Bright Sparks Award: Submit your pitches!

Submit a 90-second video pitch to win up to £1,000 to make your idea happen!

Do you have a bright idea which you think will capture the imagination and support of your peers? Then this may be just the opportunity for you…

As you will have probably heard by now, we are busy planning for the re-launch of the Lancaster University Enterprise Awards this December. The Bright Sparks, People’s Choice award is looking for individuals or teams of students, recent alumni (past 3 years) or staff with an idea for a new venture. The proposal may be for an idea that is still as concept stage, or it may already have been registered as a formal trading entity, as long as it is still in the survival stage and has not yet achieved financial sustainability.

The Bright Sparks Award is unique from the other award categories – as not only are we asking for video pitch nominations, but also because the actual winner of the award will be determined on the night of the awards through an audience poll! The winner will receive access to support and up to £1,000 funding from The Enterprise Team through Santander Funding to help make the idea happen.

Think you’ve got a great idea which fits the bill?

To nominate an idea, send a link to your 90 second video-pitch to enterpriseteam@lancaster.ac.uk. It is expected that your video pitch will cover the following:

  • A brief statement of opportunity (pain points for users)
  • A description of the solution you put forward
  • Is the solution desirable? (Consider competitors and alternative solutions)
  • Is the solution viable? (How will it be financially sustainable)
  • Is the solution feasible? (Do you have the skills and resources necessary, and if not what skills/resources would you need and how would you acquire them?)
  • How would the award help you kick-start your idea?

Deadline for submissions: Sunday the 19th of November. 

Please email The Enterprise Team if you have any questions.

Terms and conditions of the Bright Sparks Award:
Entrants will be judged and shortlisted by the Enterprise Team based on the following criteria: desirability, feasibility and viability of idea ; creativity and presentation. The shortlisted videos will be presented on the night of the awards event. Finalists will be invited to attend the awards event where a winner will be judged by the audience. To be eligible, nominations need to be submitted by Lancaster University students or staff, as well as alumni who have graduated up to three years ago. To claim the prize teams need to be able to engage with the offering of the enterprise team to develop their project, which would mean being able to attend regular meetings in Lancaster.

New student-run investment fund

Campus Capital to invest thousands in Lancashire startups

Lancaster University have signed a partnership with venture capital firm, Campus Capital, to bring investment to the region and further strengthen Lancashire’s startup ecosystem. The model is unique in the sense that the fund is part-run by teams to Student Venture Capitalists!

This partnership will see the investment of between £50k-200k in early stage, high-growth potential companies, on and off campus.  There is a particular focus on ‘making sure existing startups who are already doing great things get the investment they need to scale.’ It is hoped that the fund will help to increase opportunities for companies to collaborate with the University, stay and grow in the region.

Campus Capital will open to Lancashire-based startups in the New Year, although companies who are considering fundraising within the next six months are encouraged to get in touch sooner.

Fancy trying your hands at being an venture capitalist?

Students are given the opportunity to take part in an experiential learning opportunity where they will be trained as Student Venture Capitalists to run some of the early aspects of the fund pipeline. In addition to training, students will receive ongoing mentoring and experience of assessing and analysing a company’s investment-readiness. Application to take part in the scheme are now open, you can find out more here.

To find out more, visit the Campus Capital website.

Spaces 4 Change

Unlock the potential of unused or under-utlised space in your community

Spaces for Change (S4C) is a UK wide programme funded by Young UnLtd. The scheme is looking to fund and support individuals or groups of young people aged 16-24, to start and run social ventures using under-utlised spaces within their community.

Successful applicants are awarded £5,000 of project funding along with a dedicated award manager providing tailored support, cohort support and peer to peer networking opportunities for sharing knowledge and learning.

Expressions of interest can be submitted up until the 13th of November. Successful applicants will be invited to pitch their idea to a panel in January.

To find out more about the scheme and to apply, visit the Spaces for Change webpages.

£10,000 Funding to help the environment

Do you have a digital solution to an environmental problem?

Are you aged between 17 and 25? Do you have an idea that could help the environment through digital technology, such as improving energy efficiency, reducing waste or increasing recycling?

If so, this is your chance to apply for up to £10,000 of funding from Environment Now to help make that idea into a reality!

This exciting opportunity from O2’s Think Big will not only provide successful applicants with the money, but also support from the Environment Now team, their own professional mentor and other sustainability partners and industry professionals.

Current applications are open until the 8th of September, however this will be followed by another round of applications, open until October the 27th.

To find out more, watch the video below and visit the Think Big website, where you can also read about previously funded projects.

Enterprise Nation: Student Start-up of the Year

Win £3,500 for your business!

Enterprise Nation have just launched a brand new competition: Student Start-up of the Year.

Supported by Microsoft and 123 Reg, Enterprise Nation are looking for brilliant ideas from both current students and those who have graduated within the past two years.

Entries will be accepted from businesses who are not yet trading and also businesses that have been trading for less than a year.

Applications need to be submitted by the 12th of May.

