Michael McLeod, Ph.D. student at the University of Birmingham and Managing Director of UniGreenScheme, has won the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award 2016. More than 200 businesses entered the annual competition, which rewards student entrepreneurs by offering ongoing mentoring, start-up support and a £15,000 cash award for the winner.
Spending much of his early teens selling equipment online and running a games console repair business, Michael already had a history of entrepreneurship. Then, as a student in the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, he became well accustomed to the world of specialised laboratory equipment. After quickly realising the difficulties involved in disposing or recycling surplus equipment, he wanted to offer a greener and more practical alternative. With the help of the University of Birmingham entrepreneurship department, Michael was able to craft his idea into a viable business.
UniGreenScheme was started in 2015 with the aim of helping UK universities recoup space, generate revenue and hit environmental targets through the collection and resale of surplus laboratory equipment. To date, more than 200 pieces of specialist equipment have been resold through the scheme, ranging from rock crushing machines to analytical instruments such as mass spectrometers. The funds that the scheme generates are put back into frontline research in laboratories on topics from cancer research to crop security.
Within just a few months, the University of Birmingham has recouped more than £8,000 through the sale of surplus equipment, preventing six tonnes of equipment waste and 3.6 tonnes of carbon emissions.
With ongoing support and input from staff members at the University of Birmingham, UniGreenScheme has grown to a team of eight staff, and is now serving 10 UK universities, with growing interest from more than 20 others including the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, as well as numerous companies in the private sector.
Mr Antony Jones, Scientific Facilities Manager in the School of Biosciences, has played a key role in the start-up and current success of the scheme, saying: ‘With their reliable and robust system in place, it is very refreshing to know that Michael and the UniGreenScheme team are on hand to remove and recycle pieces of kit for us, rather than us being forced to dispose of them. We wish Michael and the UniGreenScheme team many congratulations, and more successes as they move forwards.'