Duke of York and Nominet launch iDEA Digital Enterprise Award scheme

Digital Enterprise Award scheme launched at Buckingham Palace to encourage young people to start their own businesses

The Duke of York and Nominet Trust have launched an initiative to encourage young people to start their own business ventures.

Unveiled at Buckingham Palace today, the iDEA Digital Enterprise Award scheme aims to give young people the confidence to launch a startup business.

A recent report from Unltd found that more than half (55%) of 16 to 25-year-olds want to set up their own business, and 14% are in the process of doing so. Last year, only 8% of young people said they were working to launch their own business.

Despite this, a YouGov survey, commissioned by Nominet Trust, found 64% of the 1,000 16 to 25-year-olds interviewed felt formal education does not go far enough to help young people who show an interest in entrepreneurship.

In its 2014 pilot, iDEA plans to support 1,000 young entrepreneurs and invest £150,000 in seed funding. The Digital Enterprise Award will enable them to build digital prototypes and test the viability of their business idea with prospective customers.

The 20 most promising ideas will receive a £5,000 grant, mentor support and a business placement. Three finalists will be selected to receive the 2014 iDEA Award, which will come with £15,000 of seed funding.

The three-stage programme will see young people receive Open Badges, through a partnership with Digital ME, for entrepreneurial skills and competencies.

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Annika Small, chief executive of Nominet Trust, said: “Digital technology has fundamentally changed the nature of entrepreneurship, opening up new opportunities for young people to create businesses. However, much of the support currently available to young entrepreneurs is desperately out of sync with their needs.”

For example, said Small, many young people are reluctant to take out a loan and prefer to “bootstrap” their way through the first stages of their business. “From working with young people, it is clear they are looking for small-scale support that allows agile and iterative development, building and testing prototypes before going to market,” she said.

Mentorship and one-to-one support will be part of the iDEA programme. The recent YouGov research also found that 55% of respondents felt they would not find it easy to secure a business mentor and 83% said the lack of support and guidance would make it even more difficult to start their own business.

The initiative is being supported by three well-known entrepreneurs, who have offered to share their experiences of starting a business.

Michael Acton-Smith, founder of Mind Candy, said: “iDEA is exactly the type of scheme that could have helped me as a teenager. I hope it can inspire and embolden a new generation of British tech entrepreneurs, and I am delighted to support the Duke of York in it."

Lily Cole, model and entrepreneur, said that by working on her business, Impossible.com, she has come to recognise the value of digital entrepreneurship “and the possibilities that digital literacy could open up, both for young people with big ideas and for the wider community through the effects of those ideas when realised".

Fostering creativity

Cole added: “I have also seen how challenging the process of entrepreneurship can be, and so I recognise how valuable support systems are for fostering creativity in this space. I am therefore very happy to support iDEA, which is seeking to encourage and develop young people who are interested in digital entrepreneurship."

Nick D’Aloisio, founder of Summly, said: “What young people need, above all, is the support and advice that can get them into the mindset of becoming an entrepreneur. That’s what doesn’t get widely taught.

“That’s why the Duke of York’s iDEA scheme is so important: it is about not just how to do things, but what you can do with them. It can inspire young people to fulfil their potential and create the businesses of the future.”

The programme will be delivered via a range of informal and formal avenues, including Free:Formers, Young Rewired State, Keyfund, CoderDojo, The Prince’s Trust, Hackney Community College, Gazelle Colleges and The Studio Schools Trust.

iDEA hopes to reach one million young people across the UK over the next five years.

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