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RGU’s first Innovation Accelerator

Edward Pollock
Edward Pollock, Startup Coordinator and Lecturer in Event Management at RGU, writes about how RGU’s latest accelerator programme reflects on the challenges exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and opens opportunities for impactful innovations to participate.

At the start of March 2020, we were halfway through Cohort 2 of our award-winning Startup Accelerator programme, with 21 teams collaborating, developing business models, and testing their concepts. One of our most memorable moments was everyone together in a room taking part in a drumming workshop and team building games before their first pitches. A few weeks later, it all changed and suddenly we had to go online.

We had to dramatically alter our approach to supporting new businesses and yet, despite the challenges, our teams continued to progress their ideas and at the end of May – thousands watched online at our final showcase. We are much like every business sector, reactively implementing changes to keep people safe and continue to deliver our activities. As we look forward, we recognise our world is very different, and we needed to innovate further to make a difference.

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2020, this November we are launching our third cohort of the programme, however this time as our first Innovation Accelerator. This impact-focused programme will come with many of the same benefits as before – mentorship, five months of online training from February to June 2021, and access to resources and co-working space, however in this cycle we are seeking impactful ideas across key global challenges.

With our world dramatically changed due to the pandemic, it is our responsibility as a university to alleviate the suffering and challenge faced by so many and inspire innovators to push boundaries. At the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group, we debated if we would run a third cohort, as we asked ourselves – is now the right time to be starting a business? Despite the circumstances, we know it is entrepreneurs who have the agility and ingenuity to be curious, experiment with new ideas which can disrupt the market and make a difference.

While we are open to all ideas from all subject areas, we chose to focus this year’s programme on challenges aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Public Health Scotland’s strategy.

The three challenges fall into the categories of; our society, which involves seeking creative responses to the challenges of COVID-19 and its impact on education, cities, healthcare, businesses and our industries; our people which involves seeking ambitious ideas to tackle inequality in our society and reduce poverty, give children better outcomes and empower communities; and our wellbeing which involves seeking bold innovations which prepare our healthcare systems for the future and tackle our personal health and mental wellbeing challenges. In addition, all ideas accepted to the programme will need to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and having a net-zero impact on our environment.

In only two years, our previous startup teams have gone on to raise over £1.4 million for the economy and create over 30 jobs. Teams such as Digital Future Capital have become Scotland’s first FCA authorised digital asset hedge fund, while maternity fashion brand Beltfree by Miss James has filed a patent for their supportive clothing line. As a team, we couldn’t be prouder of the dozens of startups we have supported over the past few years thanks to funding from the Wood Foundation.

Our economies are going to require rapid innovation, creative solutions and impactful ideas to recover beyond the pandemic. We are here to support the next generation of staff, student and alumni who want to take the leap to becoming entrepreneurs and innovate to change the world. Applications are open now until Sunday 17 January. 

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