10 applicants will then be shortlisted to pitch in front of a panel of judges at Microsoft’s offices in London on the 19th May, from those five will be selected to go to a public vote.

To find out more about the competition, the prizes and to apply visit enterprisenation.com/student.

Important things to consider when hiring a website vendor – my experience!

Roselyn Dien is a recent graduate of the Lancaster University Management School (class of 2015) and the CEO of The Guardian Abroad UK Ltd. In July 2016, she applied for the funding award from The Enterprise Centre to rebuild her business website. The Guardian Abroad UK Ltd provides guardianship and specialist support services to international students as well as organise summer holiday programmes and English language courses for juniors and young adults. 


Today my business website www.theguardianabroad.co.uk is up and running and just two months after launch, I’m already seeing a positive impact on my business; many thanks to the Lancaster University Enterprise Centre for providing funding towards the website project from the Santander enterprise fund.  The website may be live but the journey to this point was far from smooth; a project that was scheduled to be completed within 6 weeks ended up lasting seven months due to hiring the wrong website vendor. Following from my bad experience here are some important things I now see that a business owner should consider when hiring a website vendor.

In today’s technology savvy business environment, a professional website is a must have for businesses for very many beneficial reasons – customer acquisition, business promotion, global positioning as well as being a channel for prospective clients to find and learn more about the business. However, many businesses lack the internal technical know-how to build a vibrant and engaging online presence, hence, the need to engage the services of third-party vendors which of course can be a real challenge especially when it comes to selecting a vendor with the right skill set.

Unfortunately, not all vendors are trustworthy and very many businesses have fallen victim to illegitimate vendors or legitimate vendors with low ethical standards and sometimes, even those who know what to do still fall into the wrong hands. This sadly, was my experience when I hired a website vendor that turned out to be unscrupulous and unreliable yet freely operating in the community. I later found out that the same company has scammed many small businesses, especially the new ones, by taking payment but not delivering on the job. So, why are they allowed to still operate freely in the community? A good question I sincerely do not have an answer to.

In July 2016, I applied for and got funding from the Lancaster University Enterprise Centre towards my website redesign project as the existing website was obsolete and not optimised for mobile platforms and all browsers. With the excitement, I started the selection process of who will handle the project, being very careful not to make a mistake. For instance, I opted for a local vendor with a physical office to allow for face to face meetings and easy communication, however, that later proved not to be enough, as there were other vital steps I should have taken.

Once the upfront payment was made, the story and attitude of the vendor started to change, from one excuse to endless revisions and unnecessary delays and a six week project ended up lasting seven months.  Within that period, the business had changed its name four times, closed the physical office and changed contact details. Needless to recount the full experience here or enumerate the loss incurred in terms of time, money, sales and the psychological trauma.

So, to help new business owners avoid such an ugly encounter, here are some important things to also consider when hiring a website vendor.

Have a clear understanding of your requirements

This is very key in website design. Understand your requirement and what the website should achieve. It will be helpful to have a blueprint that defines the overall purpose of the site and outline the key points for the project before the start. This will give you a better understanding of who to hire, guide the discussions and agreements with the vendor, help the creation process as well as keep all parties focused on the project objective.

Conduct thorough research

Conduct thorough research and adequately evaluate the capabilities of the vendor prior to committing to the project. Building a website can be very exciting for the business owner but jumping at the first vendor you talk to may not be a very good idea.  If possible, narrow your initial selection to a minimum of 3 vendors before settling for the one. Compare what each has to offer by looking at their portfolios, previous work done, skills and experiences. Choose a vendor with the right skills sets who has done similar jobs to what you want or have relevant experience.  Check that they possess a combination of web design and development skills. A web designer is concerned more with the ‘look and feel’ of the site and a web developer handles the coding and back end.

Ask questions 

Asking questions should be at the top of your priority list. Do not just assume things; ask relevant questions, clarify grey areas and obtain satisfactory answers. A simple google search will give you an idea of the type of questions to ask. Do not accept what you are told at face value, check online reviews on the vendor, conduct a Company House check to ensure the business is fully registered and thriving and if possible, visit the office to check out things for yourself. Request references and case studies and obtain recommendations from past clients (yes! contact them) to evaluate the level of customer service rendered and how they related with the clients.

Agreeing to the terms and conditions

Read and understand the terms and condition carefully before signing the contract and flag any discrepancies as the project progresses. Keep both the hard and soft copy of the contract, ensuring that every discussion, both verbal and written, is properly documented. Verbal communication should be followed by a written summary which should be sent electronically to all parties involved. Request for the vendor’s statement of work that spells out specific activities and timelines before the start of the project which should also include consequences if timelines are not adhered to; this will keep the vendor committed to and focused on the project. Website design, hosting and content management are three separate aspects of website development. You have the choice of designing with one vendor and hosting with another so do not feel compelled to stick to the same vendor for all your website needs. This gives you the flexibility to quickly change the vendor if you are dissatisfied.

