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Bradford’s new £2.5m enterprise ecosystem will take business ideas from concept to market

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Professor Shirley Congdon

The University of Bradford has launched a £2.5m Dragons’ Den-style ‘enterprise ecosystem’ to take business ideas from concept to market.

Do you have a business idea but aren’t sure how to turn your dream into reality? Then email BREE@bradford.ac.uk

BREE is the Bradford-Renduchintala Enterprise Ecosystem, based at the University of Bradford. It’s a Dragon’s Den-style initiative open to staff, students and members of the public. The university is aiming to become the UK’s number one destination for entrepreneurs. It will build on the university's long history of research and innovation.

Members of the BREE launch panel

Above: members of the BREE launch panel

BREE has been made possible thanks to a £1.25m donation from alumnus Dr Murthy Renduchintala, and a further £1.25m from the university. It was launched on January 24, 2024 during a ceremony attended by business leaders and mentors from across the district.

Dr Renduchintala, who held senior positions at Qualcomm and Intel, said: “What we are trying to do with BREE is to emulate what has been popular and prolific in many areas of the US and other parts of the world, where academic research ultimately leads towards ground-breaking transformations in real life.

“Great ideas and the people who have those ideas need a lot of help along the way. The whole idea of BREE is to provide access to the support required to get those great ideas to commercial viability.

“The University of Bradford has the cross-functional skills the ecosystem requires. If you look at its strengths - in engineering research, health sciences, the management school, the digital arena - those are all the areas that when you bring them together, they create a fertile ecosystem in which new ideas can be nurtured and grown.

“For example, if you look at many of the technologies that have come out of some very well-known academic institutions in the US and you go forward to today, they are helping create ground-breaking environments. For example, think of how Google or Facebook started.

“This was entrepreneurs in the making who were doing research and undergraduate projects who decided to take those ideas and make them into game-changing commercial entities. But they required a support environment and a gathering of advisers and well-wishers that could chaperone those plans, not just through the good idea phase, but how to create a business entity, and how to ultimately get that business entity developing products that ultimately consumers can see, touch and feel. And that’s what we are trying to do here.”

Dr Elaine Brown and Joanna Beaumont

Above: Dr Elaine Brown and Joanne Beaumont

Ishfaq Farooq is founder and director of MyLahore, which began in Bradford in 2002 and now has outlets in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Blackburn, known for its trademark fusion of British and Indian cuisine.

Attending the BREE launch, Ishfaq, a graduate of the University of Bradford’s School of Management, said: “BREE is an amazing initiative for people who might have great ideas but don’t know how to develop them. It’s great for Bradford because it means people now have a platform, where you can work on your ideas, gain feedback from experts and even get some funding. If we had had this when we started MyLahore, we would have been multinational by now. There are so many obstacles new start-ups face - BREE is designed to help people overcome those.”

Dr Elaine Brown, from the Faculty of Engineering and Digital Technologies, said: “Successful businesses often depend on building diverse teams. One of the things that can be a barrier to building successful teams is not having all the connections. BREE is fantastic in that it brings people, including entrepreneurs and experts, together.”

Professor Paul Thorning

Above: Professor Paul Thorning, BREE director

Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bradford, who opened the launch event, said: “BREE is the University’s ecosystem for entrepreneurs. This is a bold new initiative that brings together knowledge and expertise from all quarters of the University, to nurture and support people who harbour a desire to make the world a better place, and who want to do that by starting their own businesses. 

“Our goal is simple: we plan to become the number one destination in the UK for new start-ups. BREE will create a pipeline of successful and innovative start-ups, backed by years of experience across our many departments and research specialisms, and underpinned by our values, so that we offer ongoing support to entrepreneurs who share our passion to be the place to be to make a difference.”

If you have an idea and would like to talk to someone about it, email BREE@bradford.ac.uk

Professor Amir Sharif, Dean of the Faculty of Management, Law & Social Sciences, pictured below, said: “The Faculty of Management, Law & Social Sciences, including our award-winning School of Management, currently celebrating its 60th year, has vast experience of working with businesses and organisations of all kinds, which means, alongside our research, we can bring all those skills together to help develop new enterprises.

“The university already innovates but what BREE will enable us to do is to support and accelerate business ideas and to give voice to that in line with our values of excellence, innovation, trust and inclusion.”

Prof Amir Sharif

This is not the first philanthropic donation from Dr Renduchintala, who previously donated £2m to set up the Bradford-Renduchintala Centre for Space AI, which launched in October 2022, and which is planning to send a ‘pocket cube’ satellite into low earth orbit later this year.

