Supporting business start-ups

Knowledge Exchange Framework perspective demonstrated: Skills, enterprise and entrepreneurship

Encouraging and supporting students and graduates

Kingston University is committed to encouraging and supporting students and graduates starting their own businesses or pursuing freelance or self-employed careers. The University takes pride in its incredibly entrepreneurial-minded student population. The University is ranked number one for graduate start-ups out of all higher education institutions in the UK in the 2020-21 Higher Education - Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) survey, supporting 298 graduate start-ups last year. Long held in high regard for its expertise in enterprise education, Kingston University is consistently ranked as having one of the highest number of graduate start-ups in the UK – a position it has maintained for the past decade.

Inside of Kingston Business School, with entrepreneurial students
Happy students on a business programme.

Pioneering education and entrepreneurship

Kingston University is a pioneer of enterprise education, through Kingston Business School, which has been supporting business start-ups for 40 years, and its Small Business Research Centre. In 2005, Kingston co-led a collaboration between seven London Universities to develop an Entrepreneurship Centre which pioneered authentic learning for entrepreneurship, and provided a catalyst for the University's growth and development in this area of learning.

Kingston embeds innovation, creative thinking and problem-solving into the curriculum across the university, with students on all courses able to access invaluable enterprise activities.

Enterprise Education Programmes

Kingston has established a number of popular enterprise programmes designed to help students learn the skills and develop the mindset needed to start up and run a successful business. These include:

Bright Ideas Competition

Bright Ideas Competition meeting

Now in its 15th year, this annual enterprise competition enables students the opportunity to develop an idea that solves real-life issues, have it evaluated by a judging panel of renowned entrepreneurs and notable alumni, and ultimately win a coveted prize of £1,000. Students compete in a number of heats by pitching their ideas for three minutes, followed by five minutes of questions from the panel. The competition final takes place in February each year.

Alongside the Dragons' Den-style competition, students can join workshops and coaching sessions to develop and refine their idea and learn skills such as how to pitch with confidence.

The programme is open to all students with an interest in enterprise and is designed to champion future skills such as problem-solving and communication. The University has developed strong partnerships with several organisations who are regularly involved in the competition to maintain the competition's growth and inspire a new wave of entrepreneurial minds. These include Stefano Ciampolini, the founder and managing partner of Healthcare Capital Partners and MedScience Ventures, Elliott Wood and Sainsbury Management Fellows Engineers in Business, who each sponsor competition prizes aligned with their sectors.

Nearly 1000 students participate in Bright Ideas each year reflecting the popularity and success of the competition and the entrepreneurial spirit of Kingston students.

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Students discussing business strategies at a hackathon

Kingston University's HackCentre enables students to participate in learning for innovation by solving real-life problems experienced by businesses and social enterprises.

Hackathons and innovation workshops bring students together with problem-owners. They encourage students to practise and learn routines for innovation which they can take into their own activities, projects and ultimately, start-up businesses.

Around 2,000 students participate in HackCentre activities each year, improving their problem-solving, creativity and communication skills, and helping businesses and organisations resolve challenges and innovate.

Find out more about the HackCentre and how it is facilitating excellent knowledge exchange, or visit the Hackathon's webpages.

NEST and FastTrack Programmes

Graduates discussing business plans

The Nest, Kingston University's incubation programme for recent graduates, provides an infrastructure for them to develop their start-up businesses. It includes support from a like-minded network, access to seed funding and office space and mentoring.

The Nest provides expert and professional support to students and graduates to run their fledgling business and take it to the next level. As a member of Nest, entrepreneurs enjoy access to cutting-edge University facilities, one-to-one mentoring by local alumni and members of the business community, coaching sessions with the University's Entrepreneurs in Residence, and legal, accountancy and marketing clinics to drive their businesses forward.

It includes an accelerator programme, FastTrack, through which recent graduates can validate their business ideas with prospective customers. FastTrack gives students a living wage income while they use the resources and support available to turn their innovative idea into a viable business plan. The programme provides one-to-one mentoring, teaching across a range of start-up topics, the tools to identify early customers, and an opportunity to apply for a £10,000 investment and entry to the Nest scheme.

Every year, the Fast Track and Nest programmes support around 40 recent graduates, helping them to improve, validate and launch their business ideas.

The scheme benefits from generous funding from several sources, including Santander Universities, and many supportive distinguished alumni. Alumni can join the Enterprise Circle and contribute, both financially and with their time and expertise, to the development of new businesses and the entrepreneurs trying to make them work.

Success story: Neomi Bennett and 'Neo-slip'

Inspirational entrepreneur and Nursing graduate, Neomi Bennett invented Neo-slip during her time at Kingston University. Neo-slip is an aid to help in the application of compression stockings to prevent deep vein thrombosis, particularly helpful for elderly people with reduced dexterity and mobility.

Neomi successfully pitched her idea and won a prize at Bright Ideas, having taken advantage of the comprehensive programme of enterprise support available at Kingston whilst studying for her degree.

Neomi credits her course for giving her the grounding for her Neo-innovations business, which launched in 2014 and now sells products across the globe. She has praised the University's enterprise team for helping her business come to fruition.

Neomi has gone on to win recognition for her product with a Royal College of Nursing Institute award and achieved runner-up at the Pitch@Palace 2019. Neomi was also awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to nursing and healthcare in the 2018 New Year's Honours list.

Success story: Graduate Paule-Carine Dao and DaoLondon

One of the fledging companies supported through the Nest programme is DaoLondon – an African-inspired urban fashion brand created by Kingston Business School graduate Paule-Carine Dao. The business venture received funding from The Enterprise Circle, a group of alumni who give to Kingston University to support student start-ups.

Paule-Carine is developing DaoLondon alongside her day job at a marketing agency. Dr Martha Mador, Head of Enterprise Education said, "Paule-Carine has found customers across the UK and internationally, as far afield as the United States of America. An idea that has started in Kingston has gone on to become an international business, which is such an achievement."

Find out more about Enterprise Education

Find out more about Kingston University's Enterprise Education activities and how you can be involved.

Get in touch

Please contact us if you would like further information about knowledge exchange at Kingston University.

If you are interested in exploring collaborative opportunities and getting access to our academic expertise, student talent or unique facilities, please get in touch.