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UCL celebrates support of local businesses

5 November 2010

UCL celebrates support of local businesses




UCL Enterprise

UCL celebrated on 1 November the impact that staff, students and alumni have had on local enterprises in the last year with awards for the strongest projects carried out to date and the launch of SMILE, a new mentoring initiative.

The awards were made for projects carried out under Higher Education London Outreach (HELO), a part-European Funded programme managed by UCL Advances (UCL’s centre for business interaction and entrepreneurship) involving software company MegaNexus Ltd, the London Business School, and other partners that aims to support small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in London through short-term consultancy.

HELO draws from the expertise of UCL and London Business School by creating teams of students to solve the problems of the businesses they work with. This competition was set up to reward and celebrate the work of students and staff who have taken part in HELO. HELO is currently working with over 70 businesses in London and has completed over 30 projects.

Professor Anthony Finkelstein, Dean of UCL Engineering, presented the HELO Awards. He summarised: “HELO is an excellent programme combining the academia with the enterprise world and we can see real benefits from both sides. While the companies get support with the problems they face, whether strategic or more technical or academic, the students benefit from working with real clients and get real life experience, which will make their CV’s stand out, and this is increasingly important.”

The awards were allocated as described below.

  • Best Overall Project: Natural Harvest Café, a social enterprise located in East Ham hospital. (Paul Suazo, Melissa Johnson, Fidel Anaya, Layla Redway-Harris, Aiqing Li, Anne Reckitt and Praveen Velu)

Paul Suazo said: “I have learned a lot and expanded my knowledge on social enterprises. We also learned how to manage client expectations, stakeholder engagement and how the public sector in UK works.”

Nigel Huddleston, Director at Deloitte, said: “This was clearly a challenging and comprehensive project. The project plan and approach is impressive. The impression the reader gets is that this project was conducted very professionally and diligently. Also, that the team cared about the outcome comes across. Well structured despite the challenges.”

  • Best Technical/Academic Project: Aerobic Bins, a new bin design that reduces moisture and weight of waste. (Abhilash Palakkadan Rajan, Asmita Mukerji and Vishnu Gujavarthi)

Abhilash Palakkadan Rajesh said: “My primary objective was to meet with the pioneers in the industry. We learned about the existing environmental scenario in UK and explored various remedial measures to improve it, and the client gave positive feedback for our work. I would definitely recommend others to take part.”

MP Nadhim Zahawi commented: “Aerobic Bins went into great detail, did their own testing and feel it’s an ongoing situation. This is a good solution to on-going environmental issues.”

  • Best Impact: PQ2, a web-based greetings card publisher and wholesaler, and distributor of fine art prints, silk screens and plexi-glass pieces. (Salama Begum, Natea Odoggo, Sam Sheppard)

Sam Sheppard said: “I felt I gained confidence from submitting the final presentation to the client, as well as learning the ways in which wide-ranging tools of economic analysis are incorporated into a marketing strategy document alongside the importance of tact and consideration when presenting potentially bad news to clients.”

Tim Barnes, Director, UCL Advances added: “With this project we could see the real impact the students could provide the company by giving realistic recommendations on what they should do to be able to get their company back to growth.”

While research from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit indicates that graduate unemployment has risen to its highest level for 17 years, several students who took part in HELO projects have already reaped the benefits in terms of employment offers. Abhilash from Aerobic Bins Project is now a consultant with the sustainability development team of built environment experts BRE. Hina Amlani, who worked on a strategy for On the Site Massage Company, has started work as a Retail Consultant at Deloitte.

Horace Bell-Gram, who now has an MSc in Computer Sciences, worked on three HELO projects and has been offered a position at Accenture as a software engineer. Horace said: “The HELO project gave me exposure to real businesses and provided me with the opportunity to make an impact and solve business problems in the real world. Being able to see my work and ideas actually implemented was the main advantage to working with SMEs and a fundamental part of what makes HELO unique and attractive to employers. The experience gained during these projects gave me an edge when it came to interviewing for and successfully getting on a graduate scheme.”

The evening also marked the official launch of Selected Mentors and Interims for London Enterprises (SMILE), a new initiative led by UCL Advances to help London-based SMEs grow and develop by analysing business needs and connecting them to business mentors. Such managerial expertise is invaluable help to SMEs constrained only by their lack of resources. SMILE will transfer outstanding skills, social and professional networks, research and knowledge that will enable them to compete in national and global markets.

SMILE is carried out by UCL in partnership with MegaNexus Ltd and supported by a number of local business support organisations. SMILE is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the London Development Agency.