By Omkar Singh
The place where ideas turn into reality
The following article contains a discussion by Omkar Singh, current VP of the Business and Law Faculty, about the idea to launch a ‘Business Incubation Centre’ available for student access. After joining ARU for a mere few months he decided to run in the Student Elections in March 2020, obtaining a winning spot as an officer and an enormous amount of votes.
This initiative is part of one of his new campaigns.
What exactly is an Incubation Centre in relation to business & study?
Today’s university students want more than academic degrees. They aim to launch businesses, develop new products and start social movements. ‘Incubation Centre’ is an idea sharing platform and networking space inside of a university apart from classrooms, libraries and the Students’ Union. This centre would focus on connecting students from all departments and courses under one roof. It should be equipped with all requirements to support student-led start-ups or existing businesses. Connecting local businesses and providing working desks, the centre’s do not only nurture students to start their dream ventures but they also create equal opportunities for internships and placements after graduation.
What is the Importance of an Incubation centre at University?
Providing a full-fledged accessible incubation centre to budding or aspiring entrepreneurs allows a space to grow the seeds of entrepreneurship, develop a broader sense of community and to enhance student employability prospects. During university years, students encounter a bombardment of new thoughts, opinions and ideas; I believe that, if these ideas are cultivated among an appropriate motivational environment, they can lead to great things both in terms of commercial success as well as personal success and fulfilment.
It would be amazing for us, as a university, to expand on the innovation which is already present. Having business societies, The Big Pitch and many other entrepreneurial activities on campus already depicts the zeal of innovation among the ARU students, but I feel we can always thrive for more.
The ARU Incubation centre would have the following departments/sections:
Workstation/co-working space: This is a working space provided to selected start-up ventures. It includes the infrastructure which is required for the entity to grow and work.
Stationary section and basic kitchen: This area attached to the workstation includes the stationary requirements like printers, papers, etc. and the kitchen area might include a coffee machine, microwave and kettle.
Technology support: Depending on the nature of a business, start-ups may require tech support which includes web development, app development, cloud services or any IT related requirements. Hence, this space will be the hub of all tech related requirements at one place.
Legal Dept.: This roof will be for the legal proceedings of the business. This includes services like registering a company (based on companies act) and handling queries, or workshops and presentations about tackling legalities of the entity. This roof will also be responsible for developing ethics in business.
Investment panel: Once the Incubation centre is set to launch, we will bring other external bodies to support the new ventures such as angle investors and venture capitalists (they are private equity investors, investing in start-ups).
Expert panel: This place is the hub of involvement and interaction between students and experts (might be university faculty or external body to a certain level), but preferably inside university experts.
Events and Activities: This area will cover the workshops, seminars, webinars, presentations or talks. Any activities related to the centre which involves gathering.
Local Business hub. : This can also be named as The Business Hub. The objective of this space is to connect our partner companies or associate companies; the point of connection to all of the stakeholders.
Admin: This area is the official admin point where the university will handle functioning related to the incubation centre. No one other than authorised staff are given access to use this space.
Library: A mini library filled with business related articles, newspapers, books and magazines as well as digital access to recorded talks, documentaries and, potentially, access to paid softwares.
Conference room: This is a space for small meetings.
Networking area: This is the centric space for networking and socialising.
Alumni Support: Connecting ARU alumni with our existing students!
How will the incubation centre benefit students?
To follow are some bullet points which detail a few of the numerous benefits which would be brought about by the introduction of the ARU Business Incubation Centre.
Start up support:
It can be seen from above that the whole incubation centre is planned in a way to support students in starting their own ventures. Workstations, networking spaces and interdepartmental support can assist the growth of an idea into becoming a successful business entity. Tie-ups with large firms and local businesses will also play a prominent role in supporting the start-ups.
Collaboration with other course students:
If like-minded students are given a platform irrespective of their course of study to exchange knowledge under one roof, this will give birth to innovative ideas. This is something which lacks in our university and the incubation centre would serve as a solution.
Networking is vital in business! Helping our students to make the right connections and to assist in building the foundations of their future should be a priority for all of us here with a voice. It shall also help students to gain access to placements and internships.
Local companies connect:
We aim to connect with the local companies in and around Cambridge and also in Chelmsford. These can be any firm operating at commercial level irrespective of the sector of operation. It will give students a platform to interact with them and to closely work in their projects. Indeed, it shall also be an opportunity for students to closely watch the working structure in real time.
Seminars / webinars:
Conducting seminars and webinars with company experts on various topics from science and arts to business will provide a huge source of knowledge to students, helping them to understand real life challenges that may arise from a variety of directions.
Inviting alumni and connecting them to our existing students through the incubation centre will boost students’ engagement and enhance their support system.
‘I have already contacted the ARU student alumni group and have also got in touch with those who are literally owning ventures. I have requested them to provide a space on the alumni blog to connect with current students. I’m working on it’– Omkar Singh to Ciéra Cree in a discussion
Access to online certification courses:
Having support available to students who wish to complete online certificates will allow them to boost their CV’s and to expand their knowledge on chosen areas of study within the field.
Some research into incubation centres in other UK universities
SETsquared is a unique enterprise partnership and a dynamic collaboration between the five leading research-led UK universities: Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey. Ranked as the Global No. 1 Business Incubator, they provide a wide range of highly acclaimed support programmes to help turn ideas into thriving businesses.
Key point: SETsquared
Since launching in 2002, they have supported over 4,000 entrepreneurs, helping them to raise a £1.8bn investment.
Independent research carried out by Warwick Economics has estimated that the economic impact of SETsquared supported companies to £8.6bn, with the creation of 20,000 jobs. By 2030 this is set to grow to £26.9bn.
This incubator has been in operation since 2011 and has:
• Taken in over 80 start-up ventures ranging from the medical domain to social media data analysis
• Has supported and worked with them on product development and initial commercial traction
• Has supported incubator ventures in attracting over $70 million from a range of public and private sources.
Business giants supporting start-ups through associations with Incubators
Google for Entrepreneurs operates six Campus spaces and partners with dozens of hubs to bring people together, to connect them with others and to help launch great start-ups
Tools Google provide for budding ventures: please follow this link.
Thank you so much for reading. You can join this campaign and be a part of ARU’s first Business Incubation Center by sending me your joining interest on any of my social media accounts. You can also share a video message with the hashtag #ARUInnovation or message/tag my social media accounts (links are below) to share your opinion.
There is also a quick four-question survey available here! I would really appreciate hearing your feedback in regards to this campaign.
Images: Body image credits can be found in their individual citations. Featured image by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash.