.

A significant impact of Inc has been how members are seem as role models for the undergraduates, bringing to life how important the entrepreneurial element of their education is, which has resulted in more applications to Inc each year and a greater take up of all entrepreneurial focused modules.

Impact Measurement

We continue to keep in contact with those who have been residents in the Incubation Unit as we are keen to continue to promote their careers and provide them with advice and support if possible. The University’s measure of success is if they continue to trade/practice one year beyond the completion of their year in the Inc Space and all bar one have achieved this. The significance of the impact has resulted in the Inc Space receiving, for a third time, grants from trusts that supports emerging artist and makers that support fees and materials.

Entrepreneurial Organisation

The visibility of graduates launching their own businesses, gaining commissions and creating work for sale and exhibitions has had a significant role in embedding entrepreneurship within the School’s undergraduate and research community. Students have role models that they can relate to regarding career options and this helps them understand the relevance of entrepreneurship modules and experiences embedded in the curriculum and participation rates have increased significantly. The School’s students are now the greatest users of the University’s Centre for Entrepreneurship’s services and winners of their awards. The University has also launched a central hot desk Incubation Unit, inspired by the success of CSAD’s.

Next steps?

We have identified that although the Inc Space induction programme has been effective, the workshops provided at the beginning of the year in Inc would be better spread throughout the year once there is greater appreciation of some of the topics covered. The School is also developing a Masters of Enterprise programme for those who wish to gain a qualification while also launching their business. Various subject areas are also considering offering those finishing in Inc Maker in Residence opportunities so that they can continue to inspire the undergraduates and access the School’s facilities.

Contact Name

Angie Dutton

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