Elevator lifts business in Dundee

10th August 2018

University of Dundee have entered into a unique partnership with Elevator for the joint creation of Dundee City’s first Centre of Entrepreneurship to support entrepreneurs with everything they need on their business journey.

We asked Andy Campbell, who heads up the Accelerator Programme for Elevator and who was instrumental in establishing the centre, and Brian McNicoll, who leads the Centre of Entrepreneurship at University of Dundee, to tell us a bit more about what it means for the City of Discovery.

Why open the Centre of Entrepreneurship in Dundee?

Brian McNicoll: At the core of some of the most buoyant and prosperous cities around the globe lies a strong entrepreneurial heartbeat and eco-system. In some places this happens organically, in others it is created. Elevator is a not for profit, social enterprise, who believe that every city should have a central focus for enterprise. A destination within easy reach that acts as a beacon for entrepreneurship.

Dundee is undergoing its most significant transformation in recent years. The foundations are being laid for the future economic success of the city and region. Enterprise, new business start-ups and existing company scale-ups will play a critical role in the continued reinvention of the area.

Enterprise and entrepreneurial thinking needs to be embedded within education. Exposure to entrepreneurial processes and methodologies can inspire both students and staff alike to explore their business ideas. The University of Dundee has its eyes firmly set on being recognised as the most entrepreneurial university in Scotland in the near future.

In its search for entrepreneurial excellence, the University of Dundee have entered into a unique partnership with Elevator for the joint creation of Dundee City’s first Centre of Entrepreneurship dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs with everything that they will need on their business journey. This partnership has seen the University of Dundee become the first academic institution in Scotland to have a bespoke business accelerator, designed, created and hosted on campus. The vision is to create and support an entrepreneurial and enterprising culture in Dundee which will positively contribute to the area’s economic health and job creation.

Why locate it in the heart of University of Dundee?

Brian: Uniquely, the Centre of Entrepreneurship is open access and available to anyone in the Tay Cities area and beyond, it is therefore important that it is centrally located, easily accessible and also being on campus can facilitate relationships with the university’s leading academic research, facilities and expertise. Building on Dundee’s global reputation for design innovation and research (UNESCO City of Design, V&A Museum of Design Dundee) the facility will be one of the first entrepreneurial centres in the world that will capitalise on a design-led approach for the way that start-up and scale-up businesses will be guided. 

The centre is working with key discipline specific partners (Interface, Henderson Loggie, Fairways HR, Dentons, Clark Thomson and Murgitroyd) to provide expert assistance to the entrepreneurs going through the centre whilst ensuring the support we offer is complementary to the other activity that is being delivered in the entrepreneurial ecosystem across Scotland and to also utilise best-practice.

So how does it fit with the rest of Elevator’s offering?

Andy Campbell: Accelerator identifies companies with innovation at their centre.

We offer a broad suite of business support mechanisms for businesses to meet challenges head on and secure opportunities. The businesses we support can be part of a far wider entrepreneurial ecosystem. Programmes like Accelerator work with a small cohort of companies to deliver a bespoke package of support.

The Business Gateway side of what we do supports 2,500 businesses a year, who are assigned a business adviser and given a lot of really useful support such as business planning and marketing.  

What are its ambitions for businesses in Dundee?

Andy: We have our first cohort for university staff, students and alumni at the moment – we take 10-20 companies at any one time. We want to increase the level of spin-outs from university and the number of businesses in Dundee and we want to see a very impactful approach in terms of the economy and jobs creation.

Are there other similar initiatives planned with other universities?

Andy: The centre in Dundee is collaborative and inclusive – we have students from Dundee and Angus College and Abertay University. In Aberdeen we have a summer programme with the University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon’s University and North East Scotland College. We will see Elevator grow the number of Accelerator programmes it runs and partnerships will be repeated in other towns and cities. We have been speaking with a number of respected, recognised educational institutions who like the approach we have taken in Dundee, and they would like something similar.

Any advice for businesses which want to collaborate with academics?

Brian: It is important for businesses to properly communicate the expertise or knowledge that they are needing access to and also why they need it. They need to try and understand how a potential project can have benefit for the academic as well in terms of their research outputs and teaching. The business also needs to be realistic in what can be achieved, particularly in the beginning where a smaller project can help build the working relationship that can lead onto a bigger project on the future once there have been successful outputs and an effective working relationship has been established.

Lorna Watson, Business Engagement Executive at Interface, has been involved with Elevator in a number of ways, from taking part in a “boot camp” to helping choose people going into the Accelerator programme and giving feedback on presentations to supporting the cohort members during and after their Accelerator journey.

Lorna’s colleague Gary Hogan has recently backed the #NoWrongPath campaign supported by Interface and Elevator UK.

If you would like further information on the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Elevator or accessing academic support please contact us.