The University has claimed a prestigious regional business award for its management of collaborative projects which include supporting graduate entrepreneurs and managing innovative interactions with SMEs.
Beating four of the region’s top universities, Aston received the ‘Midlands Enterprising University of the Year’ Award at the Midland Business Awards, held last Friday evening (28 January) at the Hilton Metropole Hotel.
Aston’s Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor, Helen Higson said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive this award – a testament to how hard Aston University works on supporting the region’s entrepreneurs of the future. Aston’s development of schemes encouraging entrepreneurship is in keeping with the coalition Government’s call for further raising the bar on entrepreneurialism in Britain, and is critical to the future success of the region.”
One of the schemes to contribute to the University's award was Aston's work with graduate entrepreneurs in the region - through the management of the regional BSEEN (Birmingham Skills for Enterprise and Employability Network) project.
The judges were particularly impressed with one such entrepreneur of the future, Sajida Parveen, who’s company www.firstcarfinder.com was a typical working example of the huge amount of talent that the Midlands has in its graduate population and the support available from the region’s universities.
“Accepting the award was definitely the highlight of my career so far, but joining BSEEN was the turning point,” said Sajida. “We weren’t going to give up but running the company was getting harder and harder. BSEEN came along and put us amongst other companies with the same problems. BSEEN has allowed us to share tips with the other businesses, take a different approach, and grow. ”
Funded by Birmingham City Council, BSEEN enables local graduates to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions in a supportive learning environment. Currently, there is little support available for graduate businesses once their owners have left their universities. Aston University manages BSEEN, alongside partners Birmingham University and Birmingham City University, and offers 6 months of free incubator access at Birmingham Science Park Aston - with training, mentoring, coaching and a wage subsidy. In total, 30 businesses will be supported over a 12 month period at the Science Park, with a total of 90 businesses supported across the partnership.
Also recognised in the award was the Innovation Voucher West Midlands project (INDEX), a unique demand-led innovation voucher scheme which invites Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to apply for a £3000 voucher to purchase academic support from one of the 13 higher education institutions in the West Midlands.
Words by Paul Burkwood