NWAA Business Challenge

A team of three engineering students represented Lancaster University at the recent North West Aerospace Alliance (NWAA) Business Challenge on Wednesday the 25th of January in Preston. In the below article, Adeayo Sotayo, Francisco Fidalgo and Hrishikesh Deshpande reflect on their experience.

The aim of the NWAA challenge is to recognise and reward young people working and studying in the aerospace sector within the UK’s North West region. 12 industries and Higher Education institutions including, BAE Systems, MBDA UK, Preston’s College, Nelson and Colne College and University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) all presented teams which partook in the challenge.

This year’s event composed of a series of mini challenges to develop and evaluate different sets of skills (communication, negotiation, innovation and presentation) whilst working and competing in teams. Some of the mini-challenges involved playing a slightly different version of Monopoly, creating upright structures from paper and tape, the disassembly and reassembly of a model helicopter made out of Lego in a fast and effective manner. These aforementioned activities tested our Negotiation, Innovation and Communication skills respectively. Lancaster University came 1st in the Communication challenge as we were able to effectively plan by designating sections of the model to each team member and ensuring effective communication. The task was completed in the fastest time, whilst ensuring 100% accuracy.

In addition, having been prepared and mentored by Chris Lowerson, Simon Harrison and Charlotte Stuart from the Enterprise team, we presented to a team of judges and the other teams, on the three most important skills required by an aerospace engineer in the future, which was well commended and applauded. All the tasks tested and developed our ability to perform well and adapt quickly to different situations in a time-controlled environment.

Furthermore, we were able to network with different people working in the aerospace sector and listen to some interesting talks on the future of the Aerospace Industry. At the end, we were each presented with certificates to honour our performance. Overall, it was a very insightful and beneficial experience and would definitely recommend students to partake in the competition in the future.

A big thank you and well done from the Enterprise Team for the huge amounts of enthusiasm and hard work put in by all of the team members!

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

Oli Monks: ‘Nobody’s Listening’

‘But it’s ok not to be ok’

Alumnus Oli Monks recently posted a very honest blog post in which he highlights the hidden, yet all too frequent pressure placed on people to put on a front that everything is going brilliantly. Not only is this a common pressure for entrepreneurs but it is applicable everywhere and very important to recognise. The post is well worth a read here.

GUEST BLOG: It’s not YOUR idea…

… go break stuff!

Current LU MSc Information Technology, Management and Organisational Change student, Benjamin Dada, shares his latest blog on what he’s learnt about ideas generation.  

When I was much younger, I thought ideas were exclusive. I also thought they were the basis upon which people became rich, world-famous et al.

Now that I am a man (at least, I have beards…lol) I know better.

The world has moved from ideas ruling the world to executors of ideas ruling the world.

So, don’t be scared of sharing your idea with a potential co-founder who can help bring it to life.

Read more on Benjamin’s blog here.

GUEST BLOG: Sebastian Weise, PlaceChangers

“I realised that entrepreneurship can be a powerful source of doing good and making a positive impact.”

Sebastian Weise, founder of PlaceChangers Ltd and former PhD Highwire student, received an Enterprise Award in November 2015. Here, he shares his experience.

This is a blog post about my business startup PlaceChangers, started in April 2015. If you are a student interested in starting a company and want to learn what it takes to start-up, this post is for you. In this post I want to touch on challenges and opportunities along the way and key motivations to keep going. Sure, your story will significantly differ as every decision to start-up is quite personal; and that’s OK. One of the key lessons to learn is to have good networks of support. In the case of PlaceChangers, the Enterprise Centre supported us financially towards our basic startup expenses. We are very thankful for their support and early encouragement.

Where did you get the idea for PlaceChangers?

PlaceChangers Ltd arose from research on the interface between the public and urban planners to make choices for Lancaster’s future development. In my research on public participation, many practices became apparent that involved some form of mapping (in the spatial but also conceptual sense), but that wasn’t much reflected in public engagement. As I analysed spatial distributions of participants and issues raised in official consultations, I found a lack of suitable software for large audiences to partake in the regulations for their neighbourhoods. Essentially that’s how the idea of a start-up at the intersection of mapping, data visualisation, and urban spaces grew on me. We started out in April 2015 and begun trading a year later in April 2016.

At the outset, I read a lot about entrepreneurship. I realised that entrepreneurship can be a powerful source of doing good and making a positive impact. Steve Jobs and Elon Musk’s biographies are an inspiration in terms of overcoming challenges and making a difference. In different ways, these entrepreneurs were passionate. For them, purpose was everything and played a key role in their entrepreneurial careers. Their personal challenges and successes encouraged me to try to set a mark, too, even though it may be a much smaller one.

What did your enterprise funding award contribute to and what lessons have you learned from this experience?

 I started in April 2015 while still working on my PhD. The company was registered in Lancaster, but physically I was located in Manchester, where many of my friends were. This was a challenging time, making income from freelancing for a public service consultancy, completing the PhD, and going to startup events. Eventually with a friend of mine, a developer, I started to work on PlaceChangers as a business. Both short on cash, I was very thankful when we were offered the Enterprise Fund to help us cover early start-up costs, such as essential software required to get going, to cover our hosting costs, but also help us towards financing user workshops. Alongside this we were fortunate to receive additional financial support from the EPSRC and I’d say that this helped us become finalists in a competition on “Innovating in Urban Spaces” in January 2016.

What would you say to inspire future students who want to make things happen by applying for an Enterprise Award?

The journey from starting up to finding a first customer and contract is an exciting learning curve, dotted with many challenges. It took PlaceChangers about a whole year to start trading. Throughout you learn a lot about yourself and other people, and that’s very important. When you get to understand somebody’s needs and manage to serve it with honesty and interest, that’s when great things happen. The Enterprise Award is great in helping cover the many smaller expenditures to help towards understanding user needs and confirm your business proposition. Initially, select carefully who you may want to involve in early market testing, assemble a contact list with preferences, and keep regular meaningful contact. Over time, you find out about needs, opportunities, built trust and make yourself known.

What does the future look like for PlaceChangers?

PlaceChangers is moving on. We have moved to new offices at Campus North, in the city centre of Newcastle. We have a software developed that fits the needs of one of our target audiences and we are working on expanding our product feature set to address other audiences at some point in the new year. With a bit of luck and good planning, we will emerge as a significant engagement consultancy for public and private sector clients.

Last but not least, if you are still hesitant to start. Back then, I might have been somewhat unsure, too. That’s normal. There were many who may not have believed it paying off, who failed to see the opportunity beyond the formalities of urban planning. I would not turn back, it’s a personal journal everybody starts on differently. For me, entrepreneurship is also about ‘doing good by doing business’ and so I’d recommend it to anyone who has a strong passion to fill another persons’ need.

We wish Sebastian and PlaceChangers the best of luck in Newcastle!

If you’d like to apply for an Enterprise Funding Award, get in touch and find out more here.

Image courtesy of Placechangers Ltd.

Don’t Fool Yourself! – The Overwhelming Reality of Transitioning to Work

Guest Blog: Alex Green

Alex Green is the Founder of a new start-up, which he began in August 2016 and is looking to develop and distribute his service across the UK in the coming months. His aim is to provide a platform to support young people through the transition from education to work so they can realise their potential and be successful, happy individuals.

In the last 5 years he has worked in London as a Digital Marketing Executive with experience working for agencies with clients such as Activision to Microsoft, helping them to market their products and services. He studied at Lancaster Management School and graduated in 2012 with a Bachelors in Business Studies with specialisms in Entrepreneurship and Marketing. He is now a registered student with the Chartered Institute of Marketing, studying a Diploma in Professional Marketing and continues to expand his expertise in this area. He is particularly interested in making a positive contribution to the education and charitable sectors.

“Students today have it tougher than previous generations”

(Matthew Waterton, The Guardian)


Alex Green1

If you’re someone who is soon to make the transition between full time education to full time work and independent life, this post is designed for YOU. You may be getting ready for your first week at University, preparing for the grind of your final year of studies or have just started the long, exhausting process of finding a graduate job. However, I want to provide you with some first-hand insight and advice into the realities of making the transition.

I hope you find it useful.

Back in 2012 I graduated with a 2:1 degree from Lancaster University. I was an enthusiastic individual who was hungry to learn and needed to prove myself. I wanted to chase the rat race and chose to pursue a career in Marketing in London. What I didn’t know was that getting noticed in London would be extremely hard. Before I landed my first real job at a digital marketing agency in Covent Garden I had to work in a coffee shop for 6 months, live in a hostel for several weeks and commute at 4am for months on end, whilst at the same time constantly falling flat on my face with job applications and coming short at assessment centres. Why? Because I wasn’t properly prepared.

