Changing the world with ideas

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Supported by an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Impact Acceleration Account, this startup accelerator is helping students and staff at the University of Southampton change the world with their ideas.

Universities are teeming with talent – students and staff doing groundbreaking research that could make a real difference in the world. Future Worlds, the on-campus startup accelerator at the University of Southampton, is helping individuals turn their research ideas into high-impact startups.

Ben Clark, who has previously held leadership roles in four startups and is now Director of Future Worlds, explained:

“There is an incredible wealth of talent coming through the doors of the University, talent that can make a real impact in the world. At Future Worlds, we believe that launching a startup can be an excellent vehicle for these talented individuals to maximise their impact, so we act as a catalyst, enabling them to achieve outcomes they might otherwise not have been able to achieve. It’s about unlocking people’s potential.”

Formed in 2015, Future Worlds has since supported more than 500 aspiring entrepreneurs, with over 50 of them going on to launch successful startups and spinouts. In the past two years, more than £20 million has been invested in companies that have emerged from the startup accelerator.

The Future Worlds project team works with EPSRC-funded researchers to help people studying and working at the university develop and launch their ideas. They do this through supporting them, mentoring them and connecting them with industry experts, partners and investors in the Future Worlds network and promoting them on the world stage, both digitally and each year at CES, an annual trade show organised by the Consumer Technology Association.

Although Future Worlds is based in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, the initiative is open to members of the University community from all disciplines and at all levels – from undergraduates through to professors nearing the end of their careers.

Throughout the academic year, Future Worlds hosts a series of events, workshops and talks to engage and inspire students and staff. Once a year, it runs a live Dragons’ Den-style event, where the leading founders pitch their ideas to investors. More than half a million pounds of investment offers have been made live on stage over the last few years.

It was watching one of these events that inspired Dr Andrei Dragomir to approach Future Worlds about his research at the university. A physicist pioneering research into quantum physics, Dragomir has since founded the startup company Aquark Technologies.

Dragomir said: “Future Worlds has made the world of difference to me. I came out of the lab with no idea of how to think about a startup. They showed me what it means, helping me make the transition from researcher to entrepreneur. They have kept me on track and given me the tools to work with. I’ve been on the brink of quitting a lot of times, but they have been very good at shifting the focus back onto what I’m doing and why.”

Image: Ben Clark, Director of Future Worlds