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Birkbeck to launch major entrepreneurship programme with support from Santander

A £100,000 award from Santander will fund two significant projects to promote, develop and understand entrepreneurship.

Birkbeck has been awarded £100,000 from bank Santander to launch two major projects to promote, advance and understand entrepreneurship and the other skills needed in the modern workforce. This is part of Santander Universities’ £1 million Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Fund, which aims to develop and champion business initiatives within universities and their local communities across the UK. A total of 15 universities have been awarded grants from the fund, with Birkbeck being one of five to receive the highest available amount of £100,000.

The first project Birkbeck will be working on, which will receive £85,000 from the total sum, is called the Pioneer Programme. This will be a large scale, extracurricular short course which aims to develop enterprising skills and an entrepreneurial mindset for students across all departments.

Every day, Birkbeck students demonstrate their commitment, dedication and drive by spending their evenings gaining a qualification and working on their studies. There is a need to enhance the enterprise support available to Birkbeck students to expose the opportunity of exploring an entrepreneurial path, while providing essential support and guidance to encourage them to do so. Offering an opportunity like Pioneer to students will not only enhance fundamental skills alongside their qualifications, but develop an entrepreneurial mindset, so our students can decide whether to be entrepreneurs or ‘intrapreneurs’.

The programme will consist of eight half-day monthly workshops between November 2018 and June 2019 for 200 Birkbeck students. The programme will enhance our students’ fundamental skills alongside their qualifications in all disciplines, and develop a crucial entrepreneurial mindset for today’s workplace. Each workshop will focus on a different entrepreneurial skill such as creativity, problem-solving, pitching, leadership, resilience and collaboration, and will feature a presentation from an inspiring speaker who can provide practical advice and tips for the students on their entrepreneurial journeys.

The remaining £15,000 will go towards a research project which will bring together internal and external stakeholders - including academic researchers, corporate partners and industry bodies - to develop a clear understanding of industries’ expectations of enterprise and entrepreneurship skills provision within education. The current context of encouraging entrepreneurship in all its forms relies on self-learning which, whilst useful, is extremely disjointed across the sector. Little connection is made to the sectors and industries and where this is possible, it generally only takes place in well-resourced, wealthy institutions.

In line with this, the research will address the questions of how education can collaborate with industry to encourage entrepreneurship, assess the difficulties and challenges of developing entrepreneurial mindsets and skills, and make predictions for the future of entrepreneurship within the current political and socio-economic climate, particularly within the London region.

Professor David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck said: “We’re delighted to be able to launch these projects and grateful to be among the 15 universities that Santander is providing with such generous support. Entrepreneurship and creative thinking in business are crucial for economies to thrive against a landscape of uncertainty. Birkbeck has long championed entrepreneurship and supported the enterprises of students and alumni, and as such we are well placed to deliver both the trailblazing Pioneer Programme and research project.”

Matt Hutnell, Director at Santander Universities, commented: “We are delighted to award this grant to Birkbeck, University of London, which will enable them to expand their current entrepreneurial programme. We look forward to seeing them develop their research project with output that could potentially be shared across the UK higher education sector."