HE students and staff to get support for social change

23 Nov 2009 01:49 PM

UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, and HEFCE have joined forces to launch an awards scheme to promote and recognise social entrepreneurship activity in higher education (HE).

Through the HE Social Entrepreneurship Awards scheme, higher education institutions (HEIs) are being encouraged to develop their enterprise skills in supporting activities that have a social purpose (for example: the environment, healthcare, education, social cohesion, fair trade and micro-finance). The scheme will provide staff and students with support and funding for enterprising new ventures. The Awards, will be provided as a grant with applications across an 18-month period from 19 November 2009 underpinned by an investment of nearly £1 million through HEFCE's Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF).

The Awards cover two categories: 'Catalyst Awards' of up to £5,000 (with an average award of £2,500) will allow individuals to grow an entrepreneurial idea that also creates positive social change, while 'Development Awards' of up to £15,000 will be available to those with exceptional projects with the potential of developing to scale or becoming investment-ready. For more information and to apply, see the Awards web-site.

In addition to financial support for up to 200 social entrepreneurs, the programme includes a package of non-financial support, networking and awareness-raising activities to promote social entrepreneurship among staff and students in English HEIs.

With the annual financial turnovers of projects from social entrepreneurs growing almost twice as quickly as those of traditional businesses*, social entrepreneurs are increasingly at the forefront of social innovation and economic recovery. Young people in particular are interested in social entrepreneurship, with 35 per cent of all early-stage entrepreneurs in the UK now looking to start a social venture**. Knowledge transfer and commercial entrepreneurship are now well established in the HE sector and make a major contribution to the UK economy. The HE Social Entrepreneurship Awards aim to replicate this for social value. More and more students and staff in HE institutions see social entrepreneurship as their future.

HEFCE's Chief Executive, Sir Alan Langlands, commented:

'We are very pleased to be working with UnLtd to develop the HE Social Entrepreneurship Awards. This initiative aims to unlock the potential of staff and students in higher education institutions to address social challenges in new and enterprising ways. The scheme will highlight the contribution HE already makes to social entrepreneurship and raise awareness of how our HEIs can support and nurture the social entrepreneurs of the future.'

UnLtd's Chief Executive, Cliff Prior, said:

'UnLtd are excited to be partnering with HEFCE to launch a groundbreaking new programme of enterprise into higher education institutions across England. Social entrepreneurs are the glue holding our society together, and the creative spark for solving the new challenges facing our society and economy. The HE Social Entrepreneurship Awards are a huge step forward in creating a culture of social entrepreneurship across the UK.'

Launching the Awards, Minister for the Third Sector, Angela Smith commented:

'This is an exciting and innovative partnership between UnLtd and the HEFCE. Not only will it make a difference to the growth and sustainability of the sector but it will make an impact on and benefit young people and higher education professionals who will better understand the principle of social entrepreneurship and social change.'

* Comparison made by Social Enterprise Magazine of the top 40 companies within each of the RBS SE100 and Business XL Rising Stars listings.

** Social Entrepreneurship in the UK, 2008, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor


1.   UnLtd is the leading provider of support to the growing number of entrepreneurs in the UK who have their ventures firmly rooted in delivering positive social change; people whom UnLtd call social entrepreneurs.

2.   HEFCE promotes and funds high-quality, cost-effective teaching and research, meeting the diverse needs of students, the economy and society.

3.   Further information about the Awards has been sent to HEIs today in HEFCE electronic publication 08/2009.