A new entrepreneurial hub for University of Oxford students will help to ensure that the next Steve Jobs or Sheryl Sandberg will come from the UK, its vice-chancellor predicts.
The Oxford Foundry, the university’s first dedicated space for staff and student start-ups, was officially launched by Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, on 11 October.
Initiated by the Saїd Business School, the new venue aims to build a community of innovation across the university, inspiring and supporting Oxford’s 23,000 students to develop their entrepreneurial skills or create commercial ventures.
Vice-chancellor Louise Richardson said that the launch of the Oxford Foundry would help the institution to continue to turn its academic research into innovative solutions on an international scale, improving diversity within the tech industry along the way.
"Oxford is a very diverse community so that’s the whole idea behind having a central place for students from across the university, from all over the world, to come together in this hub,” she told Times Higher Education.
“We hope there will be lots of ideas generated by this diversity of perspective – that’s what this is all about. Ultimately, we hope students will gain the confidence here to aim high.
“The next Tim Cook, Steve Jobs or the next Sheryl Sandberg could start out from here,” she added.
At a launch event attended by students, academics and the local community, Mr Cook advised budding entrepreneurs to “embrace diversity and recruit friends who think differently to you”.
“Leadership is about surrounding yourself with the right people,” he said. “It’s sitting in a meeting room with a handful of people and asking those two people who are saying very little what they’re thinking. Maybe they don’t agree. Maybe it’s a woman and she’s not [getting the chance] to speak – that happens a lot in the tech industry.”
Asked when it was right for a leader to speak out on a wider issue, given the current political environment, Mr Cook said: “When you see something going on which is in conflict with your human values, I think we have a responsibility and an obligation to say something. Silence is the ultimate form of consent.”
His comments follow on from an announcement made by Apple in the wake of violent rallies in Charlottesville this summer, that the company was “stepping up to help organisations who work to rid [the US] of hate”.
The Oxford Foundry will have a student advisory board and partnerships with student societies across the university, including Oxford Entrepreneurs, Europe’s largest society for entrepreneurship, with more than 10,000 members.