The Lloyds Bank National Business Awards is the flagship awards programme that recognises and rewards excellence across all sectors in the UK
Now its 15th year, these are the ones to win – any company within the UK, whether public, private or third sector can enter, regardless of size or industry. The Awards have a range of categories suited for any successful organisation to tell their story; from large private and public companies through to thriving entrepreneurial businesses, promising start-ups and established SMEs.
The Duke of York Award for University Entrepreneurship is one of the Awards’ 18th categories. This award recognises the work of universities to encourage, prepare and enable entrepreneurial opportunities, distinguishing those doing and delivering most.
Royal Agricultural University (RAU) is one of the five university finalists. We spoke to Katy Duke, Head of Enterprise at RAU to find out more…
Please give us a short overview of the programme you entered into the awards. Why is it unique?
The RAU Enterprise Programme provides a robust and supportive educative programme for our students and recent graduates – from the embryo of an idea through to the launch of a fully tried and tested business. We implement this through our Think it, Try it, Launch it, Grow it delivery model and at each stage provide relevant support ranging from workshops and competitions through to peer and external business mentoring, trading opportunities and space to develop their businesses within our Enterprise Centre.
What impact has this programme had upon the university and your students?
The programme has been running in its current format for 3 years and has been well received by our students. For the two full years the programme has run we have seen an increase in both participation in enterprise activities and the number of businesses launched.
One of our recent graduates, Lewis Steer, who now manages his own business, on a full time basis, The Dartmoor Shepherd, commented “The RAU has helped me grow my business and supported me not only financially through its funding networks but also through its wealth of contacts. I would really recommend the RAU’s Enterprise Programme to all”.
Over the last two years we have helped launch more than 18 successful businesses out of an original cohort of just over 1100 students. This year we have had a surge in interest with over 160 students joining the Enterprise Society and by the end of the second week of term more than forty students had joined the Enterprise Programme with a view to developing their concept.
Do you think this has made the university more attractive to prospective students?
Our Enterprise Programme is open to all students studying at the RAU. This means that all students are eligible to benefit from the practical business support which the Enterprise Programme provides. In a survey with first year business students this year (Foundation degree, Undergraduate and Postgraduate) an average of 68% said they had heard of the RAU Enterprise Programme before starting their course and of those, 57% said that the Enterprise Programme was a factor in helping them chose the RAU to study.
There are a number of elements in the programme which are attractive to both students and their parents. These include the opportunity to receive mentoring from established business individuals, the freedom and flexibility of desk and meeting space in advance of their start-up at the new, state of the art Trent Lodge Enterprise Centre and the chance to compete in national business competitions.
What does it mean to you and the university to be nominated for a Lloyds Bank National Business Award for University Entrepreneurship?
We are absolutely delighted to be nominated for the Duke of York Award for University Entrepreneurship. As a small and specialist institution it is fantastic to be recognised for our Enterprise Programme amongst a distinguished group of much larger Universities. There is no doubt that being nominated for the award has given us a boost in our drive to perpetually improve and expand the programme.
Have you had to work closely with any businesses on this project? If so, how has this benefited the university and your students?
Without the support of our mentors, sponsors, judges and guest speakers, we would not be able to deliver our programme, and we are truly grateful for all their support. Students engaged on our programme benefit enormously from speaking and interacting with our business supporters. It provides them with an opportunity to broaden their professional network, and gain valuable feedback and guidance from experienced individuals. The Chairman of our Grand Idea business planning competition commented: “The RAU Enterprise Programme is both innovative and inspiring and helps students think and behave like business people. Many student ideas become real businesses and some have sales of over £1 million within a few years of graduation! Many entrepreneurs like myself feel proud of their success and are happy to give advice as well as visits to our businesses.”
How important are these business partnerships to student employability?
The business partnerships help our students develop core employability skills such as networking, leadership, team-building, communication and sustainability. It also provides the students with a platform to learn how to interact in a professional manner. An encouraging proportion of our business supporters also offer our students work placements or recruit them after graduation.
The winning university will be announced at the Award ceremony on the 15th of November at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London. Visit www.nationalbusinessawards.co.uk for more information.