University of Edinburgh students serve up record 100 start-ups in one year

University of Edinburgh students and recent graduates have launched exactly 100 start-ups in a single year for the first time – the highest number ever recorded among its peers.

The milestone comes despite many students having been absent from campus in the latest academic year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the 2020-21 total is higher than any institution in the Russell Group of 24 leading UK universities has previously recorded.

The milestone was marked at a Covid-safe celebration at the university’s Student Enterprise Hub.

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Of the 100 start-ups, 43 were founded by women, and 21 define themselves as social enterprises. What’s more, 45 were launched by current or recent undergraduate students, and the rest by postgraduates.

From left: Professor Peter Mathieson; Edinburgh Innovations CEO George Baxter; Collin Powers of tennis tech firm EllyraCEO; and Edinburgh Innovations student enterprise manager Lorna Baird. Picture: Maverick Photo Agency.

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The university said that since it in 1967 debuted its first spin-out company – Reynolds Medical – its staff and students have founded more than 800 companies. The number has also more than doubled in the past three years alone.

Inventions launched by the university’s student entrepreneurs during 2020-21 include artificial intelligence-based virtual-reality software for tennis players and coaches; a health-research app that tracks people’s mood; a robotic system to sort waste for recycling; and a grip-assist glove to help people live independently.

Professor Peter Mathieson, principal and vice-chancellor of the university, said: “Reaching this impressive milestone of 100 student start-ups in a year of lockdown and restrictions truly demonstrates the entrepreneurial spirit of our students.

The milestone is described as 'truly' showing the entrepreneurial spirit of the university's students. Picture: Maverick Photo Agency.

“I know peer support is a big feature among these company founders, which is doubly impressive in these difficult times. I wish all our entrepreneurs every success with their enterprises, many of which are aiming to tackle important societal needs.”

Entrepreneurial students and staff receive free support from Edinburgh Innovations, the university’s commercialisation service. Support includes one-to-one business advice, access to mentoring networks, accelerator programmes and a calendar of enterprise events and competitions.

Lorna Baird, student enterprise manager at Edinburgh Innovations, said: “The rising number of young people turning their creative ideas into new products and services gives us all grounds for hope for the future.

“At Edinburgh Innovations we’re proud of all our company founders and proud to support them as they begin what we hope will be a long and fruitful journey.”

Collin Powers, founder of start-up company Ellyra, is behind virtual reality tennis training software. Ellyra is developing technology allowing anyone to access coaching, competitions, and a sports community, regardless of location, income or ability.

Assistance

He launched his company in 2020 shortly after graduating, and help the US citizen has received includes visa support to remain in the UK as an entrepreneur.

Mr Powers said: “Edinburgh Innovations has been instrumental in helping me on my entrepreneurial journey. The Student Enterprise Hub has been critical in growing my business as I can brainstorm with other entrepreneurs, be part of a community, and get instant feedback on what my company and I are doing in a constructive way.”

Start-ups in this year’s cohort received funds from schemes including Unlocking Ambition and Smart:Scotland, and won awards at Converge Challenge, Scottish Edge, and other national competitions.

Companies launched by the university’s students and staff have been supported by venture capital and other investors, and provisional figures for the year to July 31 show that £47.5 million was invested in its start-ups and spin-outs.

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