UCL’s centre for entrepreneurship and business interaction at UCL, UCL Advances offers training, funding and business services for staff, students and external entrepreneurs to encourage them to learn about, start or grow enterprises.
Established in 2007, and still unique in the British higher education sector, the primary role of UCL Advances is to promote a culture of entrepreneurship on campus and engagement with entrepreneurs and small businesses beyond UCL’s boundaries, and currently delivers over 30 activity programmes. Through the division, assistance has been provided to over 300 companies and 3000 students and staff have participated in enterprise related activities. The team has grown from four to nearly forty staff.
The division is a pioneer in supporting digital and tech entrepreneurs working throughout London, and in particular in Shoreditch’s Tech City, where an innovation hothouse – IDEALondon – has been established in partnership with Cisco and media company DC Thomson.
The facility, which will be managed by UCL Advances, aims to provide a seamless package of support for early stage tech entrepreneurs and offer an entry point for creative businesses to market test their products through UCL DECIDE.
UCL Advances also works closely to support students who have graduated from the MSc Technology Entrepreneurship programme, pioneered by EEUK board member Dr Dave Chapman.
The only course of its kind in the UK, the programme draws an international student body looking to benefit from close links between staff and London’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, as well as utilising UCL’s close links with the Tech City scene. The Fulbright Commission also offers the Fulbright-UCL Technology Entrepreneurship Award for a US student to benefit from the programme each year, with full fee remission and stipend support.
Success stories from the programme include Jive Bike, the world’s first carbon fibre, folding, electric bike, founded by Marcin Piatkowski – who also won the London Entrepreneurs Challenge – and Smartzer, an iPad and web application enabling interactive video content, founded by Karoline Gross.
Outside of the programme, success stories also include politics PhD student Art Stavenka, and his business partner Kiryl Chykeyuk, a DPhil student at Oxford University, whose business Old Bond London has taken Europe by storm with their bikes which display animated, full colour ads on their wheels. They were awarded £90,000 in investment on Dragon’s Den in 2012, having won a Bright Ideas Award and have had extensive support from student business advisor Lillian Shapiro.
As well as supporting tech start-ups, UCL has initiated U-CREATE, a specialised programme to encourage creative entrepreneurs to learn business skills and bring their products to market, through the Design Make Sell challenge. In the summer of 2013, the division also opened Launchbox, a pop-up shop showcasing some of the best in creative design and products and offering them for sale to the public, in London’s largest pop-up mall, Boxpark.
Finally, in order to support external enterprise, UCL Advances has partnered with Goldman Sachs to deliver the 10,000 Small Businesses programme in London, to businesses looking to expand and grow and looking for an innovative package of support and advice to achieve it.
Jerry Allen, Director for Enterprise