Student innovation front-and-centre at ULSB

Entrepreneur and Masters student Joe Hopkinson launches his Book a Driving Instructor app later this month.

Student innovation was thrust into the spotlight at a special event designed by University of Leicester School of Business (ULSB) entrepreneurs on Friday.

Students from the Entrepreneurship and Innovation MSc programme worked with experts from the Leicester Innovation Hub to highlight the support available for new and existing businesses in Leicester.

Workshops gave students the chance to experience the support on offer through funding, coaching and other opportunities, while members of the local business community were on hand to showcase what they can offer through project-working, partnerships, placements and job offers.

During the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic – and despite the city spending more than 150 days in lockdown – Leicester saw a 72% increase in new business registrations, accounting for one new business for every 66 people.

Entrepreneur and Masters student Joe Hopkinson, founder of the Book a Driving Instructor app set to launch later this month, said: “A couple of years ago, when I was completing my undergrad in Computer Science here at Leicester, I was trying to get started in setting up my business – but it was only when I came back to University last September that I became aware of all the support networks that are here in Leicester.

“Talking to people and building your network is key to any business. I’ve tried to speak to as many people as I can both at the University and elsewhere about my business, and every time you speak to someone, you come up with new ideas, or explore a different avenue. Getting that different viewpoint is really important to any new business.

“It’s great to see so many people interested in coming along to find out more, and I’m glad to be able to have helped bring people together. Even if just one person gets benefit from it, then the work will have been worthwhile.”

Rory Underwood MBE (left) with a group of students and entrepreneurs.

Former England rugby star Rory Underwood MBE, now a successful business growth consultant through his company Wingman Ltd, was on hand to offer advice to the group. He explained: “Setting up a business is a challenge. There’s always been support around, but there’s so much more now. Being aware of that support on offer is key to any new business, but the landscape can be difficult to navigate.

“Building a network for your start-up business can be a daunting prospect, but in speaking to the students here, it’s clear that there are some really bright ideas.

“Networking is the most important aspect for a new business. If I could go back to when I was a young man, before I set up Wingman, I would have told myself to get out there and to use my time getting to know the people who can help you take that next step.”

Other speakers included representatives from Innovate UK, the Sir Thomas White Loan Charity, Leicester’s Business Gateway Growth Hub, Leicester City Council, and the University’s own career development specialists.

Tobias Gould, Business Innovation Fellow within the Leicester Innovation Hub, added: “We like to give each of our monthly Innovation Fridays a different theme – today has been all about handing over to the students to design the event with the goal of showing student entrepreneurs why Leicester is such a great place for starting a business.

“Brainstorming about business ideas is inherently exciting. Even with all the time that I spend with students around helping them to explore enterprise, it is still so exciting to see these ideas come about, and to help people explore and make the most of them.”

Leicester Innovation Hub works closely with industry partners to accelerate innovation by turning great research and business ideas into innovative products, services and processes.

Rajinder Bhuhi, Innovation Hub Manager, has been driving the forward opportunities that are helping the City and region develop its strong start-up ecosystem, and make it a great place to launch scale and growth start-ups. She added:

“Our students and graduates can become a member of our Leicester start-ups incubation community, whilst working on a business idea and have access to workspaces and hot-desking at the Leicester Innovation Hub, ULSB and Space Park Leicester.”

Through the Leicester Innovation Accelerator, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Innovation Hub experts offer heavily subsidised innovation and incubation support for qualifying small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and recent graduates looking to start and develop a new business

To find out more about support provided by the Leicester Innovation Hub for student and graduate entrepreneurs, email, call 0116 373 6471, or visit the Leicester Innovation Hub website.