Innovation & Enterprise


UCL’s entrepreneurship training gives boost to doctoral student’s research and career

UCL’s dedicated entrepreneurship programme for doctoral students (SPERO) helped Isobel Pagendam develop an academic research project, undertake an internship and plan future ventures.

Students sitting around a table at a workshop at BaseKX

20 April 2021

Isobel is in the second year of a PhD in UCL Geography and is due to start research for her project on the role that lifts play in London city life. 

While still refining the direction of her PhD project in summer 2020, Isobel heard about the SPERO programme for doctoral students, run by UCL Innovation & Enterprise. It’s a multi-stage training programme aimed at doctoral students from any discipline to help them develop their entrepreneurial knowledge, skills and mindset. No prior business experience is needed. 

Exposure to all kinds of entrepreneurism 

Isobel recounts her initial impressions and reflections on the SPERO 1 workshop:

“It was interesting to get a broad overview of the different types of entrepreneurship and what counts as entrepreneurship. This includes social enterprises and projects in the charity sector too. Entrepreneurship doesn’t just mean developing a physical product: you can come up with a range of different services and offerings in a range of sectors.”

Talking about more specific elements of the programme, and the benefits they had, Isobel adds: 

“The course has some useful approaches to time management and planning. These things are not just beneficial in business but for PhD research projects as well. For my own project, I will draw on a range of different research methods, and techniques introduced in the session will be particularly useful for developing a structure and plan.” 

Getting experience in the enterprise sector  

Following the completion of SPERO 1, Isobel decided to apply for an internship with the Greater London Authority. The internship is helping to promote the Mayor's Entrepreneur Competition to London students, lecturers and other university staff.

Isobel was successful with her application and started the role as a Mayor’s Entrepreneur Intern in January 2021. 

“With my academic interest in cities, and the competition ultimately being about making London a better place to live and work, it felt quite appropriate. Also because of SPERO, I already had valuable background knowledge about entrepreneurship and that understanding put me in a good position. Without having that knowledge, I wouldn’t necessarily have known what the competition was really about or felt compelled to apply.” 

Thinking about the future 

The experience of both SPERO 1 and the Mayor’s Entrepreneur Internship has prompted Isobel to begin thinking up ideas for new ventures of her own. 

“It has really started those conversations and provided a talking point round the dinner table with my family and friends, thinking about ideas and how to solve various problems. I could see myself perhaps offering consultancy in social research or market research. I love bouncing ideas off people and helping to make a product better.”

To hone these ideas further, Isobel hopes to take part in SPERO 2, a two-day workshop which helps turn innovative ideas into reality.

SPERO Entrepreneurship training

Isobel took part in the first stage of the programme, SPERO 1. This one-day online workshop helps participants develop entrepreneurial thinking and start to recognise and use entrepreneurial skills.

By the end of the first stage of the SPERO programme, the aim is that participants can: 

  • identify entrepreneurial opportunities
  • assess the value of novel enterprises
  • gain knowledge and confidence to pursue their ideas


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Photo by Alejandro Salinas Lopez © UCL

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