Budding entrepreneurs in the West Midlands are to receive help getting their businesses off the ground through a £4 million project led by the University of Wolverhampton.
The project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is open to 600 students and graduates from the University of Wolverhampton as well as those from Coventry, Keele, Staffordshire and Birmingham City universities.
Participants will receive direct financial support of £1,500 and access to business development workshops including a weekend residential to enable them to network and learn useful skills for running a business. They will also have access to business facilities such as incubation space and up to 12 hours of support from a business consultant.
Companies can be based around various business ideas and those already in the pipeline include ones focused on app development, photography, skin cream and vintage-inspired homeware products with a twist.
Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise, Professor Ian Oakes, said: “The programme reflects the significant role played by the University of Wolverhampton in leading economic development of the West Midlands through the creation of new businesses.
“We are delighted that we will be able to support more and more young people from our own and partner universities in launching their future business careers.
“In difficult economic times, launching a business can be a way of creating a successful future for yourself while also working hard on something you feel passionate about. The region’s students are entrepreneurial and determined, and I’m sure the SPEED Plus cohort will create some exciting companies.”
The three-year project will be co-ordinated by the University of Wolverhampton’s Graduate Enterprise Department, and participants at the different universities can start in January or September.
It is supported by just over £2 million from the ERDF, which is managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government and matched by the five West Midlands universities.
The predecessor to SPEED Plus was SPEED WM, which was originally launched in 2009 and has proved to be a valuable support service. It has helped 575 graduates and students explore and take forward enterprise ideas over the last three years.
University of Wolverhampton graduates Mike Chinn and Matt Weston set up Stone’s Throw Media with the assistance of the programme and they believe that “without the assistance of SPEED WM we would never have started up this business or have progressed as quickly as we have with all of the support that we have received. SPEED WM is a really important asset to students and graduates who want to start up a business.”