Made It Happen

Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education

Three years ago, in 2015, the sector published Making It Happen: our action plan for all 19 higher education institutions. Back then, it was clear that universities were building real momentum behind their enterprise agendas. Making it Happen was a commitment, by universities, to a set of eight actions to drive this forward.

But since 2015, student and graduate entrepreneurship has really accelerated. This report provides a check-in on progress, or an entrepreneurial scorecard of our work after three years.

Universities have exceeded many of the eight ambitious goals that we set ourselves and have taken big steps forward on others. Collectively, our university communities have played a substantial role in supporting Scotland’s wider goal of becoming a “Can Do” nation.

Highlights from the data captured in Made It Happen includes:

  • A 53% increase in the number of start-up companies created by students and graduates over the last three years to 661 companies in 2018. Universities had aimed for 25% growth.
  • 94% of Scottish universities provide entrepreneurship training to staff and graduate start-ups.
  • 83% of all Scottish universities now have an on-campus incubator to support graduate & staff start-ups.
  • 89% of Scottish universities have embedded enterprise and entrepreneurship within degree programmes.
  • 78% of Scottish universities deliver entrepreneur-led events.
  • 100% of Scottish universities organise work placements for students and 79% of institutions offer placements or internships with entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Common themes

There are some common themes running through the collective success of our cohort of graduate entrepreneurs, no matter the venture or sector they have launched into:

  • The first is how many of them are already exporting as part of their business model and are working internationally.
  • Second, is a theme of social enterprise and the common good as the motivation behind their success.
  • We see examples of the need to pivot, to change direction or find new challenges after a successful buy-out. The need for reinvention whether through success or failure is part of the life of an entrepreneur. Both offer valuable lessons. Increasingly, reinvention will be an important skill for everyone, whether employed or selfemployed, with the pace of change affecting the future of industry and employment.
  • Last, and a source of pride and affirmation for our work, is the extent to which the graduate entrepreneurs see their time at university as instrumental to their ability to have started and grown their enterprise. Many are still actively connected to their universities and are now providing advice and support for students.

Our graduate entrepreneurs

2015’s Making it Happen also profiled a cohort of 17 student and graduate entrepreneurs who were in the very early days of launching their ventures at that time. In this report, we revisit some of these entrepreneurs so see how their ventures have grown or pivoted.

Ry Morgan was running Yomp in 2015, an employee-engagement platform which aimed to ‘gamify’ healthy behaviour.

Yomp was acquired by Reward Gateway, a Software as a Service company, for an undisclosed sum in 2016. Ry took the role of Head of Wellbeing Technology with Reward Gateway for a while before co-founding his latest venture, Unmind, a B2B mental health platform which offers clinically backed tools and training.

Unmind is now a 19-strong team which raised £300,000 in angel funding in 2017 and completed a £1.4m seed round in early 2018.

Christopher McCann, studied at Dundee University. He founded & is now CEO of Snap40, wearable artificial intelligence to help manage patient healthcare.

The company still has wearable, wireless health monitoring devices as its central product but has expanded to focus on what happens after a patient is discharged as well as monitoring clinical trials. Snap40 raised £8 million in funding in what is thought to be the largest seed round ever for a Scottish start-up and now works with some of the world’s top medical centres.

Headquartered in Edinburgh, Snap40 has opened an office in New York and doubled its staff over 2018 to 18 people

Abesh Thakur & Varun Nair are graduates of the art school at the University of Edinburgh and they established Two Big Ears, with the support of Launch.ed, to offer immersive and interactive audio applications and tools.

Two Big Ears was bought by Facebook in 2016 for an undisclosed sum. Abesh now works as a Product Manager at Facebook. The buy-out means the software is freely available to designers.

Maggie Mazoleka launched her range of MaRobert’s Tanzanian cooking sauces in 2014. The company emerged from Maggie’s fundraising work with SASHITA, also founded by Maggie to help rural Tanzanian communities gain access to clean water.

Maggie is still trading as MaRobert’s and has a loyal customer base and close relationships with high-quality retailers and food markets across Scotland helping to make the sauces a well-loved household brand.

Agata Jagodzinska & Michael Grant, graduates from Queen Margaret University, launched Raw Films in 2012, the same year that Agata won a Bafta New Talent Award.

Raw Films goes from strength to strength with a client base across the public, private and third sectors. The company specialises in documentary-style films that tell someone’s story.

Highlights include working on the 500 Miles in Malawi fundraising campaign.

Key Points:

  • 89% of Scottish universities now embed enterprise & entrepreneurship within degree programmes.
  • The number of student-led start-up companies has grown by 53% since 2015, far exceeding our target of 25% growth.
  • 17,000 students and staff have participated in enterprise and entrepreneurship workshops over the last three years.
  • 56% of Scottish higher education institutions deliver enterprise events for students with a specific widening access focus

Further Reading


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