Edinburgh Innovations (EI) provides a completely free enterprise service to help students and recent graduates (up to two years post-graduation) start up, sustain and develop their entrepreneurial ambitions for any business, social enterprise, or freelance endeavour.
Student Enterprise offers a range of services including events and workshops, competitions, programmes and funding opportunities to help students gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence they need to take their ideas or startups to the next level. By empowering students – no matter their field of study or level of experience – to pursue entrepreneurship, EI aims to equip every University of Edinburgh student and recent graduate with the entrepreneurial skills they need to help tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges.
Record breaking startups
There is perhaps no stronger endorsement of EI’s Student Enterprise service than the record 105 student startups that were launched in 2021/2022. In the same academic year, student-led businesses secured record investment of £30.5 million, nearly tripling the £11 million secured in the previous year. The University of Edinburgh is ranked first in Scotland and second in the Russell Group of universities for student entrepreneurship, according to Higher Education Statistics Agency data 2020/21.
Edinburgh startups are addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues, from improved tech performance to sustainable fashion, and better diagnostic healthcare. DeepQA was founded by Artificial Intelligence MSc students Marise Treseder and Thomas Cartwright to transform website testing from a costly and labour-intensive engineering process into a simple and sustainable business task. By automating the process of writing and running User Interface, functional, and human-like visual tests, DeepQA frees up developers to focus on mission-critical activities. In the healthcare space, Regenerative Medicine MSc graduate Ishan Malhotra’s startup Carcinotech is manufacturing 3D printed tumours to provide a platform for rapid, ethical, sustainable and accurate drug discovery and testing. Tackling fast fashion, Outfit of Tomorrow was founded by Business School undergraduates Ariana Davison and Asher Petit with visiting scholar Anna Kovács. The company’s website and browser extension makes it quick and easy for fashion consumers to shop sustainably and make informed, ethical choices.
A new approach
Over the last five years, EI has made significant changes to how it supports student entrepreneurship at Edinburgh. It switched from a one-to-one advisory model, which could only support a small number of entrepreneurs, to focusing on scaling up engagement through programme delivery. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated EI’s provision of online resources and a suite of on-demand programmes that students are able to access and complete in their own time. The Student Enterprise team has developed a pipeline of support that can take people through from idea to impact – from basics, to builder, to financial, legal and IP support, as a company grows. Mindful that entrepreneurship can be lonely, EI has created the online Startup Community Platform so that students can connect, discover opportunities and find team members, and the Student Enterprise Hub on the University’s main campus is open Monday-Friday so that students have a physical space to use and can host in-person meetings with advisors or team members.
Overall, this new, holistic and inclusive approach taken by EI’s Student Enterprise team has led to much wider engagement from the University’s student body, and with the number of student startups increasing by more than 45% since 2019/2020, the results speak for themselves.