The University of Birmingham has launched a student incubator known as UoB Elevate, which will nurture the best student and graduate start-up ideas to become thriving businesses.
Alumni, the business community and other key stakeholders across Birmingham got to meet over half of the first 30 businesses at a special event this month, ranging from specialist products for dogs with allergies to a new app to help people with eczema.
Located at The Exchange in the heart of Birmingham, UoB Elevate is an incubator and business growth programme offering mentoring, business planning, workshops and events. 40% of graduates from the University of Birmingham stay in the West Midlands, contributing to the local economy. This initiative will add to this, bringing growth and investment to the region, helping graduates and students to develop their own ventures by creating possibilities beyond established graduate routes.
Dr Noreen Akram, a medical graduate from the University of Birmingham, explains how UoB Elevate is helping get her new enterprise Eczemadoc off the ground. “My interest in entrepreneurship and innovation was sparked at a student event. Now as a graduate I am so excited to be part of the pioneering UoB Elevate programme, with my company Eczemadoc, the first health-tech start-up in the incubator. We are reimagining the management of eczema and other chronic health conditions, so the support from the programme will be integral to helping us get to the next stage of our development, where we can really start helping people with eczema.”
One of the key aspects of UoB Elevate is to connect local and national businesses to students and graduates involved with the incubator. HSBC UK, which is located next door to The Exchange, is one such business involved with UoB Elevate. Jane Hodges, Area Manager – Great Birmingham, Small Business Banking UK said: "At HSBC UK we’re passionate about supporting start-ups and young entrepreneurs, so we’re delighted to welcome the student and graduate incubator to the city. The range of businesses that the students and graduates are developing is impressive, so we are looking forward to working with the University of Birmingham to support these emerging businesses."
Final year undergraduates, postgraduate students and recent graduates of the University of Birmingham can apply for Start-Up Scholarships of up to £15,000 to help them develop and scale up their businesses, made possible thanks to generous philanthropic donations from alumni, entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Dr Nigel Evans, a Birmingham graduate and a Founding Donor to Elevate Start-Up Scholarships explained why support for aspiring young entrepreneurs is essential: "In many ways things were easier back when we went to university, so we want to share the chances we had with young people. UoB Elevate is not a Dragons’ Den type of approach, but it creates an environment in which people can think like an entrepreneur. Supporting Start-Up Scholarships means we can give opportunities to young people to raise their aspirations and realise their dreams, surrounded by other entrepreneurs and business mentors. I am so glad to be able to share my experience as a mentor to support these young innovators and I strongly believe both the city and University of Birmingham will benefit from retaining and nurturing its entrepreneurial talent."
The diverse range of businesses entering The Exchange are selected based on their potential. As the businesses are supported to their next stage of development, there will be genuine investment opportunities, whether that be directly in the business or working with the individual to support their aspirations.
The Exchange where UoB Elevate is based aims to reinvigorate the city’s civic vision for the modern day by using the University’s role as an anchor institution to bring together multiple stakeholders to address the challenges of our time and deliver inclusive growth for the region. The approach will bring the University’s research closer to people, enabling its work to inform and be informed by its audiences and providing dedicated facilities for collaboration.
More information on UoB Elevate is available online.