External partners

The Innovation Programmes bring together students from across 14 different subject disciplines to study innovation and entrepreneurship alongside their core discipline, whilst the MSc Innovation and Entrepreneurship takes graduates from their chosen discipline and helps them to convert their knowledge for innovation and startup.  We are also committed to supporting our students beyond graduation.  As one may imagine, an undertaking of this scale cannot be delivered alone.   

We connect every one of our students with industry professionals, employers, entrepreneurs and eco-system personnel to enable deeper engaged learning.  Some of most long-standing collaborators are detailed below, but a week at the Centre will not go by without a new face contributing to the Centre’s success.   

  • Will Dean

    Will Dean is the Founder and CEO of Tough Mudder Inc, a family of brands including Tough Mudder, a series of military-style obstacle courses. As of 2016, the company has hosted more than 2.5 million participants on three continents, achieved revenues over $100m and has raised more than $10 million for charity including over £2m for Help for Heroes in the UK. He has been named in Crain’s annual 40 Under 40 list, was included on Fortune’s 40 Under 40: Ones to Watch list, and received the US National EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Emerging Award. Dean is a graduate of Harvard Business School (MBA with Honors) and the University of Bristol (BSc First Class). Prior to founding Tough Mudder, he worked as a counter-terrorism officer at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He currently splits his time between London and New York.

  • Sahar Hashemi

    Sahar Hashemi started her career as a solicitor and then went on to start Coffee Republic, the UK’s first US style coffee bar chain with her brother and built it into one of the UK’s most recognised high street brands with 110 bars and a turnover of £30m. In 2005 she founded Skinny Candy, a brand of sugar free sweets which was sold to confectionery conglomerate Glisten PLC in 2007. She has published two books based on her experiences at Coffee Republic and beyond: Anyone Can Do It - Building Coffee Republic from Our Kitchen Table (2003) which is the second highest selling book on entrepreneurship in the UK. Switched On (2010) about entrepreneurial mindset in established companies.

    In 2011 Sahar was nominated by Director magazine as one of its Top 10 Original Thinkers. In June 2012 Sahar was awarded an OBE for services to the UK economy and to charity. She is an internationally recognised thought leader and speaker on innovation and entrepreneurship. She is a Law graduate of the University of Bristol (1988).

  • Paul Lindley

    Paul Lindley founded the organic baby and toddler food brand Ella’s Kitchen in 2006. Paul has achieved several Entrepreneur of the Year and Business Person of the Year awards, and in 2013 was awarded an honorary doctorate for his work on children’s health and entrepreneurship. Ella’s Kitchen is the UK’s No 1 baby food brand with a turnover of more than $100 million. The company is focused on purpose as well as profit and has been instrumental in leading a campaign on childhood hunger and obesity with its Averting a Recipe for Disaster project. Ella’s Kitchen was certified as one of the UK’s first B Corporations in 2016, validating its mission to use business as a force for good. In 2014 Paul co-founded a social business The Key is E with South Sudanese, ex child soldier and award winning hip hop artist Emmanuel Jal which uses education and entrepreneurship to empower and engage Africa’s brightest social entrepreneurs to build businesses that improve children’s lives. In 2015 Paul launched Paddy’s Bathroom, a brand of natural and organic toiletries for young children in the UK and US, that makes getting clean as fun as it was to get dirty, whilst also creating safe, clean water for children in Rwanda through its integrated Drop Buy Drop program. Paul is an ambassador for the Family and Childcare Trust, a Counsellor at One Young World, and a passionate, effective and vocal advocate for entrepreneurship, the evolution of capitalism so it better serves all of society and for children’s rights.

  • Stephen Gatfield

    Stephen Gatfield is a graduate of the University of Bristol. He has had an extensive career in the leadership of global marketing and media communications businesses. Stephen led strategy and innovation for S&P500 listed Interpublic Group, a major global marketing communications group that was an early stage investor in Facebook. He has been a serial investor and advisor to digital startups across the communication, media and gaming spectrum from data analytics, social media, online video and IoT games that have grown to support valuations in excess of $750 million. He is an adviser to Metamorphic Ventures an early stage fund that has invested in IndieGoGo, Tapad and Songza amongst others. Stephen is a director of Bristol-based Watershed Arts Trust and is active in the development of a number of Pervasive Media Studio startups that have graduated from Watershed. He is a founder investor and director of Sensible Objects, the creator of Fabulous Beasts that won the 2016 Indiecade technology award.

