Enterprise Fellowships

Funding area: Enterprise Fellowship

RSE Enterprise Fellowship Programme is open to promising business ideas!

FACT: Since the RSE Enterprise Fellowship programme was established in 1997, the Enterprise Fellowships has awarded over £130million of private and public funding and supported more than 240 graduates and researchers to develop and launch 166 new businesses with companies formed across a variety of fields from 36 UK academic institutions. Could you be next?

Applications are now open for the next RSE Enterprise Fellowships.

The RSE Enterprise Fellowship, Scotland’s leading bi-annual business development and training programme for the Higher Education sector, enables and accelerates promising science and technology researchers to develop into successful and world-class entrepreneurs. The current deadline for applications is Wednesday 31 October at 5pm.

In a nutshell, Enterprise Fellows get to focus solely on refining their business ideas, whilst receiving one year’s salary, up to £10,000 support funding, expert training in entrepreneurship delivered to the highest standard of international excellence and access to mentors from business Fellows of the RSE and other successful entrepreneurs in the business community. The value of the programme (funding and in-kind support) is estimated at £90,000 per Enterprise Fellow.

So why not consider these questions? If you answer YES to any, then NOW is your chance to apply for an RSE Enterprise Fellowship to help turn your vision into a reality and become an outstanding entrepreneur:

· Are you a graduate, postgraduate/phd or academic researcher or member of staff with a promising technology-based business idea looking to start up or spinout from a University or Research Institute?

· Would you like to receive one year’s salary and be hosted by a *university or research institute? And devote valuable time to setting up your business?

· Are you passionate about taking your innovation to market and building a successful company to transition from academic to business entrepreneur and need help to do so?

· Would you like to receive bespoke business development training and advice from experts with a successful track record spanning over 20+ years?

· Interested in receiving a dedicated business mentor to support you? And advice how to expand your professional networks?

· Do you have a business idea with science or tech at its core? Do you have the energy and motivation to make your plans reach their full potential and are you ready for a life-changing opportunity?

The RSE Enterprise Fellowship programme will ensure that you are supported and equipped with the skills necessary to succeed in today’s fast-paced global business environment. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the potential to truly be life changing. Please don’t just take our word for it why not hear from a previous Enterprise Fellow HERE.

*Scottish Enterprise funded awardees can be hosted by Scottish institutions only. BP, QuantIC and BBSRC funded awardees can be hosted by institutions across the UK. Full T&Cs apply

Fund deadline

October 31, 2018 5:00 pm

Fund duration

Enterprise Fellows are hosted by a University or Research Institute for the duration of the Fellowship which is twelve months.

Additional Information

The RSE Enterprise Fellowship programme is an important pillar of commercialisation support to help achieve the ambitions of researchers and academic innovators who have promising business ideas.

The Enterprise Fellowship creates an environment which nurtures, supports and accelerates the development of world-class research, entrepreneurs and commercialisation of products and processes with strong market opportunity from within academia to help them become investor ready and grow new companies of scale.

Each RSE Enterprise Fellow, valued up to £90,000 (funding and in-kind support) receives – across one year:

  • time to focus solely on refining their business ideas
  • one year’s salary
  • up to £10,000 support funds
  • expert training in entrepreneurship
  • access to mentorship from Fellows of the RSE and other successful entrepreneurs in the business community
  • professional networking opportunities
  • membership of the RSE Entrepreneurs’ Club

If you are successfully chosen you will gain the most cutting-edge training, to develop your business skills, delivered to the highest standard of international excellence by individuals who have a proven track record of commercial success.

The RSE Enterprise Fellowship Programme is built around a structured programme of business training and ‘guided entrepreneurship’ that starts with a 4-day ‘induction week’ followed monthly thereafter by a series of 1 or 2 day training sessions, held at venues across the UK. These sessions cover the issues, opportunities and challenges, strategic as well as operational, that are faced by every founder of every new business.

Topics covered during the course of the Enterprise Fellowship year range from an introduction to the fundamentals of business; corporate governance, and building & recruiting management teams and employees; through all aspects of business finance, financing the business, business and financial planning, investment & sales forecasting; to product marketing and the fundamentals of inbound marketing; the business development process and managing your product. There are sessions on personal presentation skills and we also spend time examining the personal and professional challenges that all founders face when starting and growing a business. Its highly interactive as well as being demanding and rewarding.

And there’s more! In addition to the training and funding benefits, all Enterprise Fellows become part of the RSE Entrepreneurs’ Club, a prestigious group which includes investors, past awardees, business experts, professional advisers and RSE Fellows.

T&CS apply

The RSE Enterprise Fellowships are highly competitive and prestigious. The programme is generously supported and funded by Scottish Enterprise, BBSRC, QuantIC and BP. The eligibility is different according to the funder. More information on other funders will be updated in due course. To help here is a top line guide to each however please refer to the T&Cs for more information.

So which Award is relevant for you?

