About 100,000 students and graduates will get the chance to develop skills as entrepreneurs and business leaders with the launch of one of the first University Enterprise Networks (UENs), sponsored by Microsoft.
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Shriti Vadera, minister for economic competitiveness and small business, launched the networks at a reception at the Microsoft offices in London.
The networks will focus on the areas of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM), innovation, and the nuclear sector. The networks will be managed by the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship (NCGE).
The UENs aim to establish a culture of enterprise in universities by providing training, advice and encouragement to students and graduates who want to develop their business ideas or wish to become innovative employees.
Each network will be further supported by sponsorship from privately owned companies and regional development agencies (RDAs).
Vadera said, "Making graduates more business savvy and entrepreneurial is essential to Britain's long term competitiveness. I would like to see more UENs between businesses and investors to encourage this."
Stephen Uden, Microsoft UK head of skills and economic affairs, said, "We are looking at a long period of economic uncertainty. That does not mean that business does not go on, or that there will not be opportunities for those who can take advantage of them. What it does mean though is that those leaving university need to have the right skills to succeed."
The STEM UEN will be led by the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) in collaboration with the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), and sponsored by Microsoft and other major companies.
The first universities to express their commitment in principle to this UEN are the universities of Cambridge, Cranfield, Hertfordshire, Oxford, Reading, and Southampton. SEEDA and EEDA will concentrate on technology based, high growth enterprises.