Frequently Asked Questions
Lots of people ask us the same or similar questions on a regular basis. Here are some of the most common ones.
Can I come along to Work in Progress at any time?
Work in Progress is used by lots of different people day – the Enterprise Team, other staff members involved in Engagement and Business Development, students working on their ideas, projects and start-ups. Your ability to just drop in changes on a daily basis depending on which of these people have booked to use it and when. If you are passing, check out the screen in the front window to see if there’s something on, or if we’re open for drop-ins. We also post the daily drop-in availability on Facebook or Twitter every day so follow-us to stay abreast of when we’re open.
I’ve emailed an enquiry; what happens next?
We will respond within three days to acknowledge your enquiry, invite you to an introductory meeting and suggest some things that are immediately open for you to get involved in. Where you are actively working on an existing business, we will allocate you to one of our Development Managers who will arrange a time to meet you to better understand your needs and explore ways forwards.
Where can I find a list of what’s on?
There is a list of upcoming activities in the poster frame on the outside of the Work in Progress studio on Alex Square. All our activities are also on the Target Connect events calendar. You can filter the results to show only ‘Work in Progress’ activities. Because our customers’ needs and availability differ from person to person, we don’t tend to schedule the same thing at the same time every week. However, we do have a weekly ‘Let’s Talk Start-up’ on a Friday afternoon from 1:45pm-3:45pm for anyone who can attend.
Do I have to book onto things before I can attend them?
With the exception of our daily Hang-outs and the Let’s Talk Start-up session, which are both drop-ins and can’t be booked. Everything else, can and should be booked in advance on Target Connect as we carefully track sign-up numbers to make short notice decisions about whether to go ahead there are not enough people signed up to justify running them. If this happens, we will inform you directly so watch our for communications from us. Equally, if you book, then find that you can’t make it, we expect you to let us know.
Do I have to pay for this service?
No, it’s entirely free for you to access as a student, alumnus, employee or affiliated business of Lancaster University. This doesn’t mean it is free to provide it – the support you access is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and part funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund. We need to show that they have made a sensible decision to invest in this service, so the more you access our support, the clearer the message is to these funders and the University that it is of value.
Can I book the space?
Yes, assuming you want to use the space to undertake innovation, engagement or entrepreneurial activities that make the most of the facilities available. It’s not intended to be an extension of the Learning Zone or Library, or just another meeting room. Please email email@example.com and we’ll check on the availability.
How can you support me to make my idea happen?
We are keen advocates of Lean Entrepreneurship which focuses on pre-start business model validation. The first thing we will expect you to do is to validate the most important element of this business model – your Value Proposition, i.e. the solution or response your products/services provide to an identified problem or opportunity . We will invite you to participate in our on- and offline validation activities and provide you with the tools and resources you need.
Do you only support business ideas?
No, many ideas that come forward relate to a short one-off activity where there is no expectation that it will be repeated or sustained. This is common for group projects aligned to your course modules, events, change activities and other personally-driven initatives. Like any venture, realising even short one-off projects involves financial planning, stakeholder analysis, risk management, project planning, etc. We’ll support you to work through these processes to ensure your activity is as successful as possible. However, where there is a desire from you to repeat or sustain your activity, we will encourage you to identify how this will be possible in just the same way you would as a business idea.
How do you decide which ideas to support?
We don’t. We don’t judge or attempt to predict which ideas will be successful or not. Instead, we provide you with the environment and resources to undertake the necessary steps to determine whether your idea is worth pursuing. This is all part of the validation process and it can be hard to move away from an idea that you are emotionally attached to. However much you and other people may love your idea, implementing it and sustaining it may simply be beyond you and the resources you can access. This is the reality of innovation!
I don’t want to share my idea in case someone steals it; can you support me?
Potentially, but it will be difficult for you to really make any meaningful progress unless you are prepared to speak to someone about it.
If it’s any reassurance though, the team at Work in Progress is employed by the University and would be in breach of their contracts if they somehow stole your idea. We’ve seen a lot of ideas come and go over the last ten years and so far we’ve managed to resist throwing in our jobs to run off with someone else’s idea. The reality is, ideas come from very personal places and we know that you’ll need to really love yours to be able to see it through to success. And the only person who is going to have the passion and resilience to make your idea happen is you. All the other students you meet will be so involved in their own ideas, they are very unlikely to suddenly drop them in favour of yours.
Moreover, Open Innovation and Social Learning are both key aspects of our educational and service philosophy. While we recognise that sometimes secrecy is imperative (e.g. if you’ve invented something entirely new to the world), generally, the sooner you do start talking to people, the sooner you’ll be able to start validating your idea and determining whether it’s genuinely worth pursuing.
How can I find out who else is working on a similar idea?
The more time you spend at our events and Hang-outs, the more you’ll be part of the general community buzz and you’ll start to get connected to those working in similar areas. We’ve also got the Challenge Lancaster window which spotlights new ideas and new people bringing new skills to the the community. We’re also about to launch an online platform that will help you find other people with similar interests. Watch this space!
I’ve done some validation; what next?
Once you’ve undertaken some validation activity, we’ll invite you to a 1-2-1 session to explore the current iteration of your business model, how it has evolved and what your immediate needs are. We’ll outline the next level of support that you can unlock at this point, which includes the ability to pitch for £250, to access 1-2-1 conversations with our bank of professional advisors, to access the Work in Progress facilities after hours as a trusted users, etc.
If you are actually ready at this point to launch a business, we will also refer you to our Business Registration partner who can take you through all the legal processes. Once you are registered, you’ll be able to tap into the support for our new start businesses (see below).
Can I register a business on campus?
You can, but only using the official address that has been agreed for this purpose. This means that you will be in breach of your tenancy agreement with the University if you register at your College address for example.
It’s important to remember that the way we are funded means we can only support businesses with Lancashire addresses. If you register outside the region, e.g. at your family’s address, you will need to register using the official address to be able to access the business support.
Can you provide me with start-up funding?
Once you’ve engaged in validation activity and produced a pitch deck, you will be able to pitch for £250. This is typically used for R&D purposes, but you can pitch for it to cover essential start-up costs. Once you’ve registered and started to engage in the new business support activity, you will have the opportunity to pitch for an additional £750.
Do I have to launch a business?
For lots of different reasons though, now might not be the right time for you to launch a business and we’ll never push you into it unless it’s clearly the right thing for you (i.e. you are effectively trading and need to be remain within compliance of UK tax laws).
What support do you provide to businesses?
Again, this will depend entirely on your specific needs. You will be able to access all the same activities that we run for pre-starts, including the validation activity which can be invaluable even for established businesses, particularly those looking to launch new products and services, to reach into new markets, or to innovate some element of their business model. In addition, we can connect you with a dedicated mentor, financial advisors, investment networks, or place you within an Action Learning Set for peers support. We also run some workshops that are exclusively for businesses so you will be alerted to these opportunities directly.
Will the University want to take any equity in my business in exchange for support?
No, your business is entirely yours. However, if you are an existing employee of the University and you have assigned your IP over to the institution when you joined, you will need to enter into a licensing agreement with the University before taking any formal steps to start-up. The conditions of this agreement will be entirely separate to the business planning support. If in doubt, drop us a line.
My business has nothing to do with the University; can you support me?
Potentially. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see what’s possible.