Stay connected:
General enquiries:    |   Leadership programme:
General enquiries:    |   Leadership programme:

What Makes The University of Edinburgh an Entrepreneurial University?

What Makes The University of Edinburgh an Entrepreneurial University?

In the sixth of our series the University of Edinburgh describes why they have been shortlisted for the UK’s Outstanding Entrepreneurial University of the Year.


At the University of Edinburgh we see innovation and entrepreneurship as a journey, and we know that the hardest part is to begin.


Our philosophy is ‘inspire, launch, grow.’




We inspire and equip our students and staff by fostering an entrepreneurial culture, placing entrepreneurship and innovation at the heart of our mission and purpose to make the world a better place – set out in our University Strategy 2030.

Support comes from the top: in April this year, for example our Principal, Professor Sir Peter Mathieson, hosted a dinner at the Palace of Holyrood House for our Chancellor, HRH The Princess Royal, to meet some of our extraordinary student founders.

The University’s commercialisation service, Edinburgh Innovations, supports those students, beginning by nurturing their ideas. Our creative and adventurous student enterprise team runs a series of events and masterclasses to develop an enterprise mindset and practical skills on topics from creative commons through to pitching, funding and marketing. Our Power Her Up workshops showcase inspirational women founders and provide a space for confidence and community building, and Students as Change Agents encourages students to tackle interdisciplinary challenges with social impact.

Through our Extraordinary People campaign, academics share their experiences of industry engagement with their peers, and our EI Engage programme provides online entrepreneurship skills for staff, leading to conversations with other universities interested in reproducing the model.

Our Vice-Principal of Research and Enterprise, Professor Christina Boswell, leading on the development our new Innovation Strategy, is focussed on bringing different disciplines together with industry and the public sector to create innovation that can tackle the pressing, complex problems society faces around climate, health and harnessing data and AI for good.



Once an idea has taken root, we nurture it with flexible, targeted support to students and staff, be it protecting their intellectual property, developing a market proposition, scaling up with industry or forming a company.


For a fledgling company, finding funding is the biggest problem, as this early stage is the riskiest for investors.


That’s why, in 2012, the University provided seed funds to establish in-house venture investment Old College Capital. Today, that fund is has £50 million in funds under management, with over £100 million leveraged through its co-investment model in the past year alone, employing a team of seven, which invests in the most exciting ideas and technologies emerging from the University.



Plugging our founders into a wider entrepreneurial ecosystem in Scotland and beyond is essential for their success.

The UK and Scottish Government-funded Data Driven Innovation (DDI) initiative, part of the Edinburgh and South East Region City Deal, is one important element, hosting Venture Builder Incubator and AI Accelerator, whose participants benefit from connections, leadership mentoring and product development support to help transform their businesses into world-leading companies.

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program invests in building a community of skilled, entrepreneurial, and compassionate future leaders from across Africa, connecting startups with a climate and social focus into our support system.

We are a founding member of TenU, an international initiative that improves collaboration between tech transfer offices for social and economic value.



Our approach works. An independent report into the University’s economic impact recently found that we generate £7.52 billion for the UK economy every year and support 32,760 jobs.

Of £3.2 billion generated through research and knowledge exchange activity, the study found that researchers working with businesses and the public sector to address global challenges in our focus areas of climate, data and health created a further £350m of innovation impact annually.


“Last year we broke new records …”


Last year, we broke new records by supporting 115 new student startups and 11 staff startups and spinouts, and attracting £107 million of investment into University-associated companies. This year will be our third of supporting more than 100 new student startups.

Winning the THE Outstanding Entrepreneurial University award would validate and celebrate our direction of travel. It would further demonstrate to our University and broader community that we believe entrepreneurship and innovation are vital to meeting the challenges we face today – research alone can not have impact.

We still have work to do, to house our brilliant companies for example. Edinburgh Bioquarter is fantastic example of achieving innovation through physical space, by co-locating labs, companies and researchers, but we need more space for life sciences companies in particular.

And we need more staff and students on board – we are exploring embedding entrepreneurship into the curriculum, and expanding our network of academic-industry ambassadors.

Our journey continues, our destination: to make ideas work for a better world.



By Dr John Lonsdale, Head of Enterprise at Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service

Programme details: Join us for “Entrepreneurial Universities Week 2023′ with daily FREE webinars, 12-1pm (UK).



For more information, click here.

Share our blog with your network...
Enquire about our courses today...
Scroll to Top