Dr Renduchintala added: “The thing that makes Bradford unique is its identity. BREE will build on this to create an environment where all the various parts of the university can come together to create something truly unique. Today’s ‘good garage idea’ could be the next ground-breaking, transformative game changer.”

Case studies

Sarwat Murtaza abnd Qun Shao

Sarwat Murtaza has founded Ethimaart, pictured above talking to Dr Qun Shao, an online curated giftshop, selling ethically sourced handmade products. She said: "The University of Bradford has played a pivotal role in my entrepreneurial journey. The kind of personalised one-to-one support they give and the networking events we get to attend have been tremendously helpful."

Agnes Aliri from TiwaOma

Agnes Aliri founded TiwaOma, pictured above, which creates wigs for black children and women experiencing hair loss. She said: "Running a start-up can be lonely at times, so being able to interact with other founders who are going through the same journey as I am has been really helpful for me.

"If it was not for the University of Bradford, I would not be where I am today. Without this support, I would have maybe given up on my dream."

Five University of Bradford inventions that changed the world

Effershine/Effershield

 

Person holding an effervescent tablet

A University of Bradford invention is set to remove the need for millions of single-use plastic bottles and tubes, bring increased environmental and health benefits and vastly reduce logistics costs and bring health benefits. Award-winning ‘crystal engineering’ technology invented at the University of Bradford - marketed under the registered trademarks EfferShield® and EfferShine® - has had a massive impact on the manufacturing process of effervescent products, including a range of benefits for the environment. The citric acid and sodium bicarbonate in traditional effervescent products causes them to fizz in humid conditions, requiring humidity-free manufacturing and packaging. EfferShield® and EfferShine® eliminate this issue, which opens up a range of benefits, including huge CO2 savings during  manufacturing, vast reduction in transport costs and a reduction in the salt content of things like vitamin tablets and other supplements.

Bradford Particle Design

A University of Bradford company, formed from ground-breaking crystallisation technology, sold for $200 million six years after it was created. Bradford Particle Design (BPD) was founded in 1995 as a spin-out venture by a team including Professor Peter York from the University of Bradford Pharmacy department, and quickly grew to a successful pharmaceutical organisation with more than 40 staff and an annual turnover of £1.5 million. The company and its ground-breaking technology was acquired by American pharmaceutical company Inhale in 2001 for $200 million (£136 million). CrystecPharma, a company spun out from the University in 2007, continues to use a version of this technology and works with the pharmaceutical and health care industries to solve drug particle formation, formulation and process challenges. 

Emerald Publishing

Global company Emerald Publishing was formed in 1967 by a group of Bradford management academics dissatisfied with the publishing outlets available to them. The business became Emerald Publishing in 2001 to reflect the success of its Emerald Fulltext database, one of the first innovative online resources for publications. Despite having offices across the world, they still have a strong community foothold in Bradford and the region. In recognition of Dr Keith Howards’ affiliation with and contribution to the University of Bradford, the Keith Howard Scholarships are awarded and named in recognition, on behalf of the Keith Howard Foundation.  

Dementia Care Mapping

The Bradford Dementia Care Mapping (DCM) is a pioneering tool that enables practitioners to evaluate care from the perspective of the person with dementia. Since the DCM’s inception in 1995, staff at the Centre for Applied Dementia Studies have built on the legacy of its inventor, the late Professor Tom Kitwood, to progress the concept of ‘person-centred care’, regularly revising and updating the tool to ensure it meets the needs of care practitioners and people with dementia. In 2015, the University of Bradford was awarded a coveted Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its world-leading dementia work, including the Dementia Care Mapping tool.

The Bradford Sling

The tragedy of the Bradford City fire of 1985 led to an invention that has become an essential part of the treatment of hand injuries across the world. The tragic fire at Valley Parade, Bradford City FC's home ground on 11 May 1985 was devastating to the city and local community, but the legacy of the event led to new safety measures for football stands and saw the creation of the internationally renowned Bradford Burns Unit, a partnership between the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Bradford Royal Infirmary and the Centre for Skin Sciences at the University of Bradford. The Burns Unit was founded by the late Professor David Sharpe OBE, the consultant plastic surgeon at Bradford at the time, who was faced with treating at least 258 people with burns, many to their hands, which in part led to the creation of the Bradford Sling®. The Bradford Sling® is designed to suspend the arm or strap it to a patient’s body, applying even pressure whilst safely immobilising the arm to prevent damage to injured areas. A proportion of all revenues for the sling go to Bradford Hospitals.

Launch event

The University will be launching the Bradford-Renduchintala Enterprise Ecosystem on 24 January 2024. The event will be hosted at the University of Bradford on Wednesday 24 January 2024, 16:30-19:30. Select this link or email events@bradford.ac.uk by Monday 22 January 2024.