Three £50,000 funds launched to help graduate innovators become world-changing entrepreneurs

12 Feb 2016

The Royal Academy of Engineering has launched its first grant exclusively aimed at supporting recent UK engineering graduates and their potentially ground-breaking innovations.

The RAEng 1851 Royal Commission Enterprise Fellowships scheme aims to unearth graduate engineers with disruptive ideas and significant entrepreneurial potential. Awardees become member of the Academy’s Enterprise Hub which offers money-can’t-buy mentoring from some of the UK’s most successful engineering entrepreneurs and business leaders, and a bespoke training and support package. In recognition of their entrepreneurial potential and to support their continued development, Fellows also receive a £25,000 cash prize and an additional £25,000 for the development of the innovation.

With increasing tuition fees and a competitive graduate job market, more and more young people are choosing alternative routes to a successful career. Between 2006 and 2013, there was a 70% increase in the number of company founders aged 35 or under.  For all entrepreneurs securing funding and developing business leads remains a challenge, but young entrepreneurs in particular can struggle more than their older counterparts. The Hub aims to use these Fellowships to offer engineers an alternative career path and help young entrepreneurs overcome challenges like these to accelerate their success.

The Fellowships are funded by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, which was tasked by Prince Albert to “increase the means of industrial education and extend the influence of science and art upon productive industry” using profits from the Great Exhibition.

Since then, the Commission has aided the establishment of some of Britain’s most iconic institutions from the Royal Albert Hall to the Natural History Museum and now invests over £2 million a year in awards to support major scientific and technological innovations. It counts 13 Nobel Prize winners amongst its alumni and has recently supported engineers working on projects including an artificial lens to prevent long-sightedness, cutting-edge solar cell technology and a new method of preserving coral reefs.

The Academy’s Enterprise Hub was established to help engineering entrepreneurs spin out their innovations into successful businesses through money-can’t-buy mentoring and support. It has already helped young innovators commercialise their inventions through its Launchpad Competition, aimed at 16-25-year-old entrepreneurs, including the inventors of a compostable tent and an incubator for premature babies born in the developing world.

Ana Avaliani, Head of Enterprise at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “In many ways, young people are perfectly suited to entrepreneurship: they generally have fewer commitments, allowing them to dedicate time to their new ventures and they also tend to have the energy which is so important in maintaining determination when starting a new venture. Yet, they can lack the business experience and commercial know-how to really succeed. The aim of the new RAEng 1851 Royal Commission Enterprise Fellowships is to help engineering graduates with an aptitude for innovation and creativity to negotiate the tricky passage from idea to market through a package of world-class mentoring and support.

“Through this scheme, we hope to uncover disruptive, potentially game-changing innovations from early career entrepreneurs who, with the Academy’s support, can realise their full potential and make a real impact.”

The RAEng 1851 Royal Commission Enterprise Fellowship scheme is now open to applications from anyone who received a degree in engineering or a related discipline at a UK University after 1 March 2011. Awardees will receive a £50,000 to cover equipment, travel, and subsistence for a 12 month period.

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