UWE Bristol shortlisted for three Times Higher Awards 2019

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The University has been shortlisted in recognition of our outstanding achievements over the last 12 months in three categories: Outstanding Entrepreneurial University award; Business School of the Year; and Outstanding Strategic Planning Team of the Year.

Widely regarded as the ‘Oscars of higher education’, this year’s awards will see the biggest celebration yet of UK universities, recognising outstanding work across a wide-range of HE activity.

Our innovative approach to enterprise has been recognised by making the shortlist of the Outstanding Entrepreneurial University award.

UWE Bristol has enterprise and entrepreneurship at its heart which assessors recognised as a huge contribution to our award of TEF Gold.

Our submission highlighted the leadership culture across the institution, creating an enterprising and ‘can-do’ attitude amongst students and staff. Through the Enterprise 2020 strategic programme, the University has embedded enterprise in over 300 programmes across all faculties – from Aerospace and Animation, to Law, Nursing and Wildlife Ecology.

The submission also highlights our state-of-the-art facilities that bring enterprise alive including the University Enterprise Zone. Home to budding entrepreneurs and generating hundreds of jobs, the UEZ has contributed over £50m to the local economy.

The Bristol Business School has also made it onto the shortlist for Business School of the Year for the third year running. We hope to go one better this year, building a submission around impactful research, engagement with business and innovation in entrepreneurship.

The final award the University has been shortlisted for is Outstanding Strategic Planning Team of the Year.

Our submission centres on how our strategic approach has seen the University achieve its highest ever student satisfaction ratings.

Programme Leader for UWE Bristol’s BA(Hons) Business and Management programme Paul Bennett and Lecturer Mubarak Mohamud are presented with the award of Most Significant Positive Impact in the NSS award 2018 by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Jane Harrington and Chair of UWE Bristol Governors Sonia Mills

Focussing on our taskforce approach that shares best practice with programmes and areas requiring support, this has led to quickly resolving issues of performance and identify trends across the University. This culture of institutional performance has led to our highest ratings in the National Student Survey (NSS) and Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTSE), placing the University in the top 10 of higher education institutions for student satisfaction in the country.

You can read the full stories of each submission on the THE awards 2019 website.

The startup using tech to deliver a personal message

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Taken and adapted from The Pitch. Author: Hannah Jolliffe

UWE Bristol Enterprise Zone residents, The Handwriting Company, are currently taking part in The Pitch, a competition to identify top start-ups:

Robert Van Den Burgh is co-founder of The Handwriting Company, a startup that helps organisations better engage with their customers through the power of the handwritten letter. But, while the name suggests a gang of people scribbling away, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

“We’ve created technology that can mimic handwriting. It can then be printed at scale on a good quality office printer or on robotics based in our facility. So instead of an organisation hiring 100 people to handwrite notes and pay a huge amount of money, we can fully automate the process.”

Do your research first

As with most innovators, the idea was born out of a realisation that a solution was needed to fix a broken system.

Van Den Burgh was on a marketing internship two and a half years ago when his manager got him involved in a handwritten marketing campaign.

“I was the fool who took three weeks writing out all the letters,” he laughs. “But it was one of the most successful marketing campaigns they’d ever run.”

This prompted Van Den Burgh to research the market. He found about 30 companies offering a similar service, but they all had people writing letters by hand. “I could see that the economics behind it didn’t make sense and it just wasn’t efficient enough to make it an effective tool.”

I could see that the economics behind it didn’t make sense

Van Den Burgh joined forces with Alex Robinson, an AI engineer with a background in computer science. The two founded Scribeless, which has since been renamed The Handwriting Company.

Together they began a huge research piece to see if they could use technology to optimise and automate the process of handwriting using AI, algorithms and robotics. It took time, but they developed a programme that could learn someone’s handwriting at a level that was indiscernible from human writing.

They then equipped robots with classic fountain pens and ink that can even mimic the physics of pen pressure and variation and deliver thousands of letters in hours.

