The University of Hull and entrepreneurs – a partnership working wonders

The University of Hull and entrepreneurs – a partnership working wonders

Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable MP described it as “unique” and “pioneering”; HRH The Duke of York liked it so much he said he would connect it to his own business networks; and now this highly successful partnership has been shortlisted in the Guardian University Awards 2014


The University of Hull’s special relationship with local entrepreneurs is the talk of the town. The group For Entrepreneurs Only (FEO) comprises 100 of Hull and East Riding’s leading entrepreneurs. They have a joint turnover of £1.5billion and employ 8,000 people. It established its offices in the University’s Enterprise Centre in April 2013.

Even before they physically moved into the Centre the entrepreneurs recognised the advantages of partnering with the University as an innovative driver of the radical economic change required in the region. The Director of the University’s Knowledge Exchange, which is located in its Enterprise Centre, worked closely with a number of the founding members and is a director of the organisation.

The relationship sits perfectly with the University’s strategic objective to be an ‘anchor institution’ within the community, “providing a valued source of intellectual and cultural leadership, raising educational aspirations and contributing significantly to economic and social redevelopment and growth.” (University Strategic Plan 2011-2015)

Dr Cable said on a special visit to Hull to see the partnership in action: “I have visited many parts of the country but I have never seen anything like this before. It is a unique structure... This pioneering group is real credit to the city and it is vital to Hull’s economy...”

Over the past 12 months FEO’s joint activities with the University have helped more than 500 entrepreneurs and start-up businesses. They provide a valuable ‘real world’ dimension to the University’s enterprise activity and have participated in joint events and workshops including:

  •  A flagship event ‘100 ways to grow your business’ held during the Humber Business Week, attracting more than 300 business people to the University’s Business School;
  • Monthly free clinics delivered to more than 50 individuals;
  • Strengthened connections with banks to find solutions to lending difficulties and sharing of best practice;
  • Provided time and expertise to students through guest lectures and extra-curricular events and workshops;
  • Acted as an expert consultative group to the University’s new Careers & Employability strategy;
  • Provided internship opportunities and advice to students on future job opportunities;
  • Held an entrepreneur ‘boot camp’ at the University, attracting an initial audience of around 100, leading to more detailed work on turning bright ideas into successful businesses.

Incubator units to help support start-ups and fledgling businesses are located in the University’s Enterprise Centre, with further specialist units available in the University’s Logistics Institute. More than 120 new businesses have been created through the Enterprise Centre since it was opened by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in December 2008. Its influence on enterprise activity in the region continues to grow and it contributes significantly to promoting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region. It is helping to cement the University’s position as an engaged ‘anchor institution’ within its communities and is a leading contributor to the University’s active relationship with the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Through this commitment the University also hosts (and chairs) Humber Port, an organisation comprising leading ports-based companies promoting the Humber – the UK’s busiest trading estuary – on the international stage. It is also working closely with the private sector to drive growth in new digital businesses through the building of a new Centre for Digital Innovation and was an active partner in the successful proposal for Hull to be named the UK City of Culture in 2017.

These attributes and relationships make the University of Hull and its Enterprise Centre a natural partner for FEO, whose distinctive activities complement the University’s own entrepreneurial approach. Ultimately, a shared passion for ensuring that local communities benefit from their global expertise drives these powerful partners to deliver a rich variety of unique opportunities to the region.

Professor Calie Pistorius is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hull, a post he has held since 1 September 2009. He is a member of the City Leadership Board in Hull, a director of the Humber Local Economic Partnership (LEP), Yorkshire Universities, Centre for Low Carbon Futures and The Deep

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