Anne Fraser: There’s nowhere like Scotland for start-ups to get a leg-up

Pic Greg Macvean - 03/08/2013 - Edinburgh Fringe / Festival street performers on the Royal Mile - performers from the show The Peculiar Tale of Pablo Picasso and the Mona Lisa showing at The Space on Niddry Street
Pic Greg Macvean - 03/08/2013 - Edinburgh Fringe / Festival street performers on the Royal Mile - performers from the show The Peculiar Tale of Pablo Picasso and the Mona Lisa showing at The Space on Niddry Street
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As we come to the end of the Edinburgh Festival, the world’s largest international cultural and arts festival, there is no better time to highlight the incredible international contribution that we see every day here in Scotland’s businesses and research industry.

Everyone knows and recognises Edinburgh as a hub of international cultural celebration during the month of August, but how many know about the amazing opportunities that we cultivate right here in Scotland for entrepreneurs, innovators and researchers?

Anne Fraser is RSE Awards Manager

Anne Fraser is RSE Awards Manager

Scotland’s strong, nurturing ecosystem supports and accelerates world-class research and entrepreneurship amongst academics through a variety of different programmes and initiatives. Scotland can provide academic entrepreneurs from overseas with access to a skilled labour force, business growth advice and to early stage risk capital, while a cluster of spin-out and start-up companies are a readily available source of peer mentoring and advice.

In recent years there has been a boom in Scottish start-ups: in 2015, the number rose by 7 per cent compared to the national UK average of 4 per cent and in 2016, Edinburgh won the title of British Entrepreneurial City of the Year. These recent achievements truly showcase the nation’s appetite and ability to provide a home for innovative businesses and new ideas.

Whilst Scotland can offer a variety of benefits for start-ups, the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Scotland’s National Academy, has an enviable record in cultivating, nurturing and supporting academics, both in research activities and in entrepreneurship.

The RSE’s prestigious Enterprise Fellowship Programme has been in operation for more than 20 years, leading to the development of businesses in a wide range of fields, from tidal energy generation and insect repellents, to sustainable food and drink snacks, and innovations to support sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease.

Since its establishment in 1997, the RSE Enterprise Fellowship Programme has supported more than 240 enterprise fellowships, including aspiring entrepreneurs from countries around the globe such as Greece, China, Namibia, Nigeria, Canada, Russia, Mexico, Korea and Iran.

Support for these 240 individuals has led to more than 160 businesses being created in Scotland and the UK. Those who have been awarded an RSE Enterprise Fellowship have secured over £130 million in both private and public funding, a huge boost to the Scottish and UK economies; and for every £1 spent on the programme, £3.45 is generated for these economies.

We are proud to be able to support so many international academics and researchers by providing them and their companies with the tools and expertise they need to develop and grow their business.

In addition to providing opportunities for entrepreneurs from around the UK and overseas, the RSE has successfully helped to support businesses to secure global reach and break into international markets.

In 2016, former Enterprise Fellow Abesh Thakur sold his audio company Two Big Ears Ltd to Facebook. Enterprise Fellow alumni David Hunter of Shot Scope, which builds wearable devices that help ­golfers track their performance, is targeting a breakthrough in the US market, appearing at golfing events and competitions in the UK and US after raising £1.6million in investment in 2017.

In 2014, Enterprise Fellow alumni Liita-Iyaloo Cairney’s company Kalitasha Ltd has developed innovative solutions for the global market in menstrual hygiene products and has trialled them in Kenya, the UK, Tanzania and her home country Namibia.

Amongst the leading business development programmes, the RSE is taking Scottish business and research from strength to strength, building a culture and network of innovative, international and successful start-ups.

In that context, we were particularly delighted to recently partner with the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise under the Scotland CAN Do initiative to launch the Unlocking Ambition Challenge, with the Enterprise Fellowships forming one half of the programme. These Fellowships encourage the establishment of businesses in Scotland, including by international students who have chosen to study in Scotland at both undergraduate and post graduate level.

Applications are now open for the next round of Scottish Enterprise-funded RSE Enterprise Fellowships with a deadline of 31 October. The RSE is excited to welcome even more talented, innovative individuals into the prestigious programme.

Testimonial from one of our former RSE Enterprise Fellows, Belgian-born Corien Staels, founder of Staels Designs Ltd, and creator of WheelAIR, an innovative wheelchair backrest cushion, sums up the 
benefits of the programme.

He said: “After going through ­several years of business studies at university, and the start-up crash courses given by Scottish business competitions, I was afraid the RSE Fellowship wouldn’t teach me too many new things. I could not have been more wrong. The Fellowship’s classes were tailored to what support we really needed and covered especially the things you don’t learn in business school, complemented by one-to-one mentorship. Being surrounded by such inspiring Fellows and mentors helped me change from a one-product, one-person entity into a successful multi-product strategy company with a real outlook to the future.”

Find out more by visiting www.therse.org.uk and following #EFRSE2018 on social media.

Awards manager Anne Fraser has been managing the RSE Enterprise Fellowship Programme since its conception in 1997.