Enterprise Fellowships Celebrate 20 Years of Growing Successful Entrepreneurs

At an event held at The Hub in Edinburgh on 15 November the RSE hosted a gathering to celebrate 20 years of Scottish Enterprise supported RSE Enterprise Fellowships.

RSE Enterprise Fellowships are granted to individuals seeking to commercialise innovative ideas resulting from academic research in the arena of science and technology. The objective of the programme is to support innovators’ transition into successful entrepreneurs with viable commercial companies. The Fellowships enable individuals to advance the commercial potential of existing research or technology-based ideas whilst supporting them with a year’s salary, business training, business development funding and access to mentors, business experts and professional advisers.

Encouragingly the female to male ratio of applicants to the scheme is strong, with 41% of Enterprise Fellows in the last 5 years being female. Hailing from diverse disciplines, the companies created also cover a broad spectrum of sectors; from real-time 3D audio technology to English language education apps; wearable golf performance tracking technology to sustainable skis for the free-ride market.

Enterprise Fellowships are administered by the RSE and are funded by Scottish Enterprise and the UK Research Councils: BBSRC, STFC and NERC. The Fellowships were created following the Commercialisation Inquiry of 1996, which included the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and the RSE.

Since 1997, Scottish Enterprise has supported 158 Enterprise Fellows, representing an investment of over £13.4M with a cost per fellow on average of £85,000. STFC joined the scheme in 2002 and BBSRC in 2005. NERC joined the programme in 2016 with a pilot scheme to support 5 Enterprise Fellows working within NERC’s remit of terrestrial, marine, freshwater, science-based archaeology, atmospheric and polar sciences, and Earth observation.

Yesterday’s event championed the successes of those awarded with these prestigious Fellowships. It also highlighted the vitality of Scotland’s research sector and the huge contribution that the commercialisation of academic research makes to Scotland’s economy. In a recent survey, former Enterprise Fellows reported having attracted over £90M follow-on investment in the form of public funds and private investments in the last year.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney, who delivered the keynote speech at the event, said: “We are committed to supporting research and innovation and have made clear our aspiration for Scotland to be at the forefront of the digital, high tech and low carbon innovations that will shape the future.

“The Enterprise Fellowship programme is a great example of the importance of nurturing and developing innovation and the valuable role of universities in supporting entrepreneurial culture. We will continue to work closely with universities to achieve our goal of becoming a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation within framework of Scotland CAN DO.”

Commenting on the event yesterday President of the RSE, Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell said, “It gave me great pleasure to host such a celebratory event that allowed us to reflect on 20 years of enabling successful entrepreneurs in Scotland. The event provided an opportunity to commend and acknowledge the commercial successes coming out of academia here in Scotland. We are very proud of the successes of the RSE Enterprise Fellowship programme and of those Enterprise Fellows who go on to create the exciting companies that are so successful today.”

Back when the programme began in 1997 there were just 4 Scottish Enterprise supported Fellowships awarded. Now the scheme has grown to allow for 2 cohorts of Enterprise Fellows per year which enables aspiring entrepreneurs to access the programme at the right time so that they can capitalise on being ‘first to market’ if appropriate. Year on year growth in applications continues with 2016 and 2017 seeing the biggest number of Enterprise Fellows going through the scheme. On average, there are now around 16 Fellows going through the programme across all funders and all science and technology sectors per year.

Spanning the 20 years of the programme, Scottish Enterprise supported Enterprise Fellows have been hosted by 17 Universities and Research Institutes across Scotland. Eleanor Mitchell, Director of Entrepreneurial Growth, Grant Appraisal and Management at Scottish Enterprise commented, “Scottish Enterprise is delighted to have worked with the RSE over the past 20 years in developing and delivering the Enterprise Fellowship programme. This has enabled the creation of at least 96 new technology and engineering based companies and reflects Scottish Enterprise’s ongoing commitment to supporting entrepreneurs to optimally exploit the wealth of opportunities that arise from Scotland’s inherent strengths in technology and engineering.”

There has never been a better time to start-up or spin-out a company in Scotland. With such a strong record of success, the RSE’s Enterprise Fellowship Scheme grows in popularity, allowing aspiring entrepreneurs to take those important first steps toward building a thriving business, while supporting the growth of Scotland’s economy and the nation’s great tradition for nurturing innovation. The RSE looks forward to seeing the strength of the competition for these prestigious Fellowships grow and grow.

To view/download more pictures from the event, please visit here. Please credit any pictures used © Gary Doak Photography.

Click here to view the programme from the 20th Anniversary Event.