Launch Space at UWE Bristol attracts 23 graduates start-ups after just six months

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Launch Space, a high-tech business incubator for graduates based at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), has attracted 23 residents since launching in June 2017.

Based in the £16m University Enterprise Zone, Launch Space provides recent graduates from across the UK with free desk space for one year, innovation support and access to UWE Bristol researchers and facilities.

Professor Martin Boddy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Business Engagement, said, “Launch Space is already becoming a vibrant and inspiring community of hi-tech entrepreneurs. The University is a key innovation hub in the West of England and we are delighted to announce that each business at Launch Space has recently been given the chance to apply for a grant of up to £6,000 to help with research and development.”

Entrepreneurs interacting in UWE Bristol's Launch Space

Current projects based at Launch Space include Tegru, a company developing a face mask for cyclists that includes built-in filter technology designed to reduce intake of harmful particles.

The incubator is also home to Bio Loop, a venture working on a system to convert waste milk into electricity. Run by a graduate from UWE Bristol’s Team Entrepreneurship degree, Bio Loop is working with a dairy company to help process waste milk using microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology to produce electricity. Bio Loop is collaborating with experts on development of a system using MFC technology developed at Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL)*.”

Another start-up is building an app called ‘Bunk’ that acts as an intermediary between landlords and tenants with the aim of improving the rental experience. Bunk will be powered by Blockchain technology, originally designed for the bitcoin digital currency, which allows digital information to be distributed but not copied and removes the need for a middleman in financial transactions. The model moves away from the current cash-heavy deposit system and allows customers to take out a monthly payment plan with an insurance company instead.

Launch Space has also attracted GigaTech, a company designing a configurable MIDI controller for music makers, Seatox, a business making beauty products out of seaweed, and Bonnie Binary, an enterprise developing a ‘soft’ games controller partly made out of textiles.

“For these graduate start-ups, working from this space is an enriching experience, given the flurry of activity around,” said Launch Space Incubation Manager Kim Brookes. “It is also important for the region, because the minute you give opportunity for innovation and creativity to thrive together, you could be creating a new industry, and this promotes the innovation economy”.

Launch Space forms part of a larger UWE Bristol innovation support programme that is receiving up to £2 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Located alongside the Future Space technology incubation centre and the BRL, residents benefit from co-location with other innovative enterprises.

Those wishing to apply for a place at the incubator can do so here. Applicants are required to have a UK based business located or operating in the West of England (Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire, and North Somerset. The Launch Space team is on hand to help pre-start enterprise with the process of registered their business.

Dunissa: how two psychology students’ food stall helped them prepare for the world of business

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Dunya Elbouni and Melissa Sargeant share a love of cooking and baking. While studying for a degree in psychology at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) they often compared recipes, posting their meals on Instagram and blogging about food, with a dream of one day running their own food-related business.

They never imagined the extent to which the University could support them in setting up such a business enterprise, especially as they were not on a business course.  They were therefore pleasantly surprised to find out about UWE Bristol’s £20 challenge.

The scheme involves the University lending would-be entrepreneurs from any faculty £20 to set up a business with the challenge of generating as much income as possible in a week. Participants can keep any profit they make, with a prize awarded to the most innovative team. Melissa and Dunya took part, setting up a sushi and cupcake stall on the Frenchay campus. Working just two hours a day for four days, the pair made £400 profit and came second in the competition.

DUnissaFollowing their success selling food on campus, Dunya and Melissa were encouraged to apply for the University’s Innovate Internship. This offers budding entrepreneurs with support to set up and run a business venture. Successful candidates are given £1000, provided with desk space (if required), and allocated a mentor who helps them set and achieve goals.

The pair pitched their idea of setting up a food stall at St Nicholas’ Market, based in Bristol’s city centre, as they saw an opportunity to sell fusion Middle Eastern and Malaysian cuisine. Gaining a place on the programme, they used the money to buy cooking and serving equipment, produce flyers, rent the space for a pop-up stall and, of course, to buy the ingredients.

