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FSE Researcher Development Blog

Report: Manchester Enterprise School 2017

Manchester Enterprise School took place during the first week of July 2017 for 35 postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers in Bowness in the Lake District – for the ninth consecutive year. Aimed at equipping those researchers with the skills to start a business, it was an intensive week of testing the feasibility of a business idea which solved a social problem in the Lake District.

The students made a fast start to the week networking with colleagues on the coach from Manchester and then straight out into Bowness, next to Lake Windermere to observe the types of business, the potential customers in the area and began to understand the problems and opportunities that might be present in the local environment. Students were put into groups based on the problems they were interested in – including tourism, seasonality, water engineering, transport, brain drain to cities and being close to the nuclear industry. They were helped by tutors from Manchester Enterprise Centre and the Faculty of Science and Engineering with an emphasis on the practical.

As well as briefings by tutors on various topics such as strategy, finance, IP and market research, students went out into Bowness speaking to people on the streets and in businesses to test their ideas – who were often quick to give their clear opinions! Students were also using market research and intellectual property databases and looking for suitable sources of funding using a large searchable system of live funders.

Whilst working up their ideas they were visited by three young entrepreneurs who gave feedback as well as describing their own journeys. San Tou (LDM Group), George Konsta (Social Growth) and Amy Win (4Lunch) participated in a “Speed Networking” session visiting each group in turn to give some fast and direct feedback for groups to act on. Work was also done in the evening by the highly motivated students, but there was also some time for relaxation with a hill walk to the vantage point of Brantfell where the whole length of Windermere could be seen, and of course various local pubs including the Hole in T`Wall (with its stuffed animals).

The six groups gave a 5 minute pitch to the judging panel with questions following with the winning pitch aiming to turn food waste into fertiliser. Other innovative ideas included harvesting lake rain water to produce locally branded bottled water and an app to locate child friendly activities and businesses for families.

During the course students also stretched their experience and understanding of successful collaboration and teamwork.  They rounded off the course with a practical reflective session, finishing with personal action plans on postcards from the Lakes, which they will receive in the post in three months.

Previous follow ups have found that most students end up using their new skills when they return to their work environment and some each year end up starting a business upon leaving the university. It is hoped this will run for a 10th time next year.

For more details please contact Dr Robert A. Phillips (Robert.phillips@manchester.ac.uk)

More and photos from the event can be found on Twitter #MCREnt17 and @DrRobPhillips

Posted on behalf of Robert A. Phillips, Manchester Enterprise Centre