Cultivating an entrepreneurial ethos

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, Universities Scotland is highlighting how universities in Scotland are embedding entrepreneurship and enterprise in students and staff. Across eight blogs this week, we have experts the length and breadth of Scotland telling their stories about how universities are contributing to make Scotland an entrepreneurial nation.

 In our third blog this week we are delighted to welcome Heather Asiala, the SEN Programme Manager from the University of Strathclyde who is talking about Strathclyde’s approach to helping staff and student entrepreneurship in all areas of the university.

The University of Strathclyde has been cultivating an entrepreneurial ethos since it was founded in 1796 as the ‘Place of useful learning.’ We have a rich and proud history of inventors and entrepreneurs, and today the University’s commitment to identifying and supporting entrepreneurs is reflected in the work of Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network (SEN). SEN helps Strathclyde students and staff to launch new business ventures, commercialise university research and develop entrepreneurial skills.

Since 2015 as part of Making it Happen, Strathclyde has made a strategic commitment to identify, support and celebrate Strathclyde entrepreneurs. In addition to the valuable support offered to students studying entrepreneurship at the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, SEN has worked to expand enterprise and entrepreneurship training to students, staff and alumni from all degrees, departments and years of graduation. SEN has expanded its programme offering considerably, introducing new programmes such as:

  • An annual Company Creation Conference
  • Monthly Business Model Canvas Workshops
  • A regular series of training workshops

This is in addition to the existing Enterprise Pathway programme, SEN’s flagship enterprise and entrepreneurship skills development programme focused on using transferable skills to enhance employability.  Enterprise Pathway alone sees an average attendance of 250 undergraduate, masters and PhD students every year.

The real qualifier of success is what others say about the programme. People such as WeeWash co-founder Francisco Carreno:

SEN continues to provide invaluable support to our company. We gained a greater understanding of the key elements to starting a business during our studies through the Enterprise Pathway programme in 2017. Since then, we engaged in SEN activities and events and have since been accepted onto the Rising Star programme. SEN has been very supportive in providing us with 1-1 advice and constructive criticism to enhance our business. They also provide a series of workshops, info sessions and networking events that have all been essential for the development our start – up.”

Dr Olga Kozlova, former Director of the Converge Challenge is well-placed to give an assessment:

As the leading pan Scotland company creation programme for all Scottish Universities and Research Institutes, our mission is to open the minds of academia, research & business to develop a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders. A key aspect of this is collaborating with existing entrepreneurial support activities within UK Universities. Our partnership with the Enterprise Pathway programme provides a great opportunity to introduce entrepreneurial training at an early stage; ensuring base level knowledge of company creation and instilling confidence to turn ideas in reality. This is a proven Launchpad for success; Converge winners MindMate and Pick Protection took part in or created their idea during Pathway.

Since introducing the new SEN programme, we have seen nearly a 90% increase in student and staff participation in enterprise and entrepreneurship activity across the University. The SEN programme team puts a large emphasis on awareness raising, taking time to speak to students in courses, at Fresher’s Week and inductions to spark interest early-on in their Strathclyde experience. SEN also places importance on collaboration with academics to bring enterprise and entrepreneurship into the classroom – specifically for engineering, product design and science courses. To date, we have engaged with 65% of Strathclyde departments.

Not only have we seen an increase in activity participation, but also in the quality of the business ideas emerging from the Strathclyde community. SEN’s hands-on, practical support has helped nearly 60 new companies to form in Scotland since 2015. SEN has a specific focus on helping companies to navigate and leverage the vast entrepreneurial ecosystem in the UK. Strathclyde has a strong relationship with other external support organisations and many of our SEN-supported companies have gone on to compete and win in competitions such as Scottish EDGE, Converge Challenge and the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship awards.

The University has ambitious plans for the future, especially when it comes to commercialising the vast amount of research being conducted on campus. SEN has plans to expand its programme offering to include bespoke training for academic and research staff in an effort to de-mystify the commercialisation process. Our mission is to make enterprise and entrepreneurship accessible for all members of the Strathclyde community.


You can read the rest of the blogs in this series as they are published at: