University-led collaboration aims to supercharge UK Social Ventures

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9th October 2023

Funding via the Connecting Capability Fund will provide acceleration of support for the UK university social venture sector.

A potent consortium of academic institutions, spearheaded by Oxford University Innovation (OUI), has secured a £1.5m bid titled “Seed Funding, Training, and Support for Social Ventures”, which will fortify and amplify the trajectory of university social ventures. At present, social ventures generate £60bn for the economy and have successfully created two million jobs.

The funding comes via UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Connecting Capability Fund. Alongside OUI, LSE Innovation (London School of Economics and Political Science’s commercialisation team) will co-lead the project’s training and knowledge dissemination. The project builds on LSE’s Aspect funded Social Venture Pathway project and Impact 12, a collaboration for social ventures including Cambridge Enterprise (OUI’s peer organisation at the University of Cambridge), Coventry University Social Enterprise (CUSE), Northampton University. The group welcomes new collaborators University of Exeter, University of Reading, Kingston University, University of York and Anglia Ruskin University.

“Together, we build an exciting collaboration that seeks to marry innovation with social impact, providing comprehensive, targeted support for social ventures across UK universities,” said Philippa Christoforou, Social Ventures Lead at OUI.

The alliance, soon to be rebranded as Impact U from Impact 12, will underpin the acceleration of social ventures through a multifaceted strategy:

  • Distribution of Pathfinder Awards: Aiming to target social ventures across Impact U members, ensuring a steady and accessible financial stream to burgeon innovative ideas into actionable businesses.
  • Curating a Knowledge-Sharing and Training Ecosystem: Partnering with adept bodies like Social Tech Trust and School for Social Entrepreneurs, the consortium endeavours to share pivotal insights and expertise to budding entrepreneurs and founders.
  • Constructing a Holistic Hub for Social Ventures: Developing a unified platform on the Impact U website, the alliance will offer abundant resources and routine training sessions for university support staff and academic stakeholders.

This initiative will address the profound need to propel interventions and technologies in diverse settings, such as low-resource or community-led environments, ensuring ventures mirror the values and methodologies inspired by founders. Impact U is poised to comprehend and navigate the challenges encountered by their ventures by providing these pathfinder awards in England, and training to any UK university, bolstering the growth of the university social venture ecosystem.

Charlotte Rowan, Innovation Manager at LSE and Social Venture Pathway project lead, said:

“Impact U’s partners envisage a future where academic and student founders find equitable and sustainable delivery models to market their ideas. The focal aim is not merely to fill a funding void but to weave a supportive framework that uplifts the overall ecosystem in the UK. Our goal is to stand true to our objective, providing equal opportunity and fostering an environment where the social venture ecosystem doesn’t just survive but thrives.”

Dr Christine Martin, Head of Seed Funds at Cambridge Enterprise, added:

“The amalgamation of initiatives like ASPECT and Impact12 underlines the collective resolve of universities and stakeholders. Impact U is championing a movement towards dedicated support for university social venture formation, through innovative funding mechanisms and a vibrant training hub. With this initiative, our partners underline a commitment towards an equitable future where social entrepreneurs are not left to fend for themselves but are provided with a nurtured path towards impactful sustainability.”

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