Taking a punt at entering The Pitch

The pair reached the stage where they had a rough idea of the market needs, technology and where they wanted to take the business, when a friend recommended that they enter The Pitch.

The pair reached the stage where they had a rough idea of the market needs, technology and where they wanted to take the business, when a friend recommended that they enter The Pitch.

“It was about this time last year. I thought we didn’t really stand a chance because we were still a very new company, but we gave it a go. We were lucky enough to get to the semi-final and then the final!”

I thought we didn’t really stand a chance because we were still a very new company

For Van Den Burgh, the day at the boot camp helped them to better understand how to articulate what they offer.

“The format of pitching is very short and sharp and about getting your main points across. We spent a day discussing our concept with the boot camp coaches. They gave us feedback to really help us understand how to better articulate our story, the problem and how we could help solve that problem.”

Staying ahead of their own game

It’s been a busy year for the company since then. The model has moved on from robotics to Advanced Printing Technology, which can print a handwritten note indiscernible from human handwriting. It’s helped them create handwriting campaigns at scale.

The company’s client base includes banks, churches, charities and corporate gifting companies across the UK, US and Germany. They’ve also established their place within the greetings card space. Things are looking healthy, but one of the biggest hurdles they still need to overcome is funding.

It’s really hard to do everything on a shoestring budget

“Until now we’ve been fully self-funded. It’s been really hard to do everything on a shoestring budget. It’s part of being a startup, but it has been a strain on resources – only having 10% of the funds you need is difficult.”

This has led The Handwriting Company to raise investment, with the aim of building the team and scaling into the US.

“We’re just about to close our investment round, with a mixture of angels and investment capitalists, so we’d like that to fund five or six new people across sales, tech and marketing to allow us to keep innovating and build a more scalable model.”

It’s important for Van Den Burgh to get more competitive and to “out-innovate” their own technology. His key objectives are to make sure they can deliver quickly and at an affordable rate. At the moment, it takes a couple of days for the software to mimic handwriting, but the aim for the near future is to get this working in real-time.

Original post can be viewed here

New Start-up visa for international students to develop businesses of the future

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​The government’s new Start-up visa has been launched which allows international graduates to apply for a two-year visa to remain in the UK and develop a start-up business.

As part of UWE Bristol’s ambition to support innovation and enterprise, we are now inviting applications from UWE Bristol international graduates who have a high-tech, high-growth business idea to apply for a Start-up visa and benefit from using the free desk space and business support available from Launch Space.

Set in the heart of the University’s Enterprise Zone, Launch Space has supported over 50 businesses who have raised funds of £1.8 million and employing more than 90 people.

With connections in the regional start up, academic, and business communities, it’s a great place to kick off a start-up.

Students coming to the end of their studies apply to Launch Space which assesses the business proposal and viability.

Approved start-ups are then supported by the Immigration Team to make a visa application.

The specific support for students is

  • 12 month free incubation space
  • Business support from experienced business advisors
  • Connections into the University community of academics and students, and the wider regional business community

After their first year of support people they will then have a further 12 months to develop their business further.

The University can put forward a maximum of 20 students per year although all business ideas are scrutinised in the Launch Space application process so not every applicant is accepted.

You can find out more about the opportunities available to international graduates by applying for a Start-up visa on the UWE Bristol website.

You can also contact the Immigration Advice Team, email immigrationadvice@uwe.ac.uk or visit the immigration hub in 2P4, Frenchay campus Monday to Thursday 10:30-12:00 / 14:00-15:30 and Friday 10:30-12:00.

UWE Bristol Alumni wins prestigious award

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UWE Bristol alumnus Neha Chaudhry was announced as the winner of the Innovation Award for the South West Region at the Medilink Healthcare and Business Awards 2019 for her business Walk to Beat.

Consequently, Walk to Beat came second in the national Medilink Healthcare and Business Awards and was the only company from the South West region to be nominated for the Innovation award. 

Walk to Beat is a med-tech start-up that aims to develop smart assisted living products to empower the ageing population. Their first product is a Smart Walking Stick designed for Parkinson’s sufferers to help them overcome freezing and walking problems.