  • Tom Hulme

    Tom Hulme is a General Partner at GV (formerly Google Ventures). Prior to GV, Tom was a design director at IDEO Europe. He founded OpenIDEO, an open innovation platform where 100,000 users from more than 170 countries solve challenges for social good. Tom also launched OIEngine, a SaaS platform with clients including Harvard Business School and the Knight Foundation. Prior to IDEO, Tom was managing director of Marcos, a British sports car manufacturer and founded Magnom, a magnetic filter startup. Tom’s filter designs have been widely used in Formula One, superbikes, agricultural equipment, and central heating systems. Tom has also angel-invested in more than 20 companies, including as the founding investor in Mile IQ (sold to Microsoft). Tom has been recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and has been featured in WIRED UK’s Top 100 Digital Power Brokers list every year since the list was established. He has also been included in the Evening Standard list of London’s 1000 Most Influential People. Tom earned a first class bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Bristol, and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he received the Baker Scholar Award of high distinction. He also received an honorary doctorate from University of the Arts London.

  • Nick Wheeler

    Nick Wheeler is the founder and chairman of Charles Tyrwhitt Shirts. Whilst studying Geography at Bristol University Nicholas Charles Tyrwhitt Wheeler had the idea for Charles Tyrwhitt in 1986. He set out to make the best shirts, using only the finest materials, at great value and with unbeatable service. After a stint with strategy consultants Bain & Co, Nick went “full-time” in 1990. Financed by a foray into the classic car market, he started with 8 shirts and 8 ties in a single page leaflet. This led to the opening of a Jermyn Street shop in 1997, a website in 1998 and overseas expansion with a Paris store in 2001 and a New York store on Madison Avenue in 2003. The company continues to grow rapidly in the UK and internationally with sales of £185M in 2015. Nick is a non-executive director of The White Company and is married to its founder Chrissie Rucker. They have four children and live in Oxfordshire.

  • Dick Penny

    Dick Penny is Managing Director of Watershed, Bristol’s international centre for emergent practice in digital creativity working across the Cultural and Creative Industries as a catalyst and connector, innovating at the intersection of arts, technology and the city. Watershed is lead partner and host of the Pervasive Media Studio creative technologies collaboration with UWE and University of Bristol. Dick is passionate about creating the space for new creative ideas and new talent to flourish. Inter-disciplinary collaboration and diversity of participant are at the heart of his approach. He has been Chair of the Bristol BBC City Partnership, Chair of the West of England LEP Creative Sector Group and Bristol is Open, Executive Chair of Bristol Old Vic 2007-2010 and Chair of the Bristol Local Strategic Partnership 2009-2011. Since 1980 Dick has worked in the creative sector as producer, manager and consultant. Theatre producer credits include the World Premiere of "When the wind blows" adapted by Raymond Briggs from his book; Pete Postlethwaite in "Macbeth"; and two award winning one man shows: "Baglady" with Sorcha Cusack and "Scaramouche Jones" with Pete Postlethwaite. In 2010 he was delighted to receive honary doctorates from the Universities of Bristol and West of England, and in 2011 he received an MBE for services to the creative industries.

  • James Bidwell

    James Bidwell is the owner and CEO of Springwise, the world’s leading source of Innovation ideas. Established in 2002, and powered by 19,000 Springspotters, Springwise scans the globe to discover and share carefully curated, real time, real business, innovation and start up ideas. James has over 20 years experience in growing retail and tourism brands. Highlights include the turnaround and sale of Selfridges PLC as Marketing Director, the renaissance of London Tourism and laying the foundations for the Olympic legacy as CEO Visit London, the launch of Disneyland, Paris, and heading up the launch of Anthropologie in Europe as Managing Director. More recently James has led the transformation of smaller businesses with particular emphasis on digital growth. James is a keen advocate for the environment and for social change serving as an expert judge for the CSR category of the World Retail Congress Awards.

    View James' LinkedIn profile 

  • Julie Ellison

    Julie Ellison is an experienced third sector professional, business advisor and social entrepreneur. With over a decade of experience working in the third sector Julie has a strong track record of identifying and developing social business models and has gained deep insight into the needs of social entrepreneurs, social enterprises and the issues that impact their development. She is a certified executive coach, European Framework for Quality Management assessor, and accredited social enterprise business adviser. With a relevant knowledge in not-for-private-profit legal structures, sustainable business models and social impact measurement Julie brings a wealth of specialist knowledge grounded in the experience of supporting third sector organisations from start up to scale up, and through critical phases in their development. Julie is currently co-director of Social Enterprise Works.


