Introducing – UniVenture 2018.

I’m delighted to announce that, at our annual summer reception in June, London Higher will be hosting an awards ceremony for a competition celebrating the wealth of innovation and ingenuity that London’s students bring to the city. UniVenture ’18 is a pan-London student entrepreneurship ‘competition of competitions’, which will showcase the range of activity being supported by London’s fantastically diverse HE sector.

At a time when it’s more important than ever for universities to be seen to come together and speak with one voice, this competition will help to showcase important elements of Higher Education in the modern age. I’m more than happy that we are able to hold the ceremony during our summer reception. The reception is an established and popular annual event. Such a gathering of London stakeholders and HE leaders is an ideal platform for promoting London’s entrepreneurial talent.

How will it work?

UniVenture is a multi-institutional collaboration designed as a proof of concept. The ‘competition of competitions’ format brings together students or recent alumni who have already shown outstanding performance in the area of entrepreneurship, and have duly been nominated by their institutions. These entrants will then go in front of an expert judging panel, who will score the ideas based on set criteria. One element London Higher has been particularly keen to promote is that it is only open to early stage and ‘pre-revenue’ ideas, from all backgrounds. There are no set themes, or categories for ideas; the only condition is that they are in the early stages. It’s an inclusive competition which is intended to epitomise the diversity of the London HE sector and give those just starting out a boost. If successful, and subject to refinements following the outcome of this year’s pilot, we hope the competition can become an annual event.

Personally I find the Passporting Programme to be perhaps the most engaging and innovative prize element. This is awarded to each nominated entrant for their participation in the competition, quite rightly I believe – given the entrant has already proved their idea has merit at an institutional level. The concept relies on each participating institution, as part of their involvement in the competition, offering one piece of support. These component parts will form a portfolio of inter-institutional support that could include mentoring, free use of incubator space, attendance of taught entrepreneurship modules and more. In my opinion the Passporting Programme symbolises what London HE is about: Diversity, mobility, opportunity, excellence – and excitement.

London is truly the best place in the world to start your own business, and it’s important that HEIs celebrate this and the incredible role they play in supporting entrepreneurial activity. Whether its entrepreneurial degrees, career support or incubator space, each London institution is doing something to enhance the development of skills and opportunities to enable new ideas to grow into real businesses. But we could always be doing more, and in part this competition is also meant to spark a discussion about what we could be doing better, differently or in greater quantity.

One of our newer London Higher networks initiated the competition. Formed in May 2017, it includes the Heads/ Directors of Student Entrepreneurship from around 25 institutions in London. The rationale being that supporting entrepreneurship was an area that HEIs of all sizes and types stood to gain a lot from collaborating on. By listening to each other, exchanging best practice and coming up with ideas for joint activity, institutions would also be in a better position to explain what they are doing for their locality, as well as creating real added value for the students and alumni they support.

With dedicated entrepreneurial support being a relatively recent addition to the portfolio of student support, it is still somewhat finding its home in many institutions. The individuals working in this area are from highly diverse backgrounds and there is the real sense that this area of work is becoming one of the lynchpins of university life. These factors add up to lively discussions and suggest it is a crucial moment for institutions to begin working collaboratively.

UniVenture is the perfect opportunity to further this goal. The competition is open to all London Higher member institutions. To find out more, or participate, visit our website.

I look forward to meeting some of the talented entrepreneurs in June!