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Enterprise at UAL – changes and challenges

Written by Nigel Carrington
Published date 26 October 2011

Over the last six months, we have taken some major steps towards delivering one of our strategic priorities:  increasing the proportion of our income that we derive from the enterprise of our staff and students. In this piece, I will outline the structural changes we have put in place to help staff to generate more income for their courses and Colleges and then say a little about the continuing challenges ahead. As ever, I welcome your comments on what the University is doing.

Increased HEIF Funding

Many of you will remember from my all staff meetings in the summer that we were delighted to receive a 31% increase in public funding for innovation and enterprise from the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF). Our success in generating income from enterprise (which includes short courses) over the last three years has resulted in our receiving a £600,000 increase in our HEIF funding; we will receive £2.5m in each of the next four years. This is a major boost to the resource required to deliver our strategic plan and we must be sure to spend this increased funding wisely.

We are the only arts and design focused university to have received such a large increase.

What this means for us

In the past, a significant element of our HEIF funding has been retained in Central Services and used to fund cross-University enterprise delivery services.

Dani Salvadori

We concluded earlier this year, however, that this was not the most effective way of using HEIF funding so we asked Dani Salvadori, who also heads up the Innovation Centre at CSM, to take the role of Head of University Enterprise Development and to manage a restructured central enterprise team with specialist legal, finance, strategic intelligence and management support capability.

Recognising that enterprise income is most effectively driven at College level, each College has been allocated £500,000 per annum to deliver a new plan for the generation of enterprise income and Executive Board will review each College’s performance against plan annually. The HEIF funding will therefore not only sustain the existing successful enterprise operations at LCF and CSM but also allow CCW and LCC to launch refocused enterprise operations. 

I am confident that all College plans have the potential to make a very real difference to the successful delivery of their enterprise goals and to generate an increased income and a higher profile for the University in the creative sector.

Challenges ahead

Whilst these structural changes and the increased public funding are a great outcome for the University, very significant challenges remain: both CCW and LCC need to create and embed new Enterprise teams and CSM and LCF must use their funding to expand and diversify existing operations.

But the biggest challenge for all of us is really cultural; we will have failed to take best advantage of this opportunity unless ‘enterprise’ is an element in how we think about our work – and some of this might be uncomfortable. For example, academic staff will have to get use to putting a monetary value on students’ work when we undertake projects with companies and this may require a change of mindset in approaching individual relationships with business.

The University can help students turn their work into commercial success

There will be implications for individual managers too: we are going to have to get used to thinking about contracts and intellectual property to protect our students and the University as part of our day to day work. The Central Enterprise Development Unit will inevitably have greater pressures as a result of these developments.

But the benefits are clear: we already generate a surplus of more than £2.7m through Artscom’s very successful short course programme (all of which feeds straight back into College budgets) and a greater enterprise focus will give us the opportunity to deliver additional financial and cultural benefits across the University. Over the last few years we have had some extraordinary successes, including the following:

***CSM’s work on commercialising student intellectual property from Product Design and other courses has brought us a joint venture with Method, a US Design Services Agency. Method Design Lab, the joint venture vehicle, is developing student IP and hopes to take it to market through licensing and other deals.  We have already received very substantial media coverage for this innovative deal and students and graduates, as owners of their own IP, will benefit financially.

***The Centre for Fashion Enterprise at LCF ensures that the new fashion businesses started by participating graduates receive financial and business advice and support. In return, the University holds a small equity stake in the businesses of the graduates supported by the Centre. 

***The long term research work carried out by the Textile Environment Design team at Chelsea entitled TED’s TEN is now forming the basis of a large consultancy for the Textile Futures Research Centre with VF Corporation, one of the world’s largest clothing conglomerates. Projects have already included a student competition and a workshop in which Chelsea staff advised senior management of VF. The next step will be to feature staff and student work in a major internal innovation event for VF next year. 

These are the sort of projects which I hope will be nurtured by the new HEIF funding and Enterprise Development support structures. I believe that, if Colleges use these enhanced funding streams wisely and take advantage of the skills in the new University Enterprise Development team, they will make rapid strides towards delivering sustainable enterprise activities across the University.