  • Jenny Griffiths

    Jenny Griffiths (MBE) is the founder of Snap Fashion, a visual discovery engine for fashion that uses social media and retail catalogues as its sources. It was the first fashion focused visual search engine in Britain that let you take a photo of an item of clothing, in a magazine or in real life, and search for similar items from online retailers an idea she came up with while she studied Computer Science at Bristol University. She was listed as one of 30 under 30s for leading technology in Forbes Magazine in January 2016 and was given an MBE for services to digital innovation in the fashion industry in June 2015.

    View Jenny's LinkedIn profile

  • Tom Cridland

    Tom Cridland is a 25 year old designer with an eponymous international sustainable fashion brand, with customers on five continents. The 30 Year Sweatshirt, Tom Cridland's signature product, is also a sustainable fashion project in the form of a luxury sweatshirt that is so well made he backs it with a 30 Year Guarantee. The campaign encourages people to think about how they consume fashion and is leading a fashion industry trend to protecting our natural resources by making durable clothing. The 30 Year Sweatshirt has been featured across the international press, including NBC, CBS, BBC, ITV, CNBC, The Times, The Telegraph, Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, The Independent, The Guaridan, Sydney Morning Herald, Daily Star, Daily Mirror, Forbes, Fast Company, Esquire, Evening Standard, CityAM, The New York Time, El Pais, ABC, The Atlantic and The Huffington Post. Tom Cridland have also gone on to make clothing for the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Stiller, Rod Stewart, Hugh Grant and Daniel Craig.

    View Tom's website

  • Ben Organ

    Ben Organ has over 10 years experience running, managing and growing technology companies. He thrives on using technology to solve problems, being creative and innovating. Ben founded Nudge Digital 10 years ago whilst studying Computer Science at the University of Bristol. Nudge helps ambitious organisations achieve more using digital, they provide strategy, user experience, web development and mobile application development.

    View Ben's LinkedIn profile

  • Josh Bicknell

    Josh is the co-founder of Balloon Ventures. Balloon is a social enterprise that works across Asia, Africa and Latin America to support entrepreneurs grow from micro to SME. Balloon does this by recruiting international volunteers to support local entrepreneurs before investing capital in the most exciting ideas and helping them to grow. Balloon now works with the Governments, large companies like Citi, and universities across the world to scale this model. Josh is a Visiting Fellow at Cass Business School and has a BA from Bristol and MA from the University of British Columbia.

  • Nick Sturge Nick Sturge

    After graduating in Electronics with Computing and short spells in medtech startups, Nick joined Inmos, part of a global semiconductor business. From there he co-founded Motion Media Technology developing video communication equipment, listing on the London stock exchange in 2000 with a peak valuation of £270m.

    Nick grew the Bristol SETsquared business incubator, for high-tech, high-growth businesses to be ranked the world’s best university business incubator, in 2015, 2018 and 2019.

    In 2013, he founded Engine Shed, a collaboration between Bristol University and Bristol City Council, housing the re-located SETsquared Centre and other projects to drive in inclusive and sustainable scale-up ecosystem.

    Nick is an IoD Council member for the South West and joins the Board of Governors of Bath Spa University in September 2020. Awarded an MBE for services to the digital economy in 2019 he is now non-exec chair of a software business and freelance strategic adviser.

  • Ben Trewhella

    Ben Trewhella has started and run a number of fast growth technology companies in the fields of mobile, games and virtual reality. He is the CEO of the Opposable Group which develop games and virtual reality experiences, Opposable VR and Opposable Games. Opposable organise VR World Congress, which brings together the leading VR platforms, developers and investors to Bristol.  Ben co-founded the Bristol Games Hub, a not-for-profit that houses 50 games developers and a community of over 500 games designers around the SouthWest. In 2014 he was awarded the Individual Contribution to Technology Sparkie Award. He sits on the boards of The Next Gen Skills Academy, Bristol Media, and TechSPARK, and provides advice to tech startups in the South West. Previous to his current roles, Ben was co-founder and CTO of Mubaloo, a large mobile app development agency.

    View Ben's LinkedIn profile

  • Tom Carter

    Tom started exploring ultrasound technology during the final year of his Master’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Bristol. He further developed the initial concept to form the basis of his PhD studies, during which time he published numerous papers and filed various patents. Recognising the technology’s commercial viability, Tom founded Ultrahaptics in November 2013. Having raised an A round of over £10m in funding, and received an EC grant of €1.5m, Tom now steers the technical direction of the company, managing a team of engineers.

