Early Career Enterprise Fellowships

What is the Early Career Enterprise Fellowship (ECEF) scheme? 

The ECEF scheme is a new initiative for 23/24, to stimulate the commercialisation of University research and intellectual property.  Deadline for applications is 12:00PM, 4th March 2024.

The commercialisation of research is a key aspect of the University’s strategy. Commercialisation of research can lead to research impact as well as strengthening the local innovation ecosystem, creating new jobs and attracting investment to Bristol. Commercialisation of University intellectual property also sometimes brings financial benefit to the University which is used to support future spinouts, such as through the University’s Evergreen Fund. 

We recognise that early career researchers are often the ones to push forward the commercialisation of University research – some of our most famous and successful spin-out companies were co-founded by, and are often now led by, people who were earlier career researchers at the outset (Ziylo, Ferryx, Fluoretiq and Ultraleap being prominent examples).  

The ECEF scheme aims to support early career researchers to gain the skills necessary to make progress in commercialising University intellectual property. It provides: 

  • Training, in a model that includes both in-person cohort-based training and self-driven online learning, provided by SETsquared Bristol. 

  • The dedicated support of a commercialisation manager with sector expertise relevant to your innovation 

  • Funds which permit you to dedicate time to this exercise* 

* the ECEF provides a sum of £2000 which is paid to the ECR at the outset of the fellowship. This is intended to be used to protect 1 calendar month to dedicate to the fellowship. This does not include the training component which it is expected the ECEF will manage as they would research training associated with their PhD. The sum is reached by calculating the approximate cost of 20 days of a standard UKRI stipend and adding an uplift as an additional incentive.  

Who is eligible? 

In 23/24, the ECEF is available to currently registered postgraduate research students (PGRs). We are exploring whether this could be extended to research associates for future years.  

What am I committing to? 

Attendance and participation in the training sessions as shown in the table below 

 Part 1: Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Communication skills 
26th March 2024 
One day of training: 
  •  Morning session with Kimberley Brook (Director of SETsquared) 

  • Afternoon session with Rich Chapman (Entrepreneur in Residence at SETsquared Bristol) 

 Part 2: Online community, training and startup stories 
April 18th- May 23rd 

Every Thursday 2-4pm 

Six in person 2 hour sessions with entrepreneurs on following topics: 
  • The Idea: Luck vs Hard Graft 

  • The Product: Taking a technology from Benchtop to Business 

  • The Team: Creating Star Teams 

  • The Funding: Financing and Growing a Deep Tech Venture 

  • The Risks: When good companies go bad 

  • The Exit: Preparing for exiting your company via acquisition or IPO 


Part 3: Pitch refinement and Technology Showcase 
13th June 



25th June 


Two half days of training on refining their pitch. 
  • First half day with a SETsquared Trainer on how to develop a short 4-minute pitch 

  • Second half day will be with SETsquared Bristol team on reviewing and refining their pitch 

4th July 


A showcase event for those researchers to pitch their ideas to the broader tech ecosystem. 

Attendance and participation in the Festival of Enterprise on 20th June 2024. 

Working with your commercialisation manager and, in conversation with your supervisor, using their guidance to help progress the project. 

Committing 20 days’ dedicated work to progressing the commercialisation of the innovation. 

Completing the above between 18 March 2024 and 31 July 2024. 

How does the time buyout work? 

You need to apply to suspend your studentship stipend for a period of one month to allow you to focus fully on the Fellowship for this period.You will also need to request to extend your submission deadline by one month meaning that it does not detrimentally affect the time available to you for completing your PhD.The PGR administrator in your School/Faculty/DTEwill assist with making these arrangements for you.  

What about Intellectual Property (IP)? 

The ECEF scheme is intended to support the commercialisation of University IP 

If your research involves working on IP developed by a member of staff such as your supervisor, for example gathering data on the subject of the IP’s properties or applications, then the University is likely to already own and will continue to own the IP. If the ownership position is unclear then you will be required to assign any IP rights you have to the University to be eligible for an ECEF.  

If you have developed your own IP, the only way you can use an ECEF to commercialise this is if you are willing to assign your IP to the University, and if you do this you will then benefit from the University’s revenue sharing model. Please see the University’s IP Policy for Students for further information: https://www.bristol.ac.uk/media-library/sites/secretary/documents/student-rules-and-regs/Intellectual-Property-Policy-for-Students.pdf  

If you have your own IP but do not wish to assign it to the University, the ECEF scheme is not suitable, but there are lots of other ways to get support for your innovation. This includes:  

  • Speak to an enterprise advisor in the Careers Service  

  • Look at opportunities in the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship  

  • Consider the many networking and training opportunities for entrepreneurs in the wider Bristol community 

If you are not sure of the status of the IP you wish to explore please speak to a commercialisation manager before submitting your application. More information here: For researchers | Business and partnerships | University of Bristol 

How do I apply? 

Discuss your idea with your supervisor, and if you are unsure about the intellectual property ownership and the implications of this, discuss this with a commercialisation manager.  

Then, if you wish to go ahead, you and your supervisor must complete the form in full and submit it by the deadline advertised. The form is available here: ECEF application form 2024 (Office document, 28kB)

How are ECEFs awarded? 

All applications must be completed in full – including the supervisor section – and submitted by the deadline. All applications received will be reviewed by the ECEF funding panel and scored according to the assessment criteria below. 

Generally speaking, the panel will award ECEFs to the highest scoring applications. However, if there are several applications with the same or very similar score, the panel will also consider the balance of different disciplines and may decide to fund/not fund applications in order to provide a balance of projects across different disciplines/schools. 

Question in application form 


Assessment criteria 
What is the innovation you plan to develop during your fellowship? Please summarise the background research that led to it, including an explanation of the Intellectual Property status of your innovation. If you, or your supervisor or other colleague, have already discussed this innovation with a member of the commercialisation or impact teams in DREI please specify. (200 words) 
Innovation is a commercialisation prospect, not more research or another activity such as knowledge exchange or policy innovation without a convincing commercial dimension.  

Score: Y/N/Unclear  


Innovation arises from University research and IP, not a personal project/interest. 

Score: Y/N/Unclear  


What product or service will your innovation lead to? Who will buy or pay for the product or service? What gives you confidence they will buy it? Who are your competitors? How is your product or service differentiated? (200 words) 
Does the product or service sound viable? Do you consider their product/service case compelling, credible, robust and objective? (0/1/2) 

Have they given thought and some (desk based) research into the market for their product/service? Is the market credible? Do they provide evidence of their convictions? (0/1/2) 

Have they considered competitor products/services and the differentiation of their own? Is their argument credible? (0/1/2) 

Score 0-6 

What will you do during the fellowship? What will be different at the end of the fellowship? How will this move your innovation closer to commercialisation? What will need to happen after the fellowship? (200 words) 
Sensible and achievable plan for the duration of the fellowship including consideration of what and how they can do in the time available (0/1/2)  

Credible plan or ideas for next steps after the fellowship (0/1/2).  

Plans will make a material difference to the commercialisation prospect of the innovation (which could include it being a successful project, but also includes the option for “fail fast, fail cheap” (0/1/2) 

Score 0-6 

Of the supervisor: Please explain how the aims of this fellowship proposal align with strategic priorities – your own, your research group, your department/school, the University. Are you supportive of this proposal?Are you comfortable that the applicant can balance this fellowship with their PhD without detriment to their progression? Have you agreed with them how this will work in practice?  (200 words) 
Fellowship project is of strategic importance to the supervisor/group/school/University. (0/1/2/3/4) 

Supervisor is fully supportive both in principle and in practice. (0/1/2) 

Score 0-6