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Birkbeck and Santander Universities celebrate creating accessible pathways to entrepreneurship

Birkbeck and Santander Universities launch Pioneer 2.0, building on the success of the entrepreneurial Pioneer Programme.

On Thursday 9 January, Birkbeck staff, students and alumni welcomed Santander Universities to celebrate the ongoing partnership and sign a new £150,000 agreement to fund programmes to support student entrepreneurs at Birkbeck.

Santander Universities, who have supported the College since 2013, have generously funded a number of projects including the Pioneer Programme, launched in 2019; a dedicated, extra-curricular course for any Birkbeck student interested in developing skills in enterprise and entrepreneurship.

To date, the Pioneer Programme has benefitted over 200 students, who have undertaken a range of practical training opportunities and attended talks by successful entrepreneurs from a range of industries. Julia, Pioneer Programme graduate, said: “Taking part in Pioneer was the best choice I could have made. The guest speakers were an inspiration and motivated us to continue with our business ideas and make them a reality. I think the future looks bright.”

The new agreement has brought about Pioneer 2.0, which will target 120 students with existing enterprises and concrete business ideas and support them over three years, taking them from ideation to incubation and focusing on their professional development and the growth of their businesses. Shortlisted students will even get the opportunity to pitch to a panel of investors with the aim of securing investment. Pioneer 2.0 will build directly on the recommendations of Birkbeck’s research project, The Future of Entrepreneurship: The role universities can play in creating a new paradigm in entrepreneurial learning, commissioned by Santander Universities in 2018.

To address the challenge of the lack of financial freedom for student entrepreneurs from low-income backgrounds, Santander Entrepreneurship Bursaries will give ten promising entrepreneurs per annum the opportunity to receive a £1000 bursary, which will help them kickstart their business.

Doyin Olorunfemi, Pioneer Programme student 2018/19 and guest speaker, said: “The programme has given me the best possible start to my business. It gave me so many skills, including how to seek opportunities, how to be innovative and how to build my resilience. My message to Santander is ‘thank you, thank you, thank you!’ There were so many students in my cohort, which meant there were so many people to learn from and to network with. Thank you to Santander for supporting us as budding entrepreneurs.”

Matt Hutnell, Director of Santander Universities UK, added: “Santander is committed to supporting higher education as well as local communities across the UK. We have a long-standing relationship with Birkbeck and are proud to be continuing our partnership with them for a further three years. We look forward to working closely with Birkbeck to provide even more opportunities for their students over the coming years.”

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