Alliance Manchester Business School has been awarded a major grant towards promoting entrepreneurship among post-doctoral students.
The Masood Enterprise Centre (MEC) at Alliance MBS will collaborate with University College London (UCL) on a two-year project which aims to demonstrate and evaluate effective practices in student engagement in knowledge exchange activities.
Lynn Sheppard, Director of MEC, explained the background to the project. “Both ourselves and UCL have been building up our thinking around this whole area for many years. So when the Office for Students (OfS) put out a call for bids for further research around the impact and benefits of knowledge exchange, it made a lot of sense for us to work together on a specific strand around entrepreneurship and start-ups.
“There are massive economic and social benefits to both individual students and external partners and communities from knowledge exchange, and this project is about giving students better career prospects and helping them identify knowledge exchange activities in a more structured way.”
She added that UCL’s Innovation and Enterprise Centre and MEC have both been specifically working on developing entrepreneurial mind-sets amongst doctoral students for a number of years. “We will now compare and contrast our models to develop a framework which we hope can then be replicated more widely across the university sector, and help steer the future of doctoral training on a national scale.”
In the past the wider knowledge exchange focus has been more around university spin-outs driven by academics, and less about students starting businesses themselves. But she said this focus was now shifting quickly.
“A good example is here at The University of Manchester where we have a massive doctoral and post-doctoral community which can really benefit from knowledge exchange. At the end of the day we have to prepare doctoral students better for jobs outside university, and the chances are that most of them will know more about the opportunities of particular applications they are working on than anyone else.
“So we have to encourage these students to be more commercially aware, while at the same time give them the commercial mind-set they need. It is about opening their eyes to opportunities and the possibility of working in start-ups as it can be difficult for young people to appreciate just how their skills can be applied.”
She added that the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market for young people also made such programmes all the more vital.
“At times like this large companies cannot change business models quickly so small businesses can really move into that space, but they need the right people to make it happen. We have some very smart students here and we need to give them the confidence to spot commercial opportunities.
“I am now really looking forward to showcasing what we do as part of this project. The Masood Enterprise Centre at Alliance MBS is recognised nationally and internationally in the area of applied enterprise and entrepreneurship teaching and this will help us spread our message even wider. It will also be excellent to showcase how we can work collaboratively with another institution on this whole agenda.”
The project, funded by OfS and Research England, runs from September 2020 in partnership with the LLAKES Centre at UCL’s Institute of Education. A co-investigator on the wider project is Andy Westwood, Vice Dean for Social Responsibility in the Faculty of Humanities at The University of Manchester and Professor of Government Practice.