Boost for young north-east entrepreneurs as city universities open high-tech digital hubs

Young entrepreneurs in the north-east are set for a boost as Aberdeen’s universities gear up to launch two new digital innovation incubators.

Digital innovation hub launch: Prof. Chris O'Neil, Dr. Julian Bass, Dawn Shand and Jamie ColemanRobert Gordon University (RGU) and the University of Aberdeen are launching the hubs, which are kitted out with a range of cutting edge technology including high spec computers, laser scanners, 3D printers and private cloud storage, to help entrepreneurial students, graduates and small businesses develop and progress their ideas.

The incubators are part of Aberdeen City Council’s Accelerate Aberdeen programme, which, alongside a third hub run by Elevator (previously ENET), have been established using £1.5m of funding from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Super Connected Cities programme.   

RGU has received £450,000 towards its hub and has renovated facilities opposite its Riverside East building on Garthdee Road which will provide space for around 13 people to work at one time via a hot desking system. The facility will also provide a meeting room and social area for networking and is expected to be formally opened in July.

The University of Aberdeen’s digital innovation hub – the ABVenture Zone - which opens in May is sited in the MacRobert Building on the King’s College campus. Aberdeen’s funding of £450,000 has been used to create an inspiring and supportive incubation space to nurture clever ideas.

Students, staff and alumni will be able to take advantage of state of the art communication technology and high quality digital infrastructure with powerful computing resources together with a comfortable social space for relaxation, stimulating discussion and collaboration.

As well as providing infrastructure to allow people to grow their initial business idea, the universities will also provide a programme of support to help teach key business skills alongside the Scottish Institute of Enterprise (SIE).

Dr. Julian Bass, Incubator Director at RGU, said: “Incubator tenants will have access to a panel of experts who can help them hone their wider business skills, all of which will help them to add value to their employability.

“Students who come to us fresh with an idea will be put through a development programme that covers different aspects of their business, from financial management to market focus and product features.”

He added: “As well as current students, recent graduates and small start-ups, we are also starting to recruit business figures to act as mentors with the aim of creating a digital eco-system that supports itself.

“Outside of London and Cambridge, Aberdeen is home to the largest number of start-up companies in the UK and we want to do our part in supporting those people starting out.

“There is a huge range of opportunities in Aberdeen for new businesses due to the oil and gas industry and it is great that RGU will now be able to encourage this kind of activity in such a co-ordinated and supported way.”

Dr Liz Rattray, Deputy Director of Research and Innovation at the University of Aberdeen, said: “Our ABVenture Zone will be a superb facility for colleagues, students and teams to work up their clever ideas and grow them into businesses, with the support of experts and mentors. It can also support start-up businesses from outside the university.

“This initiative complements and adds huge value to our programme to create a culture of entrepreneurship across our campus, with a package of initiatives including weekly drop in support sessions, and help to continue our run of success in business competitions including the national Converge Challenge.”

Accelerate Aberdeen is an ambitious programme of work to provide Aberdeen with the world class infrastructure and business development platforms to secure the long term vibrancy of the City's economy.

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Jenny RushCommunications Officer | Design and Technology