Calling their business ‘Dunissa,’ a contraction of both their names, they served an array of food and drink over a six-week period in the summer. Their fare included halloumi fries, Tabbouleh and meals such as Beef Rendang (a spicy meat dish).

“We definitely learned how hard it is to run a business and it wasn’t as easy as we initially thought,” says Dunya. “I learned a lot about time management, teamwork and the importance of networking and learning from other traders,” she adds. Their allocated mentor had previous experience working with market stall holders. “He taught us about retailers, how to track our business and helped us with the marketing side,” says Melissa. “Most of all, he acted as a sounding board, and helped us with teething problems, given that he had previously encountered some of the issues we came up against,” she adds.

The market stall was a huge success, and running their own business gave them confidence when it came to applying for jobs after graduating in 2017. Melissa subsequently got a job in PepsiCo’s marketing department. “Going into the interview and being able to say that, at such a young age, I had worked as an entrepreneur who handled buying, selling, marketing, and made a profit, gave me the edge,” says Melissa. “Even now when I mention it in the company, it’s very different to what some of the other graduates have done,” she adds.

Dunya, meanwhile, landed a job at Screwfix head office, also working in its marketing department. “A lot of the interest I have for business came from that internship and running our food stall,” says Dunya. “It took us out of our psychology [course] and more into the business field,” she adds.

As well as offering a Team Entrepreneurship business degree course, UWE Bristol actively encourages and supports students wishing to set up business ventures as part of, or alongside their studies. To find out more about these opportunities, click here.

Enterprise network helps creatives develop ideas into sustainable businesses

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Creative entrepreneurs and small companies in the West of England looking to develop their ideas into a sustainable business are invited have the opportunity to join the Network for Creative Enterprise.

This tailored programme of SME support is designed to help creative practitioners access knowledge, expand their network and benefit from invaluable business support to help their venture gain momentum.

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Arts Council England, the scheme is a partnership between the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the Watershed. It also incorporates incubation ‘hubs’ operated by Knowle West Media Centre, Spike Island, and Pervasive Media Studio – all based in Bristol – and The Guild, located in Bath.

ArtfulInnovationExports_shamphat_photography-logo-gradientThese creative hubs offer tailored events, workshops and mentoring for individuals and small enterprises to support their business development from the idea stage through to start-up and on to growth.

“I am delighted that UWE Bristol is working with partners to support entrepreneurs in the creative industries sector through this project and helping to drive innovation and growth,” said Professor Martin Boddy, UWE Bristol’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Business Engagement. “The Cultural Industries across the UK are a very significant and fast-expanding sector, with Bristol a key centre of national and international importance. We will be working hard to help the sector innovate and expand, with a number of further important initiatives already in the pipeline,” he said.

The four creative hubs provide unique opportunities for creative entrepreneurs. While The Factory at Knowle West Media Centre offers facilities such as product design and prototyping services, Spike Island is an international centre for the development of contemporary art and design with opportunities for artists to take up residency. The Guild is a co-working space for start-ups – not just creative – and the Pervasive Media Studio hosts a community of people exploring creative technology as they work in a collaborative studio where they can explore and test out new ideas.

Whichever hub individuals are associated with, they can attend any of the workshops and mentoring sessions that take place across the four locations throughout the year. These sessions cover useful topics such as how to build a brand, writing good design briefs, business models, and mapping business growth.

The Network for Creative Enterprise is delivered by a team of producers. Their role is to spot creative potential, make connections across the region, deliver one-to-one support for the resident businesses and nurture the development of their creative ideas.

Watershed Managing Director Dick Penny said, “Growth in the cultural and creative industries relies on a constant supply of talented people with great ideas, often working freelance. Network for Creative Enterprise will build on the work of the consortium partners to create an innovative networked incubation approach, developing and growing creative micro enterprises which are often the invisible engine of the creative economy.”

The programme runs until June 2019. To apply for one of the residency opportunities, click here.

Network for Creative Enterprise is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Arts Council England. It will be receiving up to £500,000 of funding from the ERDF, as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme 2014-2020. Established by the European Union and Managed in the UK by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the ERDF helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects that support innovation, businesses, job creation and local community regeneration.