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Enterprising Aston takes a Midlands Business Award

Aston won the Midlands Enterprising University of the Year’ Award at the Midland Business Awards
Pro-Vice Chancellor for Business Partnerships and Knowledge Transfer Phil Extance (left) and BSEEN company MD Sajida Parveen receive the Midlands Enterprising University of the Year award

Aston University has claimed a prestigious regional business award for its management of collaborative projects which include supporting graduate entrepreneurs and managing innovative interactions with SMEs.

Beating four other of the region’s top universities, Aston received the ‘Midlands Enterprising University of the Year’ award at the Midland Business Awards, held on the evening of 28th January at the Hilton Metropole Hotel.

One of the schemes that gained Aston its award was its work with graduate entrepreneurs in the region - through its management of the regional BSEEN (Birmingham Skills for Enterprise and Employability Network) project.

Aston’s Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor, Helen Higson said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive this award – a testament to how hard Aston University works on supporting the region’s entrepreneurs of the future. Aston’s development of schemes encouraging entrepreneurship is in keeping with the coalition Government’s call for further raising the bar on entrepreneurialism in Britain, and is critical to the future success of the region.”

The judges were particularly impressed with one such entrepreneur of the future, Sajida Parveen, who’s company www.firstcarfinder.com was a typical working example of the huge amount of talent that the Midlands has in its graduate population and the support available from the region’s universities.

“Accepting the award was definitely the highlight of my career so far, but joining BSEEN was the turning point,” said Sajida. “We weren’t going to give up but running the company was getting harder and harder. BSEEN came along and put us amongst other companies with the same problems. BSEEN has allowed us to share tips with the other businesses, take a different approach, and grow. ”

Funded by Birmingham City Council, BSEEN aims to enable local graduates to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions in a supportive learning environment. Currently, there is little support available for graduate businesses once their owners have left their universities, and an extremely challenging labour market.

Aston University manages BSEEN, alongside partners Birmingham University and Birmingham City University, and offers 6 months of free incubator access at Birmingham Science Park Aston - with training, mentoring, coaching and a wage subsidy. In total, 30 businesses will be supported over a 12 month period at the Science Park, with a total of 90 businesses supported across the partnership.

BSEEN will be showcasing its graduate companies at an event taking place at Birmingham Science Park – Aston, at 5.30pm–7pm on Thursday 3rd February 2011. It will provide an excellent opportunity to meet a range of early stage and growing businesses of the future and business leaders from across the region.

Also recognised in the award was the Innovation Voucher West Midlands project, A unique demand-led innovation voucher scheme which invites Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to apply for a £3000 voucher to purchase academic support from one of the 13 higher education institutions in the West Midlands.

Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research