The University of Ulster has unveiled details of an innovative pilot programme – believed to be the first of its kind to be offered as part of a creative industries degree in Europe – which will award course credits to student entrepreneurs.
From January 2012, undergraduates on Ulster’s two creative industries degree programmes in the School of Creative Arts at the Magee campus, who choose the new optional module, ‘Innovation and Creative Enterprise’ can earn full course credits for starting a business in their final year.
Head of School, Professor Paul Moore explains: "The School of Creative Arts at Magee has an enviable track record at producing first-rate graduates. Increasingly, the creative industries are becoming a source for new start-up companies so it's vital that the work we do reflects this.
“We see entrepreneurship within the creative industries as a viable and exciting career path and are keen to work with students to develop their ideas and help them start and run their own businesses. By providing them with an opportunity to do this in their final year, and gain full course credits in the process, turns it from being a theoretical exercise into a real, tangible business opportunity."
In addition to assistance from their course tutors, students electing to take the module will be provided with both legal and financial support from the University's Office of Innovation. They will also take part in a range of workshops and seminars delivered by local entrepreneurs and organised by Digital Derry, who have partnered with the University to develop the programme.
Greg O'Hanlon, Course Director for the BA Creative Technologies course, one of two courses involved in the project, adds: "Our students will have already developed multiple projects as part of their coursework and this new module really takes us to the next level. It’s all part of a long-term commitment to demystify what it takes to develop a business and, ultimately, be your own boss.
"They'll go through all the necessary stages from conceptualisation to market research to prototype development through to speaking to investors. Each project team will be required to launch their businesses within the term. All participants will gain invaluable experience and a real chance to turn the companies they start into viable new careers. Although it is a pilot for now, I’m confident this has the potential to transform how we look at entrepreneurship within the University."
Mark Nagurski, Derry's Digital Champion, explained: "Digital Derry has committed itself to helping to develop 100 new digital companies in the city by 2015 and although not every one of the businesses that will come out of this programme will be digital, we're thrilled to be involved in taking this innovative project forward. Over the last 12 months we've already worked with a number of Magee graduates who are now involved in starting their own digital businesses and can't wait to see what will come through in the next twelve."
Up to 20 students will have an opportunity to take part in the pilot module when it gets underway in January 2012. Each student will also document their business launch online and, on graduation, get the chance to pitch their ideas for inclusion in a privately-backed business development programme being developed by Digital Derry.
In 2013 Derry – Londonderry hosts the first ever UK City of Culture. It is anticipated that the planned year long programme of cultural events will help heighten awareness about the growing business opportunities within the creative industries sector.