Inspiring Cambridge’s next successful entrepreneurs

by Shirley Jamieson

For 16 years, the University of Cambridge has introduced its next generation of talent to the world of entrepreneurship and commercialisation through the open lecture series Enterprise Tuesday. Held at the Department of Engineering, in one of the University’s largest lecture halls, the event attracts a standing-room-only crowd of students, postdocs, lecturers and local industry. The lectures are followed by networking, allowing those gathered to meet successful entrepreneurs, ask questions and share their experiences with like-minded people.

Enterprise Tuesday has come a long way since the very first lecture held so long ago. On that occasion, I recall the hall was nearly empty just five minutes before the lecture was due to start. I and other organisers started to worry about how we were going to explain the lack of interest. Then, just moments before the first speaker took the stage, the hall filled and the lecture series was born.

Today, Enterprise Tuesday is a firmly established annual fixture in the enterprise calendar, run by the Judge Business School’s Entrepreneurship Centre and managed by Frances Bycroft, a programme manager at The Judge. Frances has worked on the series for the past 10 years and sees first-hand the opportunities it provides. “Enterprise Tuesday has a great track record for bringing people together to be inspired by our speakers and to spark ideas and connections as they progress along their entrepreneurial journey,” she said.

I was fortunate to be asked to chair the session on 2 February which featured two of the University’s academic entrepreneurial professors, Nigel Slater and Chris Lowe, both from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology. Their talk was called ‘From Deep Science to Enterprise: Making an Impact,’ and focused on the long and winding road to commercialisation, a subject both know well.

Both academics set up companies while at the University, so they understand what’s required: time, funding, product development and a fair bit of luck. Many people starting a company easily forget just how long it can take for research to result in a product, which is why the real-world experiences shared by the speakers at Enterprise Tuesday are so valuable.

The lectures are integral to the unique innovation eco-system which surrounds the University and Cambridge. Throughout the series’ history there has been an ever-increasing cohort of ex-students, postdocs and staff who have gone on to found successful companies and are returning to provide talks, funding and mentoring to the next generation.

The next lecture series starts in November 2016. We hope to see you there.

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