Scottish Enterprise:

  • Designed to encourage and enable the development of a new business based in Scotland around a technological idea developed by the Enterprise Fellow, either individually or with others, and within which the Enterprise Fellow would be expected to play a leading, though not necessarily the leading, role.
  • Must demonstrate proof of concept – commercial and technical
  • Applicants must demonstrate they can remain and work legally in the UK for the duration of the Enterprise Fellowship
  • Open to graduates, postgraduates/phds or academic researchers or a member of staff from across Scotland to be hosted by a Scottish institution*
  • Companies cannot apply. Spinout/shell companies not trading can apply.
  • Previous RSE Enterprise Fellows cannot reapply
  • Full time requirement
  • De minimis state aid applies
  • Sectors – technology and life sciences focus


  • Enterprise Fellowships funded by the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) are designed to encourage the development of a new business, building on previously-funded BBSRC research, by the Enterprise Fellow, or with others, and within which the Enterprise Fellow would be expected to play a key role.
  • These awards are particularly relevant to postgraduates/PhDs, academic researchers or a member of staff in eligible UK Research Organisation (Universities or institutes)
  • Previous commercial and technical Proof of Concept, including BBSRC Follow-on Funding is highly recommended prior to staring the fellowship.
  • Sectors – Life science, health, food, biotechnology and biological sciences
  • Companies cannot apply, however, researchers/project that have already created a shell company can still apply providing that the company is not trading or has not received investment.
  • Must demonstrate proof of concept – commercial and technical
  • Applicants must demonstrate they can remain and work legally in the UK for the duration of the fellowship
  • Previous RSE Enterprise Fellows cannot reapply
  • Full or part time option available

Note – BBSRC does not fund university graduates


  • In February 1988, BP Researcher Director, Professor John Cadogan FRSE, began a long-standing relationship with the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Previously funding RSE Research Fellowships, the BP Fund is now delivering £100,000 annually for RSE Enterprise Fellowships. Applications for Fellowships funded by BP are sought from individuals across a range of fields which form a core part of BP’s strategy.
  • Open to graduates, postgraduates/phds or academic researchers or a member of staff from across the UK and to be hosted by a UK institution*
  • Companies cannot apply. Spinout/shell companies not trading can apply
  • Sectors – energy innovation, low carbon energy transition and carbon management
  • Must demonstrate proof of concept – commercial and technical
  • Applicants must demonstrate they can remain and work legally in the UK for the duration of the fellowship
  • Previous RSE Enterprise Fellows cannot reapply
  • Full time requirement
  • Please note that NERC-funded Enterprise Fellowships are not available for this round but this BP Fund will help those with a proposal that falls within the subject matters of Energy Innovation and Advancing the Low Carbon Energy Transition.


  • QuantIC is the UK Quantum Technology Hub in Quantum Enhanced Imaging and is part of the UK National Quantum Technology Programme. The QuantIC Enterprise Fellowship is designed to encourage the development of a new business; building on previously funded research relevant to QuantIC around a technological idea developed by the Fellow and within which the Fellow is expected to play an important or leading role
  • Open to graduates, postgraduates/phds or academic researchers or a member of staff across the UK to be hosted by a UK institution.
  • Sector – quantum technology which is involved in imaging, sensors and computing
  • Companies cannot apply. Spinout/shell companies not trading can apply.
  • Must demonstrate proof of concept – commercial and technical – and be ready to move to become investor ready and have high growth potential
  • Applicants must demonstrate they can remain and work legally in the UK for the duration of the fellowship
  • Previous RSE Enterprise Fellows cannot reapply
  • Full time requirement


If awarded an RSE Enterprise Fellowship you’d be in good company! Previous Enterprise Fellows include:

  • Abesh Thakur of Two Big Ears, an immersive audio company purchased by Facebook
  • Caroline Barelle of Elasmogen, progressing sight-saving therapies for inflammatory eye disease
  • David Hunter of ShotScope, a revolutionary golf performance tracking system
  • Oliver Hardick of Puridify Ltd (acquired by GE in 2017)
  • Corien Staels of Staels Design with WheelAir, a cooling wheelchair backrest
  • Callum Murray of Amiqus, secure anti-money laundering, identity and compliance checks online
  • Michael Harkins of Turtle Pack, swimming aid for kids
  • Orfeas Boteas of Krotos, revolutionary audio tools
  • Chris Leburn – Chromacity, a manufacturer of ultrashort lasers and and Tunable Infrared and Mid-Infrared OPOs
  • Alexandre Pechev – Ikinema, animation software for motion capture

And many many more. Full list of our alumni.

And what do they have to say about the RSE Enterprise Fellowship programme?

Dr Caroline Barelle | CEO | Elasmogen

“An idea is the first step in any business. Through the incredible support, expertise and boundless enthusiasm from the RSE Enterprise Fellowship, I was given the opportunity and critically the time to convert this into a reality and create a new Biotech company.“

Michael Harkins | Founder & CEO | Turtle Pack

“The RSE Enterprise Fellowship is world class! This is the best programme any entrepreneur could be part of as you receive excellent training, mentoring, salary and business funding. I was very fortunate to graduate in the summer of 2016 and secure a place in Autumn of 2016. The RSE Enterprise Fellowship learnings have helped to sky rocket Turtle Pack’s and my own incredible journey.”

