“Huddersfield opened my eyes,” says Vince Cable

Mon, 22 Apr 2013 11:45:00 BST

Business Secretary tells Westminster audience that university entrepreneurship offers hope for the future

Group shot with Busines Secretary Vince Cable at Westminster

From left to right are Paul Blomfield MP, James Whitefield (Huddersfield graduate), Guy Watts, Lizze Leary, Michael Kashioulis, Hinesh Mistry, Professor Steve West, Hushpreet Dhaliwal, Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP, Bill Beaumont, Neomi Bennett, Vashti Seth, Oliver Blanchard, Beth Widdowson

VISITING the University of Huddersfield was an “eye-opening experience”, said Business Secretary Vince Cable when he spoke at a Westminster event which celebrated graduate entrepreneurs and urged new policies to help them to boost the economy. 

Vince Cable with Vice-Chancellor Professor Bob Cryan Dr Cable came to the University in 2011 to open a major research facility (pictured left opening the EPSRC Centre in 2011) and during his visit he also learned about its work to teach and encourage entrepreneurship among students.  Now he believes that entrepreneurship at the university is a real source of hope for the future, he told the audience at an event organised at the Houses of Parliament by the University Alliance (UA), which links the UK’s most business-minded universities. 

They include the University of Huddersfield – named Entrepreneurial University of the Year at a recent awards ceremony – and among those in attendance at the UA event were its Head of Enterprise, Dr Kelly Smith, plus Huddersfield graduates who teamed up to form a successful design consultancy. 

‌The event – at which Dr Cable gave the keynote address – was named Start-up.  Itwas based around the stories of graduate entrepreneurs who have launched businesses.  They talked about the hurdles they faced and the back-up they received from their universities. 

THAT Creative logo One of the stories told belonged to the Huddersfield business THAT Creative.  Now based in the University’s 3M Buckley Innovation Centre, it was launched by a team of five graduates who had been studying product design.  The consultancy’s managing partners Hinesh Mistry and James Whitfield were at Start-up to make a contribution. 

University Alliance logo Dr Smith said: “It was a great event and I was so proud when Vince Cable praised the work we are doing in the field of enterprise.  James and Hinesh made a very impressive contribution and I am convinced that the University Alliance got its message across.”

The Alliance is calling for the Government to dismantle some of the hurdles faced by new graduate businesses. 

Solutions include stronger links between Government financing for enterprise and universities.  Also, says the UA, there should be wider access to critical enterprise support available for graduate start-ups, in order to enable growth across all key sectors. 

Meanwhile, empty commercial properties should be used and promoted for the use of graduate start-ups, helping to nurture local start-ups; and entrepreneurship should be recognised as a legitimate graduate career. 

The University Alliance has a clutch of statistics to bolster its credentials in the field of entrepreneurship:

  • 2,771 graduate start-ups in 2010/11 of which 983 (35%) were Alliance graduates;
  • 11,816 jobs created by graduate start-ups in 2010/11 of which 5,070 (43%) were Alliance;
  • £272m turnover by graduate start-ups of which £147m (54%) comes from Alliance graduate start-ups. 

The story of THAT Creative

THAT Creative team

(Pictured left members of THAT Creative)

‌Hinesh Mistry (seated bottom left) explains how THAT Creative was launched: “We had begun to look for jobs when our business lecturer talked about business start-ups.  We realised that we had complementary design skills that we had used in projects together on our course and so we thought, ‘Instead of each of us working for different product design consultancies, why not come together and start our own?’” 

But they needed help so that they could add business nous to their design skills.  So they successfully applied for inclusion in the scheme named Activ8, run by the University of Huddersfield’s Enterprise Team.  It provides months of intensive support from the University’s business advisers plus other benefits that include cash grants, access to office facilities and special mentoring. 

Said Hinesh: “Activ8 has been brilliant.  They showed us how to write a business plan; how to form a partnership – with all the legal advice to make sure it was set up properly; they gave us office space, networking opportunities with other start-ups and some initial funding.”

THAT Creative's design pieces James Whitfield (seated centre) is THAT Creative’s other managing partner.  He explained that the business was unique as a design consultancy.  Its members, all recent Huddersfield graduates, covered a wide range of disciplines.  The rest of the team comprises Sean Sykes, who covers engineering aspects; graphic designer Laura Dunn; and Alistair Crompton, who specialises in the visual dimension of products. 

‌The consultancy has successfully hit its first-year targets, said James.  THAT Creative has adopted a unique way of looking at problems and finding original solutions in a short space of time, giving it an edge in a highly-competitive field.  The company’s website has an online portfolio showing a wide range of the design solutions developed by the team. (Pictured right are a few of the designs THAT Creative has been a part of).

THAT Creative have recently established itself at the University of Huddersfield’s newly-opened, £12 million 3M Buckley Innovation Centre, where they have access to state-of-the-art office facilities.  And from here the team hope to aid the regeneration of British industry, from design to manufacture. 

“We always try to encourage people who work with us to get things made in the UK as well as designed here,” says James.

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