Alec Green2

When I actually got the job I wanted, the realities were slightly different to what I expected and sadly I wasn’t prepared for this either. I had no clue about work politics, dress code, time management and organisation, which in turn made work life shockingly difficult. Getting up at 6am, having to meet the high expectations of my new boss and deal with the physical and mental strain of it all was a SHOCK. Over the last two years I continued working for a range of other companies and realised that I wasn’t the only young person who seemed to be struggling. We simply weren’t properly aware of the realities of living independently. Last year it got to the point where the stress became too much and I decided to resign from my job and do something that I was passionate about. After having some much needed time off, talking to many close friends, family members and advisors, I had a light bulb moment. I decided that I would be the person who would provide young transitional people with the right support and guidance so they could more quickly adapt to the current environment we live in. That’s when my idea was born.

My vision is to equip young people with the tools required to cope with LIFE AFTER EDUCATION. This may include support for mental health, self-help, career advice, personal development and maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Currently, students are only provided with guidance on how to be a successful student and some career advice is offered, but I offer the whole package for dealing with this transition in multiple areas of life – this is what makes my idea unique.


You could argue that parents are there to provide this guidance, however modern day life suggests that families are becoming more disparate, parents are unaware of the true realities of life for young people and cracks are showing in the appropriateness of the support provided. Life has moved on. I would consider that I have come from a secure family background and regardless of my parent’s best intentions, I still found this transition extremely difficult. I am not alone in this.

By creating a resource to better prepare young people for the transition between full time education to full time work life and living independently, they will be better informed to make smart decisions helping them work towards their dreams, be happy and lead a successful life.

As part of my research to find out exactly what support is needed, I have created a survey. If you are interested in my service and think it may be beneficial to you please take just 5 minutes to fill it out and make sure you leave some contact details so I can reach out to you in the future (this is optional). The results from the survey will be shared in my next blog so stay tuned…

For more information bout this topic, listen to my video blog below where I talk about the 10 things I wish I’d known more about before leaving University.

I am also happy to answer any questions you may have via email at alexpgreen@outlook.com.


Funding Update: Team Gryphos

Team Gryphos: Santander winners and funding awardees

Patrizia Carbone, Sebastien Combret and Kyaw Tun Sein received an enterprise funding award in March 2016 which allowed them to attend and win Santander’s Big Ideas competition in London. In this update, they share their motivations, ambitions and where they hope their idea will go next.

We are three MSc International Innovation students; Patrizia and Sebastien are on the Design pathway and Kyaw is on the Engineering pathway.

We met almost 2 years ago at Lancaster University when we started the MSc and we worked together during the first year on a couple of course projects before moving to China for six months in our second year. The three of us have always had a desire to start our own business. So, in the streets of Guangzhou (China) we started meeting and thinking about our next steps. We all had different ideas about a possible product/service but we decided that to make OUR idea we needed one that came from the three of us together.

Pic 1

After endless brainstorming meetings, tons of post-it notes we had a common problem that we wanted to solve…from there we looked, discussed different possible solutions to solve it and came up with the one we felt more suitable. We got feedback from potential users by survey and interviews.

We started working on the project, prototype etc. and decided we were going to apply for a start-up incubator and work toward applying for HAX, the world’s first and largest hardware accelerator based in Shenzhen.

While working on the project we found out, thanks to the Enterprise Centre, that there was the Santander Big Ideas Competition coming up soon, we thought it could be a good start to apply and see what feedback we could get from it. Therefore, we adapted our original idea to fit into the requirement of the competition and Gryphos was born. Gryphos is a fingerprint and ECG digital authentication device that allows you to securely enter your online banking account and make payment securely through NFC (near field communication – a form of contactless communication between devices likes smartphones or tablets).

Pic 2

When we are working together on our project, we feel like children playing. We are serious about solving the problem to make a difference in the world but it is also so much fun. There is a positive energy and a great sense of curiosity among the team. When one team member has an idea to try out, we all give it some thought and we give it a try most of time. We even ended up hacking the iphone!

From there it went pretty fast, we successfully passed the different stages of the application selection and we got the invitation to the semi-final in London on 22nd March. We were not sure we could make it since we were still in China, but luckily for us the Enterprise Team was very helpful and through our application to the Enterprise Fund, we were able to purchase our flight tickets and the team gave support answering the millions questions we had. Finally, we were able to attend and…won the competition!

It has been a great experience and one of the best parts of it was the feedback we received from the executive board at Santander because it gave an insight on the way our device could be used that, for lack of experience, we had not thought about it. We were also invited to visit Santander R&D department in Milton Keynes and attend, as guests, the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards 2016, at the end of June.

