Gordon McConnell
Gordon McConnell

£1.6m initiative to find the next generation of North East university startups and entrepreneurs

Robert Gordon University (RGU) will launch the first funded startup accelerator programme in North East Scotland to support entrepreneurial students, staff and recent alumni to create new businesses with up to £10,000 of funding each.

This new initiative has been funded by the Wood Foundation. The competition for the programme will launch in September each year and an external peer panel will choose the final startup teams later in the autumn.

The accelerator will also link with the recently launched Innovation Skills programme, where RGU students will get access to extracurricular courses in a range of innovation topics including ideation, entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, technology commercialisation.

The funding will also establish a new Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group (EIG) at RGU, which will develop and manage the accelerator programme and scale-up the Innovation Skills programme.

“Entrepreneurship is now a career choice for many graduates, and here at RGU students will get the opportunity to try to build and grow their business before they even leave the university,” said Gordon McConnell, VP of Commercial and Regional Innovation and creator of the new accelerator, who has developed similar programmes in Ireland, the US and Saudi Arabia.

The University Entrepreneurship Accelerator competition is open to undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students enrolled in any RGU program, full time or part time staff and alumni who have graduated within three years of September 2018.

While at least one member of the team must be from one of these groups at the time the team’s proposal is submitted, the teams can comprise students, staff and alumni from other institutions in the region.

Individual teams may submit a variety of venture concept proposals in a range of industry areas including technology, food & beverage, sustainability, creative industries such as fashion or architectural solutions, healthcare, engineering, social enterprise and digital solutions.

Additionally, all RGU students and RGU staff are encouraged to adapt their problem-solving term papers or research outcomes to potential startup proposals.

“This new initiative builds on RGU’s history as an innovator and business-focused institution,” said Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, Principal and Vice Chancellor of RGU. “But it also moves us into new opportunities as the promoter of new start-ups and cutting-edge innovation.”

Sir Ian Wood, Chairman of The Wood Foundation said “This project aims to support entrepreneurial activity within our student, academic and graduate communities. It is directly aligned with the regional economic renaissance agenda, led by Opportunity North East, which includes growing our entrepreneurial environment to enable more business creation and growth across all industry sectors.”

RGU’s University Entrepreneur Accelerator and Innovation Skills programmes are just the first of a series of new initiatives in the areas of skills, employability, innovation and entrepreneurship being developed by RGU which will be launching over the coming months.