45 colleges and universities across Scotland are set to become Entrepreneurial Campuses (ECs) as part of a ten-year plan helping students create and scale startups in tech and other sought after sectors. 

First Minister Humza Yousaf announced the Entrepreneurial Campus Plan, which involves a £5.5 million increase to the 2023-2024 University Innovation Fund. The plan is part of a wider push to make post-16 learning institutions a launchpad for regional economic development and growth. 

“Evidence from around the world tells a compelling story of how entrepreneurship, properly harnessed, can drive innovation and economic growth,” said Yousaf. “It is an area where we want to learn from, and work with, international partners in order to drive innovation across Scotland’s universities and colleges, which are some of the best in the world.”

Looking to other world class institutions around the world such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), we see the impact they have on their communities. More jobs, companies and tax revenues are created because of them, and further, existing experts from the area are inspired to stay there and mentor the next generation, according to the plan.

“Their students don’t just get a degree and go elsewhere, they stay, build businesses, creating a virtuous cycle of growth. We must translate these lessons for the benefit of all in Scotland,” said professor Joe Little, an author of the Entrepreneurial Campus Plan. 

One of the core goals of the Entrepreneurial Campus is to develop a more robust tech ecosystem in Scotland. This was decided based on recommendations set out by the Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review, which looked into how Scotland’s tech sector could contribute to the economic recover after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The review suggested more support for tech businesses from the early startup phase, which this EC strategy is looking to do.

“If these companies are to start their life on campus, then they need the support that we see in other successful programmes in order to increase the chances that they thrive and reach scale,” said the plan. 

While ECs are different from “techscalers” in that ECs focus on students still in university, the desired outcome is more or less the same. ECs focus on: 

  • Inspiring students and staff.
  • Providing co-curricular opportunities.
  • Providing a launchpad with wraparound support for student Start-ups.
  • Supporting academics with technology spin-outs.
  • Facilitating access to funding for early-stage start-ups/spin-outs.
  • Developing skills.
  • Representing the communities and regions across Scotland. 
  • Nurturing cross-faculty learning and research.
  • Promoting and teaching social entrepreneurialism.

Important to this strategy is the regional focus. As such, the partnership has nine regional partnerships in a collaborative effort to provide the Scottish economy with skills in demand.

The partnerships struck with regional programs aim to assist their emerging economic characteristics, such as the air and sea ports of Ayrshire, the economic diversity of Glasgow’s Metro Region, the decarbonisation of the Forth Valley, the capital effect on and of the City and Region in and around Edinburgh, sustainable mobility in Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc (MISP) in the Tay Cities region, and Aberdeen’s journey of transition.

Ross Tuffee, author of the report said: “Scotland has an incredible opportunity to scale the socio-economic impact of its academic institutions by inspiring and supporting a new generation of entrepreneurs. We need to normalize entrepreneurship as a valid career path.

“We can create the conditions that underpin this acceleration by bringing together successful entrepreneurs with students and staff and aligning funding and physical support cross our regions. This is a 10-year strategy but we have to start now.”