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Student start-ups receive social enterprise funding

A student start-up to encourage children to enjoy science lessons has been awarded £15,000 from a new social enterprise fund set up to foster innovative projects that contribute to society or help the environment.

David Makepeace of Lab Rats

Lab Rats will bring fun, educational science activities directly to the classroom. The idea is the brainchild of postgraduate researchers David Makepeace (physics), and Laura Kent (chemistry), who want to increase the numbers of students studying science at university.

They have been supported by the Wates Family Enterprise Trust whose programme aims to foster social entrepreneurship amongst University of Surrey researchers. As well as funding, the programme offers a package of support including inspirational visits to external social enterprises, advice and encouragement from experienced mentors, and training in business skills from Surrey Business School, to enable the development of the social enterprise from conception through to pre-start-up.

The £15,000 funding will allow David and Laura to develop a children’s science party business, the profits from which will be used to support the Lab Rats school project.

They said: “There are currently not enough science graduates in Britain to meet the requirements of the STEM industry. We believe this is a problem that can only be tackled by getting children interested in science while they are young. If children enjoy science at the primary school level, they will be more likely to succeed in secondary school and have a better opportunity to study science into higher education.

“In the long term we want Lab Rats to become a recognisable brand and a resource for children, parents and teachers.”

The judging panel also made two further awards to two PhD students in the Centre for Environmental Strategy of £2,000 each.

Marcio De Lazzari will use the funding to develop TAW-WASTE, a start-up whose objective is to collect plastic water bottles from large race events to reduce landfill and recycle the collected materials into new products.

He said: “I hope to develop new amazing solutions, avoiding the use of UK landfills and at the same time promoting plastic recycling in the UK. For instance, we can develop blocks similar to bricks for civil construction, sledges, photo-frames and, in the future materials, for 3D printing.”

Shamini Holloway plans to market the MAGIC Wand hemp shake, an industrial hemp-based drink that addresses issues related to nutrition, obesity and the environment. Part of it profits will be used to create a community vegetable garden in Haslemere.

She said: “The Wates Social Enterprise programme has given me the opportunity to bring some of my experimental ideas into development. I will be using the award to develop my nutrition-based formula which will be suitable for the fitness and health industry and vegans and vegetarians. There is also potential for me to put the product and formula through clinical trials to help patients suffering from obesity and eating disorders.”

Following on from the success of its first year, the Wates programme will launch the second round of training, mentoring and support at the researchers’ development conference in April. The initiative plays a key role in the University’s Student Enterprise Programme that helps our students develop their business skills and entrepreneurial potential.

The judging panel comprised alumna Janet Preston, Managing Director of business consultancy of Cold Fuzion; Brian Wheelwright and Andrew Wates of the Wates Family Enterprise Trust; Alec Sanderson, non-executive Director at the Academy of Contemporary Music and CEO of his own software consultancy; and Simon DeKretser, Partner at FdK Design Consultants.