The first successful award ceremony saw Kairen Skelley, head of the University’s business start-up service, SPARK, being announced as the HE Enterprise Champion at the National Enterprise Educator Awards on Thursday 10 September 2015.
Aimed at celebrating excellence in enterprise education, the award recognised Kairen as demonstrating exceptional and inspirational commitment to supporting student and graduate entrepreneurship.
The University has also been nominated as the Entrepreneurial University of the Year in the 2015 Times Higher Education awards, as well a National Business Awards Finalists for The Duke of York Award for University Entrepreneurship in November 2015.
Professor Nigel Lockett, Director of Enterprise Learning, said: “Many congratulations to Kairen, who has been rightly recognised for her remarkable work in growing SPARK and helping launch more than 250 businesses.
"We are also very proud that the University of Leeds is the only university in the country to be nominated for both of the national University Entrepreneurship awards. This is testament to the amount and quality of work that’s going on across campus, making sure we give all our students the very best opportunities, education and business support.”
Since Kairen joined SPARK eight years ago, it has developed into a valuable service that offers students and graduates networking and funding opportunities to help them grow their businesses. In the last year alone, SPARK has helped more than 1,200 students.
Support offered by SPARK ranges from one-to-one business advice, funding, workshops and boot camps, and networking events. The University’s alumni network offers mentoring and funding support, through scholarships and competitions, and the recent launch of a dedicated business incubation suite has provided space and business support for 36 fledgling businesses.
Kairen said: “We’re extremely proud of the work that we do at SPARK, so this award also demonstrates at a national level what I’ve believed for many years now – that students and graduates from the University of Leeds receive the most comprehensive enterprise support in the UK – and that involves the whole SPARK team together with the wider community of alumni, business mentors and professional services partners.
“We’re particularly pleased that more than three quarters of the businesses we’ve helped are still operating three years later – and many of them are still actively contributing to our growing network.”