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University marks new milestone in startups

Perfect match: (from left): Peter Mathieson, Dr George Baxter, CEO of Edinburgh Innovations; Collin Powers; and Lorna Baird

Edinburgh University students and recent graduates have launched 100 startup companies in a single year for the first time.

The total is higher than any institution in the Russell Group of 24 leading UK universities has previously recorded.

The milestone was also reached despite many students having been absent from campus in the last academic year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of the 100 start-ups, 43 were founded by women, and 21 of the businesses define themselves as social enterprises.

Forty-five of the companies were launched by current or recent undergraduate students, while 55 were set up by postgraduates.

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Since the University of Edinburgh launched its first spinout company, Reynolds Medical, in 1967, staff and students at the University have established more than 800 companies.

The number of student start-ups launched has been growing consistently in recent years, more than doubling over the past three years from 50 in 2017-18.

Students and staff at the university receive free support from Edinburgh Innovations, the university’s commercialisation service.

Inventions launched by student entrepreneurs during 2020-21 include AI-based virtual-reality software for tennis players and coaches, founded by graduate Collin Powers; a health-research app that tracks people’s mood; a robotic system to sort waste for recycling; and a grip-assist glove to help people live independently.

Mr Powers said: “Edinburgh Innovations has been instrumental in helping me on my entrepreneurial journey. Being accepted into EI’s Startup Summer Accelerator gave me the confidence to pursue my vision full-time.”

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Professor Peter Mathieson, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, said: “Reaching this impressive milestone of 100 student start-ups in a year of lockdown and restrictions truly demonstrates the entrepreneurial spirit of our students.

“I know peer support is a big feature among these company founders, which is doubly impressive in these difficult times. I wish all our entrepreneurs every success with their enterprises, many of which are aiming to tackle important societal needs.”

Lorna Baird, student enterprise manager at Edinburgh Innovations, said: “The rising number of young people turning their creative ideas into new products and services gives us all grounds for hope for the future.

“At Edinburgh Innovations we’re proud of all our company founders and proud to support them as they begin what we hope will be a long and fruitful journey.”

The 100 milestone was marked at a Covid-safe celebration at the University’s Student Enterprise Hub.

Startups in this year’s cohort received funds from schemes including Unlocking Ambition and Smart:Scotland, and won awards at Converge Challenge, Scottish EDGE and other national competitions.

Companies launched by the University’s students and staff have an enviable record of long-term success, supported by venture capital and other investors. In the year to 31 July 2021, provisional figures show that £47.5 million was invested in University of Edinburgh start-ups and spin-outs.



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