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University launches student start-up accelerator

Wills article

Press release issued: 11 March 2022

A new student start-up accelerator opened at the University of Bristol will help turn fledgling ideas into high growth businesses.

‘Runway’ is based at the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the University’s award-winning enterprise unit.

The accelerator, launched with a £750,000 investment, will give students and recent graduates access to co-working space, mentoring and funding.

All of the Centre’s teaching staff are entrepreneurs who can help with everything from patenting ideas to connections with funding teams.

Runway also offers: private meeting rooms, breakout space and professional presentation venues, access to student consultants and interns, designers and prototyping facilities, and financial support from the new 'Jim and Peggy Wilkinson Innovation Fund'.

Tom Ellson, Director of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship said: “Without donations from supporters like the Jim and Peggy Wilkinson Foundation we would not be making the step change we can announce today.”

Each quarter, the student start-ups can pitch their ideas to an investment panel, giving them real life experience in winning venture capital funding.

Runway adds to the support given to students and graduates by the University's Careers Service, which helps with one-to-one start-up advice, tailored workshops, mentoring and networking opportunities, and chances to secure funding through its New Enterprise Competition.

The new accelerator will also complement SETsquared Bristol, the University’s world-leading incubator for promising tech businesses. Its current stable of start-ups raised £100 million in investment in the last year alone and its alumni include Ultraleap and Ziylo.

Students with technology-focused business ideas may launch their business through Runway before graduating to SETsquared Bristol.

Mark Neild, Programme Director for Runway, said: “Runway is where student start-ups take off and we’re excited to see it become an inspiring space full of energetic young entrepreneurs.

“All of our staff have real-world business experience so we can help with the nuts and bolts of founding a venture, but also the psychological stuff: dealing with imposter syndrome, staying disciplined, that sort of thing.”

The first entrepreneurs to join Runway are the founders of PEEQUAL, which is manufacturing the UK’s first female urinal.

Amber Probyn, 24, and Hazel McShane, 25, both studied at the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Students at the Centre take one of 14 regular subjects and combine their studies with Innovation units.

Hazel, who studied Physics with Innovation, said: “We are finally leaving our bedroom offices! Runway is a game changer for PEEQUAL growth, the whole ecosystem the Centre provides helps us solve problems quicker.”

Amber, who studied Anthropology with Innovation, said: “I'm very grateful to be able to work in Runway! It will be a big step forwards for PEEQUAL, we will finally leave our bedrooms and begin to work in a space which supports and enables our development.”

A report released last month found that University of Bristol spinout companies generated higher average returns on investment than those of any other UK university.

To find out more visit Runway’s website.

Further information

  • SETsquared Bristol is a University of Bristol-led tech incubator, supporting founders to grow their businesses and make an impact in the world. It has incubated over 300 companies to date, with over £626 million raised. It supports its companies with bespoke business support, skills and training, an expert network and community of startups and scaleups. It has been named ‘Hottest Accelerator in Europe’ at The Europas Awards and has three times been awarded ‘Global #1 University Business Incubator’ as part of the SETsquared Partnership of six centres.
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