Entrepreneurship and innovation are high on the agenda at UCLan

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has set out ambitious plans to further develop its entrepreneurial culture and capacity through a series of staff and student training programmes designed to encourage an innovative and enterprising approach to work and learning.

The two-year, €1.2m funded project aims to deliver training to 645 students and 132 academic and service staff through leadership development programmes, tailored mentoring, network building and online training.

It is part of a European-wide project, ‘Higher Education Innovation Growth and Training (HEIght)’, led by UCLan and funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Higher Education Institutions (HEI): Innovation Capacity Building for Higher Education, which aims to boost the entrepreneurial and innovation capacity of HEIs and in turn, benefit the communities in which they operate.

Through HEIght, the University will work with colleagues and students based at its Cyprus campus, alongside the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology and Özyeğin University in Turkey. All will foster the same entrepreneurial approach and will share complementary knowledge and skills across the consortium.

Professor Sue Smith, director of the Centre for SME Development and Propeller Student Enterprise Service, is leading the project.

She said: “Universities such as UCLan and our partners are a major source of the skills and knowledge that drive growth and innovation in our local and regional economies.

“Through the HEIght project we will advance institutional innovation potential whilst developing the skills and competencies of our students, so they are measurably more entrepreneurial, resilient and employable. This will result in a more dynamic workforce throughout partner communities.”

UCLan will implement a ‘train the trainer’ approach to its staff development so that staff piloting the scheme, from the Lancashire School of Business and Enterprise and School of Arts and Media, can take part in the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE) leaders’ programme to further advance the entrepreneurial culture of UCLan. This may be through sharing research findings in a way that benefits the local community, finding new ways to help local SMEs or developing a new student support strategy.

Professor Chris Pyke, executive dean of the Lancashire School of Business and Enterprise, said: “Enterprise and innovation are embedded in everything we do as a School and leading on the HEIght project will allow us to develop our students’ entrepreneurial skills even further.

“This will not only benefit them as individuals, but also spur on the institution as a whole and allow us to make a bigger difference and contribution to the region and our partners.”

Students will have access to free online training on enterprise skills developments and start-ups through Propeller, UCLan’s business start-up support team, as well as the chance to become ‘Game Changers’ and use the available resources and network links to implement changes around issues they are passionate about, such as climate change.

UCLan’s first change agent, Elinor Collins (BA (Hons) Religion, Culture and Society) said: "It presents an amazing opportunity for students to realise their own power in making change happen.

“Students are increasingly socially aware, and Game Changers gain new skills and perspectives, joining others to work on current issues that matter, whether that be on campus or in the local community.

“The opportunity offers students the chance for their university experience to really stand out, professionally and personally."

Dr François Nel, reader in media innovation and entrepreneurship at UCLan, will be undertaking action research into how universities can spur on innovation across the whole of their organisations. He said: “This project recognises the hard work we’ve been doing at UCLan to amplify our culture of innovation. This trans-national project is a fantastic opportunity to further develop our activities and research – and increase their impact.”

Abrar Ali Saiyed, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and management at the Graduate School of Management, Özyeğin University, added: "This project helps in creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem for the international students through training, mentoring, and supporting international students for entrepreneurship.

“Working with three reputed partners also gives an opportunity to learn from them. This project will have a long-lasting impact in Turkey and many countries might later replicate this model."