2017 in review

The Centre for Entrepreneurs has focused on two highly distinct, yet equally fascinating research topics over 2017: prisons and universities.

Our prison work began in May 2016 with the publication of From inmates to entrepreneurs: how prison entrepreneurship can break the cycle of reoffending’. The report suggested that encouraging prisoners to become entrepreneurs is not only achievable and cost-effective, but is an immensely popular idea among prisoners themselves.

In November 2016 the Centre secured £120k from the Ministry of Justice to conduct a pilot programme in HMP Ranby. The aim was to build evidence and develop a comprehensive guide and resource pack to aid wider adoption of prison entrepreneurship programmes (PEPs). With guidance from a range of entrepreneurship and criminal justice experts, and delivery by the local enterprise agency NBV, we went on to engage 65 men in the programme over the year.

A highlight of the year was a graduation ceremony we organised in May for the first three cohorts. 35 men gathered with their friends and family in the prison’s visitor centre to receive certificates and hear from successful ex-offender entrepreneurs. By receiving praise in front of peers and families, it gave the participants even more drive to make their vision a reality upon release. The CFE team went on to spend the Centre’s fourth birthday in prison, conducting 8 hours of evaluation interviews with participants and staff. It was a fascinating, and at times emotional, experience that reaffirmed the positive impact entrepreneurship can have upon individuals.

In 2018, CFE will continue to campaign for the roll-out of PEPs through our recently launched Prison Entrepreneurship Network. This will involve engaging prison governors and government, building the capacity of delivery bodies, and removing barriers faced by ex-offender entrepreneurs.

The Centre’s other major focus for the year was on university incubation. In May we published ‘Putting the uni in unicorn:the role of universities in supporting high-growth graduate startups’. The report suggested universities can boost graduate retention, job creation and economic growth in their regions by providing business incubation to graduate entrepreneurs.

One of the report’s key recommendations – drawn from the Centre’s interviews with 15 incubator managers – was the need for a new umbrella body encompassing incubators to enable collaboration, best practice sharing and standardised impact measurement. The Centre implemented this recommendation and in November launched the Incubator and Accelerator Network (IAN).

The network ensures members are fully up-to-date with the latest support practices, business finance options and incubator business models. It also uses the Centre’s connections and insight to advocate on behalf of the incubator and accelerator sector. It has 15 founding members, including University of Cambridge, Imperial College, Royal College of Art and the European Space Agency. In 2018, the Centre is organising an inaugural annual conference in February, an overseas delegation in summer and a range of member-hosted workshops over the coming year.

And last but not least, we concluded the year by joining forces with NEF to form a unified charitable foundation able to undertake research, campaigns and programmes to advance entrepreneurship across the UK.

It’s been an exciting year and 2018 promises to even better! I’d like to thank our cornerstone donor LetterOne, our fantastic CFE Fellows, our Business Forum members and all the other supporters that help us undertake our important entrepreneurship research and campaigns.