A culture of business engagement

Robust business networks help keep the wheels of commerce turning. In common with other organisations of quality, the University values its productive partnerships and works hard to maintain relationships that allow us to promote economic development and regional regeneration. Our network is strong; the results speak for themselves.

A shared vision

Evidence of the University’s shared ambition to realise greater economic growth within the region were boosted in 2010 by the formation of an innovative alliance between the University, the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, City of Wolverhampton College, Wolverhampton City Council and Business Link West Midlands.

Believed to be the first of its kind in the country, the Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre delivers integrated services to help businesses improve their competitiveness, and to assist job and wealth creation across the region. The Centre acts as a one-stop-shop for start-up and existing businesses of any size wishing to access services from these trusted and accredited organisations. Since its launch last year, the Centre has provided advice and business services to over 1,000 enquirers.

Centre of attention

Through shared expertise, the University is enabling innovators to turn product ideas into commercial opportunities. The impressive credentials of our groundbreaking Caparo Innovation Centre were recognised at the Lord Stafford Awards. Taking the prize in the ‘Open Collaboration’ category, judges praised the collaborative culture of the Centre, which is not only a joint venture between the Caparo Group and the University of Wolverhampton, but also involves third party inventors in the development of products.

Based at Wolverhampton Science Park, the Centre has helped more than 800 inventors assess the viability of their ideas as well as taking a number of different inventions through to market. It is staffed by a team of product and business development professionals covering a range of engineering, marketing, design and business skills.

Tough competition

In June 2010, a University supported company – Tough Furniture Ltd – picked up a prestigious business award. The company scooped the accolade for Technology, Enterprise and Innovation at the Shropshire Business Awards for its range of durable furniture, designed specifically for demanding environments such as hostels and hospitals.

The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) team at the University of Wolverhampton worked with Tough Furniture on a two-year project. Tough Furniture was able to use the skill of a product design graduate; access University facilities including rapid prototyping; and gain further support via a mentor within the School of Art & Design.

The University is delighted to have contributed towards their success, and that of many other companies in the region who have benefited from its highly successful KTP programme. KTPs form a vital part of the University’s business engagement activity and Wolverhampton is currently the top provider in the country for the amount of programmes delivered.

Accelerated results

A recession-busting initiative led by the University of Wolverhampton celebrated a successful first year. The Student Placements for Entrepreneurs in Education West Midlands (SPEED WM) programme gives students the opportunity to set up their own business while they are still at university. The SPEED WM programme at the University has already assisted 305 individuals with guidance on employability including self-employment and entrepreneurship, and has helped create 55 new businesses across the region, resulting in 79 new jobs.

Students from all subjects are encouraged to pitch their business ideas to a Dragon’s Den style panel, resulting in a range of new companies including photography, glass design, welding and even midwife training. SPEED WM is a £5.2 million project, run by the University’s Institute for Innovation & Enterprise.

The University of Wolverhampton also manages the project regionally for other partner institutions, which are the Universities of Birmingham, Birmingham City, Coventry, Keele, Staffordshire, Worcester and Aston.

Model student

In 2010, the entrepreneurial flair of University of Wolverhampton postgraduate student, Waqas Baggia, inspired the next set of young entrepreneurs. Waqas, who is currently participating in the University’s SPEED WM programme, was given a unique opportunity to share his experiences of launching a business at the G20 Young Entrepreneur Summit.

Waqas was named one of the Future 100 Young Social Entrepreneurs in 2009 and is a Director of Kreative Iron, a digital media design and development company which he established with fellow student Zee-shan Chaudhry. The University is confident that its initiatives to promote enterprise amongst its students will result in many more outstanding role models of Waqas’s calibre.

Emerging talent

Following in the footsteps of Waqas Baggia is Shaun Gurmin, who was named as one of the Future 100 Young Entrepreneurs of the Year 2010. Shaun, another successful product of the University’s SPEED WM programme, is studying Business Management at the University of Wolverhampton Business School.

The Future 100 Awards profile young entrepreneurs aged 18-35 who demonstrate entrepreneurial flair and innovation in developing a responsible business venture. Shaun is founder and Managing Director of student social enterprise CHARGE, which aims to improve students’ networking, work experience and their CVs.