Dragons’ Den star and businesswoman Deborah Meaden has helped launched the University of Exeter’s new Centre for Entrepreneurship.
The centre will help create the next generation of start-up founders and innovators who will thrive in the fourth industrial revolution. It will help people start meaningful ventures which improve society and their communities, with their work informed by research from the centre’s experts.
The centre builds on the work already ongoing at the University of Exeter to encourage student entrepreneurship, including the Student Startup Team.
At the launch event Deborah shared details about her long and successful career with current students, alumni, academics and members of the community. As well as appearing on the BBC TV show she now owns or invests in 19 businesses. She told the audience how much she cared about their impact on society, and how this should be an essential part of how any company is run.
Deborah said: “The real impact entrepreneurs can have is to care about making a difference. There is no shame in making money, provided companies do good things with it.
“Entrepreneurs are restless, with really good judgement and emotional intelligence. But it is important that they constantly learn from others around them and build their ability to be flexible. Entrepreneurs have a unique sense of what’s going on in the world, and how they can help to make society better.”
Deborah spoke about her experience rescuing Somerset firm Fox Brothers, one of the oldest established textile mills in the country, and how she had “no idea” at first what she was doing, but was proud to have made a contribution to the local community.
She also told the audience how one of her first jobs as a bingo caller had helped her understand the customer, and how making decisions too quickly was dangerous. Deborah was also asked about the work she and her staff do to help protect the environment, and said how proud she was to have first received an environmental award 40 years ago. When asked a question about her involvement in investing in vegan food Deborah said this was a movement “long gone past fad” which would continue to attract long-term investment.
Professor Erno Tornikoski, Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship, said: “We are delighted Deborah helped us launch our centre. Our work is inspired and has its foundations in research, and we will measure success by the impact our students and staff have on the world around them.”
Joe Pearce, Head of SETsquared Exeter and the centre’s Deputy Director, said: “At the University of Exeter we have a reputation for fostering entrepreneurial behaviour, helping students and start up founders develop the skills to come up with innovative solutions for complex problems. Our students are demonstrate to employers that they have the competencies such as resilience, commercial awareness and customer focus that are in high demand in today’s workplace. The centre will help create graduates with this kind of entrepreneurial mindset.”
The centre offers an MSc in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management and an undergraduate degree pathway in entrepreneurship, with modules in innovation, startup entrepreneurship, thinking entrepreneurially, and business ignition. There are also postgraduate modules in new venture development and MBA modules on the entrepreneurial mindset and starting new ventures.