Scotland has long been associated with invention, and entrepreneurs are more vital than ever to the nation’s economy.
It’s therefore encouraging that, today, there are many forms of support available for start-ups and growing businesses.
One such example is the Centre of Entrepreneurship in Dundee. Located on campus at the University of Dundee, it was formed over a year ago in partnership with Elevator – a social enterprise supporting leaders and encouraging entrepreneurship, start-ups and growth - the university and other key partners.
The centre has attracted high-profile visitors, including endurance cyclist Mark Beaumont BEM, who officially opened it, and high-profile entrepreneur Peter Jones, one of the ‘dragons’ from TV’s ‘Dragons’ Den’.
The centre accommodates Dundee’s first Elevator Accelerator programme which supports ambitious, innovation-led businesses.
Brian McNicoll, head of centre of entrepreneurship at the Dundee centre, says:” My role is to encourage staff, students and graduates to learn enterprising skills, so they can take business ideas forward.
“First and foremost, the environment at the centre is a brilliant place in which to work with lots going on. The partnership with Elevator is working really well. It’s giving the university a whole catalogue of business support, knowledge and experience to tap into.”
Andy Campbell, Accelerator manager in Dundee, explains: “The programme is designed to support what we term innovation-driven enterprises. We’re looking for companies that are not only capable of growth, but also scale, and of making an economic impact.”
Elevator’s accelerator programme works with entrepreneurs who are based for 12 weeks at the centre to ensure their concept is validated, helping them to develop into operational businesses. Participants receive support law firm Dentons, Henderson Loggie on accountancy, Fairways on HR, Jelf Clark Thomson on insurance, as well as advice on how to protect valuable assets from global intellectual property (IP) specialist, Murgitroyd.
Such advice helps start-ups get over the commonly-held misconception that IP is something for larger businesses. As Wendy Crosby, director of patents and head of designs group at Murgitroyd in Aberdeen, explains: “Often people think ‘Patents, trade marks and designs are not for me, I don’t have to think about them until I’m a big business and I’ve got a lot of money’. But IP is really important to them.”
Campbell says: “We see Murgitroyd in the centre at Dundee on a regular basis. We involve them in the selection process for Accelerator, and in review points throughout the programme. We also invite them to provide workshops, seminars and one-to-one sessions for founders.”
Crosby describes the programme as one of the favourite things she participates in, explaining: “Each group going through Elevator brings something different to the table. In over 30 years of being a patent attorney, I still get so excited and enthusiastic about people coming up with new ideas any of which could be a real gamechanger.”
She runs an IP masterclass at the centre. “I point out to people what can go wrong but also help them find ways to prevent that happening. Sometimes it’s really simple, such as checking the company or product name they have chosen isn’t already registered.”
McNicoll says Murgitroyd also supports University of Dundee students and staff going through its extra-curricular Enterprise Challenge programme which accommodates up to 70 participants each semester.
Crosby runs IP workshops during the challenge and is on the judging panel for a ‘Dragons’ Den style pitching competition run as part of the programme. “Being a judge is a fantastic opportunity to give something back to the local community, and the person standing in front of you could be the next entrepreneur we’re all going to know about in 10 or 15 years’ time.”
And Murgitroyd runs Innovator Launchpad, a competition that encourages early start-ups to apply for a funding package to help with the likes of IP.
Budding businesses around Tayside and beyond are fortunate in having such a wealth of support to draw on at the Dundee centre which has more exciting initiatives planned, such as the University’s public-facing Entrepreneurship Week packed with workshops, talks and seminars which will run from 25 February to 1 March 2019, culminating in its staff, student and recent graduate £25,000 Venture pitching competition.