Next IT entrepreneurs nurtured by uni networks

The government hopes to cultivate home-grown tech entrepreneurs capable of creating the next Facebook or Google, via 'university enterprise networks'

The government is establishing a series of 'university enterprise networks' in the hope of nurturing a crop of home-grown technology entrepreneurs capable of creating the next Google or Facebook.

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Berr) has announced the launch of three university enterprise networks (UENs), including one focusing on science, technology, engineering and maths (the so-called 'Stem' subjects), and another one more broadly focused on innovation and the application of web-based technologies. A third aims to serve the nuclear sector.

Berr said the UENs will enable a total of around 100,000 students and graduates to get the chance to develop their skills as entrepreneurs and business leaders by providing training, advice and encouragement to help develop their business ideas.

Shriti Vadera, minister for economic competitiveness and small business, said boosting graduates' business knowledge is key to ensuring the UK's long-term competitiveness.

The networks are being sponsored by companies from the private sector — including BT, Cisco, HP and Microsoft — which the government said will help budding innovators gain first-hand experience of "enterprising workplaces", as the companies will be involved in designing and delivering coursework and activities.

The first universities to express an interest in principle commitment to the Stem UEN are Cambridge, Cranfield, Hertfordshire, Oxford, Reading and Southampton, while Coventry University is supporting the innovation UEN.

The creation of the UENs follows a commitment made by the government in its Enterprise Strategy to further promote and support the development of enterprise.

A Microsoft-commissioned survey found only just over a quarter (28 percent) of students believed their time at university prepared them for being an entrepreneur, while almost half (48 percent) believed their degree would be worth more if it equipped them with the skills to start their own business.

The survey also found more than half (57 percent) of university students believed the technology sector would be a good industry for pursuing an entrepreneurial career.