Fees and payment terms

This is a crucial part of the contract negotiation. Comparing prices of websites similar to what you want will give you a fair idea of the going market rate and a strong negotiating power.  Do not feel compelled to purchase proprietary software applications that will lock you into long term contract that you cannot easily cancel. A website is an evolving tool and technology becomes obsolete very quickly so start with the basic applications and upgrade to more advanced ones in future if required. Avoid contracts that may take a huge chunk of your revenue yearly. Choose a favourable payment plan, for instance, agree to a lower upfront payment, say 30 to 40 percent and spread the balance as the project progresses or at completion, if the vendor insists on 100% payment, then you know you should walk away. Watch out for hidden charges, read the ‘small print’ and clarify grey areas. It is a business transaction; therefore, payment should be made into a business bank account, not a personal account.

Test the website

Testing the site vigorously before the final sign off is crucial. You’ve got to test for functionality, usability, compatibility, performance, interface and security. Check that the site is optimised for desktop, mobile platforms and all browsers. Navigate every page and validate that the alignment, all links, interfaces, forms, buttons, icons and symbols all function perfectly. Test the link that will be used to send email to admin and confirm that emails are received at the backend. Check content for spelling errors and fonts sizes. You may have to enlist the help of a third-party to provide critical feedback. Adequate testing must be conducted before the final sign off.

So, now that the website is finally up and running with the horrid experience put behind me, TGA is now poised and ready to strategically position itself on the global podium using the new vibrant website to attract highly qualified potential clients, generate sales, close deals as well as support current clients effectively.  Exciting future ahead!

Very many thanks to the Enterprise Centre and Santander for the funding award and the continued support.

ICURe Innovation-to-Commercialisation Programme

Up to £50k for university researchers with commercially-promising ideas

ICURe is a collaboration of the SETsquared Partnership, Innovate UK and BEIS, which has been designed to help move ideas and innovation out of universities and into the marketplace, where they will have the greatest impact.

ICURe will fund teams to determine whether there is a market for products or services that utilise their research, and then, where there is evidence of market demand, licence or spin-out the research into a company.

The programme will accept applications for teams based at UK universities consisting of a Junior (early career) Researcher, Senior Researcher (Principal Investigator) and a Business Adviser.

Cohort 9 application deadline: 24th April 2017

For further details on the programme and application, please visit the setsquared webpages. 

Rosebud Business Loans

Finance for ambitious growing businesses

Rosebud, part of Lancashire County Council are looking to support growing businesses in the the high growth sectors of advanced manufacturing, aerospace, finance and professional, creative and digital, energy and environment and health. These businesses must be based in Lancashire or relocating here with good turnover projections and profit margins.

Rosebud Micro provides finance from £10,000 – £49,000 and Rosebud business finance provides funding from £50,000, along with a package of customised business support and advice.

For further details including the terms of the loans please visit the Lancashire County Council Webpages.

IPSE Awards – Calling all Freelancers!

Win up to £5,000 towards your business

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) are hosting a competition to crown the UK’s best independent professional. There are two categories for the award – Aspire for those under 23 years of age and Inspire for those over the age of 24.

Fifteen finalists will be invited to London to pitch themselves and their business to a panel before returning as guests to the IPSE Awards ceremony in June, where the winners will be announced. The winner of the Aspire group with be awarded £3,000 to help their business and the overall winner of the Inspire group, £5,000. There are also additional prizes and business support for runners up.

So whether you are a designer, a writer, a developer, an architect or an inventor… why not put in an application!

Deadline for applications: Friday 17th March 2017

For further information visit the IPSE website. 

Funding Update: José Maria Macedo

José Maria Macedo, final year Philosophy, Politics and Economics student, applied for funding last year to develop marketing materials for his martial arts business, Kaizen Academy. Here, he shares his funding update.

I’m José Maria Macedo and I run a business called Kaizen Academy whose aim is to modernise and improve the entire experience of training martial arts. As part of this, we thought it was important to produce some high-quality promotional videos to clearly and visually demonstrate to potential customers just how different we are from an average martial arts school. So, we decided to apply to the Enterprise Award (the application process was great and really helped us refine our ideas for the videos) and used the money to produce two promotional videos for our business:

We are extremely happy with the look of the videos as we feel they really symbolise our brand but more importantly we’re thrilled with the results: the videos have been viewed cumulatively over 50,000 times and we’ve used them in our New Year’s marketing campaign (spending £500 on Facebook marketing them) to secure over 35 subscribed customers for a revenue of £12,000 over the next 12 months.

We’re now at maximum capacity for adult members with 170 total members (which also makes us one of the largest martial arts clubs in the UK!) and we know we couldn’t have done it without these videos. Thank you very much to the Enterprise Team and Santander for making it possible!

Student entrepreneur film maker, Harry McGill worked with José and Kaizen Academy to produce both promotional videos. 

You can like Kaizen Academy on Facebook to keep up to date with their progress, and have a look at their webpages for more information.

If you’re interested in applying for an Enterprise Award of up to £500, check out our funding pages here