Freezing in Parkinson’s feels like your feet getting glued to the ground and not being able to walk any further, eventually leading to falls. Scientific research has shown that any type of rhythm can help the patients to get moving again.

The Smart Stick monitors walking patterns and gives a cue through the handle in the form rhythmic vibration when a person freezes. This prompts the user to come out of the freezing episode and keep walking. This results in reduced duration of the freezing episode and lower number of falls.

Neha, who completed her Undergraduate and Postgraduate degrees at UWE Bristol, is based within Launch Space, a graduate incubator within the Universities Enterprise Zone. The start-up also has support from the Health Tech Hub to progress the development.

A new version of the stick is now in development to further meet the needs of its users. Walk to Beat is currently looking for investment in order to mass produce the product. 

Congratulations to Neha! For more information on Walk to Beat please visit their website

Invest, Connect, Explore 2019

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On Wednesday 08 May, the University Enterprise Zone hosted their annual networking event: Invest, Connect, Explore (ICE) 2019.

ICE 2019 gave local businesses the chance to meet the ambitious businesses based in UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone and hear about the support available to growing and innovative businesses across the region.

The event saw businesses from each hub share stories from inventors and business leaders about their cutting edge solutions to real-life health, technology and business challenges that society currently faces.

Over 100 delegates met with the diverse group of leading entrepreneurs from graduate start-ups to established SME businesses who are pushing boundaries and providing new ways to look at the world and businesses.

They were able to experience hands on the technology that is available within the University Enterprise Zone – experiencing robotic solutions to mobility, having fun with the latest motivational fitness technology and learning about how written mass marketing can be tailored and personal.

The University Enterprise Zone is an entrepreneurial community housing four hubs:

Launch Space: A graduate incubator that provides free desk space and business support for start-up businesses in the heart of our University Enterprise Zone.

Future Space: Future Space connects entrepreneurs and tech innovators with scientists, researchers and graduate talent – to spark collaboration, innovation and growth.

Bristol Robotics Laboratory: Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) is the most comprehensive academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK.

Health Tech Hub: The Health Tech Hub helps businesses to develop and bring to market new technology solutions which promote health and wellbeing, particularly focusing on independent living and citizen-centric health

To find out more about The University Enterprise Zone please email UEZevents@uwe.ac.uk

Launch Space graduate incubator recruiting now

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Have you graduated in the last three years in the UK and have a business idea you’d like to put into action?

Launch Space provides free desk space and business support for graduate-led, innovative and high-tech businesses at various stages on the start-up journey.

Launch Space is part of a wider entrepreneurial community based on our Frenchay Campus, housing the Future Space incubation facility and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory – making it a great environment for graduate start-ups to flourish.

In just 18 months, Launch Space has supported over 50 businesses, with over £1.8 million funds raised by its residents and employment created for more than 90 people.

Launch Space is now well established in the regional start-up community, and is recognised for its unique ability to connect start-ups with the support and collaboration of the wider university and business communities.

Find out more and apply today to grow your start-up business. Launch Space is supported by the ERDF.

If you have any questions, please get in touch via email: launchspace@uwe.ac.uk or call +44 (0)117 3286168.

Invest – Connect – Explore 2019

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Following on from a successful inaugural event in 2018, the University Enterprise Zone is delighted to announce Invest, Connect, Explore (ICE) 2019.

ICE 2019 offers you the chance to meet the ambitious businesses based in UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone and hear about the support available to growing and innovative businesses across the region.

ICE 2019 will take place on Wednesday 8 May from 16:00 – 19:00 in the University Enterprise Zone, Frenchay Campus.

You can discover how you and your organisations can invest, connect and explore partnerships and collaboration.

UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone (UEZ) offers innovation and business development to entrepreneurs, innovators and high-tech businesses. It also provides support, incubation and scale-up space for them to flourish. Through access to modern facilities, expert knowledge and collaboration, we make the out of reach, reachable.

To register for this exciting event complete this registration form

For further information, please email UEZEvents@uwe.ac.uk