Michael Tougher | Founder & Director | Soundbops

“I applied to the RSE to grow myself and Soundbops from an idea into a growing business. Having no experience, the training, mentorship and network was an inspiring learning experience.

Dr Shelby Temple | Founder | Azul Optics

“I applied for the Enterprise Fellowship because I had no formal training in business and wanted to learn from experienced mentors, grow my network, and have a year to dip my feet in the waters of entrepreneurialism before diving in and leaving academe.”

Dr Lissa Herron | Head of Eggcellent Proteins

“After working for years on exciting technology, I wanted the opportunity to commercialise it myself. The Enterprise Fellowship allowed me to take the time to understand what the project really needed to transition from academia into a commercial venture and taught me the necessary skills to do so successfully.”

MEET THE ENTREPRENEUR: Sydney Chasin | Founder of lil’POP 

Hi Sydney , please tell us a bit about yourself
I grew up in a tiny US farm town of 150 people and moved to Edinburgh, Scotland after never being to Europe ever before. I came over here to study Financial Services at Edinburgh Napier University and started my food company, The Healthy Crop, upon graduation. Prior to my degree, I attended boarding school for classical ballet.

Can you describe The Healthy Crop in 20 (or fewer) words?
We specialise in sorghum grain products, a gluten-free and drought-resilient crop. Our first product is lil’POP, a popped sorghum snack.

What is the best business lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Trust your gut. There are so many ways to analyse and strategise, but above all, trust your gut feeling about things and don’t do things that simply don’t feel right.

How did you get to where you are today?
Surrounding myself with people who have “been there” and “done that.” Mentors and “friends of the industry” have shared their own experiences and provided advice to help me avoid pitfalls, streamline processes, and help shape strategy.

If the RSE Enterprise Fellowship were a person, what characteristics would they have?
The RSE Enterprise Fellowship is like your parents. Nurturing and supportive, but no-sugar-coating! Just what most entrepreneurs need! They want the very best for you and will do everything in their control to help develop you as a strong leader for your business.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs ready to commercialise their research?
Learn to love the problem you solve, not the technical solution.

Dead or alive, if you could have any mentor, who would it be and why?
Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea. He recognised a gap in a stale market, created a deliciously simple product, and built a value and ethics driven brand that competed with the largest players in the soft drinks industry.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. What do you wish you’d known before launching your business?
I’m not sure I actually wish I knew anything previously! There have been many individual challenges that I wish I knew certain little things about previously, but in the big picture, I’ve actually benefited from having to learn things along the way. If someone had told me all the challenges you will face in running a start-up, I don’t think I would have ever taken the leap and taking the leap was the best decision I ever made. Having to “build the plane while flying it” has been the most thrilling and rewarding part.

What keeps you going when the going gets tough?
The big picture/dream and keeping the birds eye view. Sometimes the day to day running gets incredibly tough and you get into “fire-fighting” mode. If you don’t keep that aerial view, you can easily get caught in the smoke.

What makes a good day at work?
A good day is making little steps towards any goal or task at hand. The BEST days tend to be the days when we overcome the hurdles we faced on the challenging days.

What are you working on just now?
During my RSE Enterprise Fellowship I attended many trade shows in the UK and internationally, which allowed me to get my product in front of a diverse range of consumers and retail buyers. Listening to their feedback, what they loved and what they think could improve, has helped sculpt the next stage of product development. At present, we are working on making these changes for an improved snacking experience.

What advice do you have for anyone thinking of applying for an RSE Enterprise Fellowship?
Apply apply apply! Having the support of the RSE Enterprise Fellowship team for a year has been life-saving and allowed me to re-evaluate strategy and make appropriate pivots for the business with financial security and business support. Additionally, the training is second-to-none. I’ve learned more about the business world in 1 year of training with RSE than I could ever have learned in any MBA programme. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely world, but having a cohort and support network for a year makes you never feel alone. The RSE application process, even if unsuccessful, is a great opportunity to reflect and analyse your business. Nothing more to say than….do it!

If this is you, then please apply by the deadline of 17:00 on Wednesday 31 October 2018.

One application form enables you to describe your business idea and entrepreneurial potential and apply across several funded programmes. The same application form should be used for all Enterprise Fellowships, regardless of the funder.

The RSE Enterprise Fellowship programme will evaluate against four criteria: Effectiveness of technology, Market Potential, Commercialisation Potential, the potential of the individual to succeed in business.

IMPORTANT: If you are thinking of applying, we recommend that you contact your university or research institute technology transfer or commercialisation office as early as possible to allow for any necessary IP checks to be carried out.

To apply, please log-in or register for an account. Application documents can then be downloaded from the “Apply For Funding” area once signed-in.

To help you with your application, please refer to the FAQs, Terms & Conditions and Application Guidelines.

If you have any questions about the award or application process, please contact Hannah Chater, Enterprise Officer.

The RSE Team will be travelling across the country to many Scottish Universities and Research Institutes as well as to London. We’d like to support potential applicants, be it application advice or just a sounding board. Why not check out the below dates or get in touch with Hannah Chater – hchater@therse.org.uk