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London's universities say ‘OpenSME’ to new support for capital's small businesses

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.

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An amazing 48 hours for UCL Advances

24 October 2012

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By Timothy Barnes, Director of UCL Advances
I’ve recently experienced an amazing 48 hours for UCL Advances.

The entrepreneurs and small businesses which we work so hard to support have had some tremendous successes, and show why marrying talented students and small business owners with the very best in advice, support and funding from our nation’s best universities is so important.

I’ve recently returned from Conservative Party conference. Aside from the presence of the Prime Minister and an opportunity to showcase the work UCL is leading amongst universities to drive innovation and growth from the bottom up, what was most inspiring was seeing two very different businesses attracting flocks of interest – both supported by UCL Advances.

The winner of last year’s London Entrepreneur’s Challenge, Jive Bike, were there with a physical prototype for the world's first carbon fibre, folding, electric bike. Their demonstration wowed conference attendees, including MPs and regular party members who represent the country as a whole. Marcin, the founder, ended up with a stack of business cards.

Yet most surprising was the occupier of the stand next to his.

The Cloud – a pop-up spa concept led by Joel Sutton – was one of the businesses which have taken part in the first London cohort of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme, delivered by UCL. I had no idea they would be there.

Undertaking the programme has given him many other benefits being part of the UCL community can provide, too – wider business support and helping set him up with an intern from UCL being just two examples. Being part of this community is why Joel, when he saw Jive Bike’s stand, worked out they were from UCL, went over to say hello, offered support and tweeted about it.

I met those guys on the Sunday. That evening, the standout success of the last two weeks was on our screens as part of BBC2’s Dragon’s Den. Old Bond Ltd, the brainchild of Politics PhD student Art Stavenka, 26, and his business partner Kiryl Chykeyuk, a DPhil student at Oxford University, were awarded £90,000 in investment from two of the Dragons, Theo Paphitis and Deborah Meaden. They, too, had won a Bright Ideas Award and have had extensive support from student business advisor Lillian Shapiro.

The UCL community is a community, too, which nurtures, supports and links the best and brightest talent with those that can help them achieve real successes. That’s why I was delighted to hear that every same weekend that one of our former Bright Ideas Award winners, Chester Mojay-Sinclare, has just raised a six-figure sum for his business, Charity Checkout, after being connected with angel investors through UCL alum Andrew Jacobs, the founder of Giraffe restaurants. It was a great 48 hours.

This is not happening in isolation. It’s a hugely exciting time to be an entrepreneur in London. We have Tech City in Shoreditch becoming a haven for digital enterprises; UCL alumni like Lord Young – in charge of promoting entrepreneurship at No.10 – and Nadim Zahawi MP, who co-founded YouGov Plc, on the BIS Select Committee ensuring it remains at the top of the Government’s agenda.

The foundations for promoting entrepreneurship and for embedding enterprise at more broadly at UCL are now in place. We are already delivering life-changing opportunities and world-changing businesses. Now is the time to build on our successes.