A group of London's universities are launching a new collaboration – OpenSME – that seeks to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access the expertise and knowledge they offer.
New internship scheme aims to benefit small businesses in London
3 August 2012
UCL Advances has established a scheme to provide small, high-growth business in the capital with support from high-flying UCL students.
UCL’s scheme is designed to enable small, high-growth enterprises throughout London to benefit from an internship by a UCL graduate – fully funded by the university. Currently, students are paid £250 a week in a stipend by UCL to cover all their expenses –enabling the companies to benefit from their expertise and enthusiasm at minimal cost.
Businesses across London have had to bid for students following a selection process by UCL Advances, the university’s centre for entrepreneurship. The potential of the scheme was recognised immediately – so much so, that places were oversubscribed.
This year, UCL Advances has placed 50 students in internships of 8 weeks, during which time they have been plunged into providing hands-on business support for the companies they are placed with, including marketing, project management, fund-bid writing and even business reorganisation.
The range of businesses taking part is an eclectic one, ranging from specialist sweet retailer Cybercandy to Enabled City, a specialist mapping firm which provides cartography for people who have mobility impairments or suffer from other disabilities.
The latter has played host to Josefina Garcia (Modern Iberian and Latin American Studies) who has been fully immersed at Enabled City since June.
“It’s beyond anything I could have imagined in terms of business experience,” says Josefina. “I’ve been doing marketing, producing a media pack, working on the website – you name it.
“It’s fantastic experience for my future plans to have such an opportunity to have developed such a wide-range of skills. It’s really helped being in a small business, too – I can see the effect my contribution is having and I don’t think I would have had nearly as much responsibility if I’d been somewhere bigger.”
Tim Barnes, the Director of UCL Advances, believes that it’s a win-win scheme for both students and their host businesses.
“These enterprises are at a stage where they are ready to grow, but often lack sufficient resources to make that happen,” he says. “Through the help of a motivated, engaged student with a fresh perspective, they will have a proper shot to take their businesses to the next level.”