Edinburgh creates record number of spin-offs

August 26, 2010

In a move that defies the chilly financial climate, a Scottish university has set a new record for the number of spin-off companies it helped to establish.

During 2009-10, the University of Edinburgh helped to create 40 new businesses, which it said was the most ever generated by a Scottish university in a single academic year.

In the previous year, Edinburgh managed to develop just 26 new enterprises, and while no sector-wide statistics are available, Ederyn Williams, director of Warwick Ventures and an expert in the field, said that Edinburgh's tally was an "amazing" achievement.

The 40 new businesses included nine established by Edinburgh academics, 19 developed by students and 12 by external entrepreneurs who built up their business through the university's commercialisation arm, Edinburgh Research and Innovation (ERI).

The companies set up in 2009-10 have already pulled in £3 million in funding from external sources. Grant Wheeler, head of company formation and incubation at ERI, said its record-breaking performance was the result of years of work with academics and students to encourage them to think about starting a business.

"We have made a fairly significant commitment to develop the enterprise culture within the university over the past five years. We're really starting to reap the benefit now," he explained. "There are other factors, such as the recession. Students are increasingly unsure about where their futures lie and are taking matters into their own hands by setting up a business."

Derek Waddell, chief executive officer of ERI, said the new firms, a number of which are engaged in renewable energy and green technology, had the potential to make a major contribution to the Scottish economy, and also to become globally significant, potentially helping to generate further economic growth and new jobs.

The new businesses include NGenTec, a technology company improving the efficiency of wind turbines, which has already secured an £800,000 contract with the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and Skoogmusic, which produces musical instruments for children with disabilities.

In the past five years, the university has formed a total of 131 companies. More than 85 per cent are still operating and together they employ over 300 staff.

hannah.fearn@tsleducation.com.

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