Entrepreneur in Residence's top tips for digital student enterprises
At the University of Sheffield (UoS), one of our Royal Society Entrepreneurs in Residence (EiR) is Dr Ceri Batchelder.
Ceri's focus is strengthening the impact of digital technologies. She is a business owner with an impressively diverse background in scientific research, biotech, healthcare and digital tech sectors. Ceri uses this experience and her award winning skills in connecting people and project delivery, and in supporting staff and students with innovation and business engagement.
It's possible to learn the above from Ceri's Linkedin, but when you speak to her in person, you get a real sense for just how passionate and knowledgeable she is about these topics. It was through witnessing Ceri's skill for understanding others' strengths and the needs of the business world, that I got the idea for this blog. Who better to give some direction and focus for student enterprises and help them on their path to success?
Whether you work in industry, study, or wish to set up a student enterprise in your own university, if you'd like to develop your connections and entrepreneurial approach, here are three key tips, highlighted by Ceri:
Tip 1: Put people at the centre, even in technology businesses. Whether it's your customers, staff, partners or investors, business is ultimately about people. Communication, collaboration and culture are key.
Tip 2: Network, network, network, both in person and online. The stronger your connections, or 'human capital', the better your knowledge base will be, and the more-informed decisions you'll make. Especially do so at events where you have an interest in the topic for yourself or your business – your passion will shine through!
Tip 3: Learn from other entrepreneurs and business people – read their books, speak to them and gain their tips for what worked and what didn't.
Eric Ries' 'The Lean Startup' and 'Start to Exit' by fellow Royal Society EiR Adrian Burden are a great place to begin.
At the UoS, Ceri's activities are mainly linked to the Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare (CATCH) and the Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy (SELA), where she is particularly involved in IoT, the Internet of Things.
Yet, she also has strong connections to the Sheffield City Region, Sheffield and Barnsley councils and Sheffield Digital – key supporters of the digital business world in our region. From my own discussions with our City Region, I am aware that people are busy developing Covid-19 recovery plans, to deal with economic recovery. And, I am sure this will be reflected in other city regions too. So, I was interested to gain Ceri's insights into how the digital economy might be impacted in positive ways, as part of this recovery period.
"Much of the response to Covid-19 by businesses and universities has been underpinned by digital technology, whether it be setting up working from home or online teaching platforms. Many people have quickly needed to upskill and mostly they've found it easier than expected. A welcome side-effect is that it may present a more 'open door' to the potential of digital.
"In particular, what may be seen as more of an opportunity is the uptake of Industry 4.0 technologies (such as IoT, robotics and machine learning) to increase operational efficiencies and productivity. Such tools may also enable social distancing in the workplace and greener approaches.
"Business as we know it is being hugely impacted. As a result, the agility, innovation and speed to market offered by tech startups reflect the kind of mindset and skills we need to encourage across the region, so we can react rapidly and grow more and higher value jobs.
"Positions typically available to students in large corporates may be more difficult to get in the coming months, and whilst different, a tech startup or scaleup represents an interesting alternative, such as working in smaller cross-functional teams, multi-disciplinary learning and experience of reacting to customers and investor needs.
"In other words, our digital economy and tech-based student enterprises are more important than ever – good luck with your ventures!"
– Dr Ceri Batchelder
Huge thanks to Ceri for sharing her inspirational words and top tips.