After the competition, we came back to Lancaster University to finish our dissertations and to keep working on our projects. Coming back to LU was the best option since we can access to all the services and help the university makes available to students. The Enterprise Centre was and still is very supportive. We also managed to get our own office on campus through Furness’ Mind Your Own Business and that makes working together much easier.

At the end of April, we sent the application for HAX incubator and a week ago we had the first interview with them, we still have work to do and another interview in the next few days.At the same time we applied for a IoT startup bootcamp in London a few days ago, we are still waiting for the outcome.

If you’d like to apply to the Lancaster University Enterprise Fund too, why not take a look at our funding pages here to find out more?


A fair days pay for a fair days work?

Jon Powell on minimum wage, living wage, CEO pay…liv wage2

The Chancellor recently announced the introduction of a National Living Wage. This isn’t going to replace the National Minimum Wage and isn’t on a par with the Living Wage, so what is it?

From April 2016 the National Living Wage (NLW) will apply but only to those aged 25 and over and will be set at £7.20, 50p more than the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for 25 year olds but less that the Living Wage (LW) recommended by the Living Wage Foundation of £8.25.

Assuming 233 working days of 8 hours that equates to an approximate salary of £12,500 on the NMW, £13,420 on the NLW or £15,378 on the LW.

So a 25 year old on the NLW will receive a salary of £13,420, but a 20 year old doing the same job would be salaried £9,880 (£5.30 hr on the NMW). And that doesn’t take into account the full cost to the employer e.g. NI, pension etc.  The salary will be 36% higher for the 25 year old. And don’t forget the employer cannot discriminate on (w)age and just employ the younger applicant.

So that begs the question of a fair days pay for a fair days work. Does the 25 year old doing the same job deserve a 36% higher salary?

With all the confusion over what employers should legally pay their employees, what about the moral viewpoint? Dan Prince CEO of Seattle based tech company Gravity announced earlier this year that he would raise the salary of every employee to $70,000 (£47,000) and cut his own salary to the same amount. The figure was based on research by the University of Princeton, which found that an income above that point did not have a significant impact on a person’s happiness.

So if you are an employer that now has to pay more for the same “fair days’ work” or an employee that will benefit from an increase in salary as a result of the National Living Wage, do you feel any happier? Or are you still wondering how much your CEO is taking home and wishing you worked for Dan Prince…..


Jon Powell is the LU Enterprise Team Manager and a Director of Enterprise Educators UK, Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce and Employer Solutions Ltd.

Megan Macedo – Crisis is the Cure

The Business of Self Disclosure


Megan Macedo is a marketing strategist, writer and founder of Becoming Yourself in Business.

It’s no secret that an entrepreneurial path is paved with uncertainty and risk and failure is unavoidable. Whilst most commentators would encourage you to capitalise on your successes and ignore your failures along the way, Megan believes that it is the “whole series of smaller wins and losses that are the real stories of success.” She says;

“I’m interested in their success, but I want the complete version. I don’t just want to know what they did to make their current venture a success, I want to know the whole story of how they got to where they are.

I recently heard Brené Brown say that the question to ask is not “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” but “What is worth doing even if you fail?” The people asking themselves that question are the ones I want to talk to.

I think if we’re living right we should be going through some kind of crisis on a regular basis…. Crisis is how we come to know ourselves, discover our strengths and hear the whispers that tell us what we’re made for. The problem most of us have is we try to keep everything on an even keel all the time, even when we know something’s not right with the status quo.

If you resist the crisis you miss out on the progress it brings. Every story worth telling is the story of someone coming out of the other side of crisis.”

Read more from Megan here.

GUEST BLOG: Fraser Williams on his first month of Ignite100

“Screw your idea” and other lessons from month #1 in Ignite 100ignite-1002

Fraser Williams and Tom Young, both current LU students, are taking part in Europe’s top pre-seed accelerator programme, Ignite 100, in Newcastle.

Fraser says:

Today marks the end of our first month in Ignite100, Europe’s top pre-seed accelerator program. We were unbelievably fortunate to be picked for the September 2015 cohort, whittled down from around 400 startups (don’t quote me).

What are you building? We’re (currently – it will change) building studymonstr.com, which is Reddit for essay sources. We’re trying to save students time by giving them resources that other people have used for that particular essay, as a starting place for research. We care about giving people access to the most relevant knowledge as fast as possible.

We’ve learnt a shed load of stuff. We achieved this learning through reading about it then failing at it. I want to share five of our lessons:

  • Screw your idea
  • Why build it without validating there a problem?
  • Everyone is lying :’(
  • Spot trends, not birds. 
  • Test…

Read more here.