Staff Services Student Enterprise

Big Dig: 105 trees for 105 student startups

27 Apr 2023

Students and staff planted 105 trees at Easter Bush campus yesterday to celebrate the 105 student startups formed in the last year.

Hawthorn, crabapple, cherry, silver birch and rowan were just a few of the saplings set in soil as Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, joined the University’s Active Lives’ annual Big Dig.

The 105 startups milestone also marked record investment in student startups of £30.5m in 2021/22, tripling from the previous year.

Current students - startup founder Janek Kolaczyk and prospective founder Jaycie Li - joined student volunteers, Edinburgh Innovations’ staff and Active Lives co-ordinator Amanda Marshall for the planting session, which will help create a walking trail at Easter Bush and support the University’s tree planting targets in its efforts to reach net zero by 2040.

Computer science student Janek (pictured, top), of the School of Informatics, founded Clastify, which provides exemplar essays for students of the International Baccalaureate. Janek said: “I started work on my idea before I started at Edinburgh, but Edinburgh Innovations (EI) has really helped me build my business. I took part in the Startup Summer Accelerator and I’m always at the Student Enterprise Hub – it’s a brilliant place where I’ve met so many friends. I’m also a mentor now for Startup Weekend. It’s great to be here planting trees to celebrate our success!”

Jaycie Li (also pictured, top), who is studying for a masters in commercial law, has an idea for a not -for-profit Emergency Kit that she plans to bring to EI. She said: “I have a project with some friends to build an emergency management platform to collect information and coordinate support when disaster such as fire or flood or a pandemic strikes. We have seen it’s not always easy to get the right information and support isn’t joined up. We’ve not really known where to start but now I know EI can help.”

The tree planting session was part of the third Big Dig, reaching a milestone of 2000 trees now planted. Co-ordinator Amanda Marshall said:

The Active Lives programme is about getting students and staff moving, for their health and wellbeing.
We’re planting tree varieties like cherry, hazel and crab apple with the idea of a ‘picking trail’ at Easter Bush where people can forage as they walk then make jellies and so on. We’re extremely grateful to the Woodland Trust for their donation of 1400 trees, and we’re proud to be contributing to the University’s net zero targets. ”

Edinburgh Innovations plans to have supported another 100 student startups by the end of this academic year. Student Enterprise Manager Lorna Baird said:

I’m always really inspired by the ideas and energy of our students, and EI is proud to support them on their entrepreneurial journey. It feels right to celebrate by planting saplings today that, like ideas, will grow and thrive with the right nourishment."

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Pictures by Callum Bennetts of Maverick Photography