  • Philip Levinson

    Philip is the Managing Partner of Penmount Partners, a Singapore based specialist advisory firmproviding targeted capital market solutions to both the public and private real estate sectors. Immediately prior to establishing Penmount, Philip was the CEO of SGX-listed Cambridge Industrial Trust (CIT), a S$ 1.4bn regional industrial REIT which was recently included as a Foundation Member of the SGX’s sustainability index. In this role, Philip was responsible for all aspects of the REIT’s activities, including the setting of strategy, communication with its unitholders and stakeholders, interface with regional regulators and management of the day to day activities of the REIT.

    Philip joined CIT from Blackstone where he was principally involved in the raising of capital for Blackstone’s suite of funds, as well as third party General Partners. Whilst at Blackstone, Philip established their Australian Office and the Asian business of their third party placement business, Park Hill Real Estate.

  • Kami Lamakan, The Loop

    As you might expect from someone who was born in downtown Tehran, but brought up in seaside Devon, Kami’s life has been one of contrasts. Although his formal qualifications are in business and finance, he credits his family, his faith and the arts as his real educators. Today Kami wanders the corridors and boardrooms of some of the world’s biggest companies in the world helping teams and individuals by asking them why they are really doing what they are doing. Although the initial, easy answer may be “to make profit”, there is usually a more meaningful, harder-to-find answer about how their firms could help society better. Kami might use insight from Kafka, wisdom from Aristotle or a story about his kids to get people think about the bigger questions of life. In his experience, whether you are running a global bank, a scientist working on a new cure or an entrepreneur with a new product, people all seek a sense of purpose beyond making just money.

  • Kate Garbers

    While volunteering in Ukraine in 2007, Kate Garbers was told by staff that children leaving the orphanage would be met at the gates by people promising them opportunities of work and money abroad that would never transpire. They were being trafficked abroad and exploited.

    Kate decided to take the plunge, give up her teaching career and see what she could do to help; setting up modern slavery charity Unseen and growing it into the fully functioning organisation it is today, with multiple projects and staff teams tackling slavery at a range of different levels.

    Kate’s work has taken her round the world from the Vatican, to South Africa, Jordan, Hungary, Ukraine and Romania. Closer to home, the nature of this role has led her to car washes, brothels, prisons and detention centres, including police visits to locate and speak with potential victims of trafficking and to interview perpetrators and victims.

    She has advised the UK government on its strategy and approach and how they impact survivors, received an Influencer Award, and presented a TEDx Talk.


  • Marty Reid Marty Reid

    Marty Reid is the Head of Engine Shed, the region’s leading enterprise hub, and CEO of The Science Research Foundation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Bristol, which also runs world class tech business incubator, SETsquared Bristol.

    Marty has had a diverse international career focused around innovation and technology at Rolls-Royce, in roles spanning corporate strategy, global trade and business development for major aerospace and industrial projects. Making the jump from big corporate life to the world of startups, he more recently led Future Space, an innovation centre at the University of West of England.

    Now focused on empowering organisations and individuals to use innovation and collaboration as tools for growth across the region, Marty also sits on the board of the Bristol Technology Festival, the city’s International Strategy Board and the Tech South West steering group.


  • Steve EdwardsSteve Edwards

    Steve heads up the SETsquared Bristol team, providing business incubation services to our 80 plus members and leading in strategic business planning for the future development of SETsquared Bristol. He is also a leading part of the University of Bristol RED strategy team mapping out ambitious new models to connect and maximise entrepreneurial participation and success across the university and Bristol start up ecosystem.

    Steve has extensive experience in management and consultancy across startups and blue-chip business, specialising in growth strategy, built on 20 years of executive leadership in advertising with WPP and Omnicom. Steve joins from UN Women UK, the gender equality arm of the United Nations, where he provided strategic growth and communications advice as Chief Marketing Officer and continues as a Trustee from 2020. Steve has also been a mentor for SETsquared members in Bristol and Bath for the last three years and holds a number of NED roles.


  • Paul ForsterPaul Forester

    Paul Forster is Community Manager at SETsquared Bristol, the Global Number 1 University led Business Incubator, and is a Director of For Books’ Sake, the social enterprise that champions and supports writing by women and non-binary people. Paul builds relationships, connects and solves problems within the local and national business community, and works with the wider Bristol and South West ecosystem to form collaborative and mutually beneficial partnerships. He focuses on partnerships and innovative projects spearheading equality, diversity and inclusion.


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