Projects and activities
Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship (HCfE) research focuses on providing managers, corporate partners and students with the means to manage more effectively and contribute actively and fully to the growth of their current and future organisations.
Our research outputs include leading-edge management tools and techniques and case studies illustrating best practice, as well as a wide range of research papers, publications and reports.
The highlight of research at the HCfE is the work of Professor Mark Casson. His research was the first successful attempt by any economic theorist to synthesise the mainstream economics approaches to competitive markets and entrepreneurship, developing what has become known as the 'Reading approach'. By any estimate the Reading approach to entrepreneurship has become enormously influential among scholars researching entrepreneurship, with Professor Casson alone now having 20,000 Google Scholar citations.
HCfE's impact is truly global, with several international higher education institutions using HCfE as a template for their own centres for entrepreneurship. Under the British Council’s Creative Spark project, HCfE has worked with the British-Kazakh Technical University in Kazakhstan, the Business and Technology University in Georgia, the Corporacion Universidad de la Costa in Colombia and the Kyiv National Economic University in Ukraine. Research has explored the importance of incubators and entrepreneurship ecosystems on the local start-up communities, as well as the implementation of many of HCfE's student initiatives such as the Business Idea and Start-Up Clinic and IDEAFEST.
Further HCfE research projects have been led in Nigeria's 'Nollywood' film industry, South Africa and China.
Afrinolly Case Study
Set up in January 2019 by HCfE in partnership with the British Council and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Nigeria Creative Enterprise Support Programme (NICE) is an accelerator/incubator programme in Lagos designed to connect creative entrepreneurs and institutions in the fashion and film sectors. The goal of NICE is to facilitate collaboration and enable Nigerian entrepreneurs to develop skills that lead to sustainable livelihoods and more professional opportunities between the UK and Nigeria.
HCfE led the development and delivery of a programme of entrepreneurial thinking and leadership training for 40 incubator hub managers at the Afrinolly Creative Hub headquarters. The programme consisted of two-weeks of intensive training, followed by extensive coaching of hub managers to help them identify their highest-potential entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs received extensive mentoring and in June 2019 the top three were then awarded seed capital grant funding.
These three entrepreneurial businesses have attained significant international success. One of them, Jub Travel Films, has won awards from the overall programme to support the further development of their business ideas.
HCfE also worked with Afrinolly Creative Hub to lead training for the highest potential incubator managers, delivering a customised Professional Certificate in Entrepreneurial Leadership programme to fit the needs of the Nigerian film and media industry. This enabled Afrinolly Creative Hub incubator managers to identify institutional constraints on their growth and development, outline any possible solutions and ensure that Afrinolly Creative Hub would be a catalyst for entrepreneurship and rapid development of the Nigerian film and media industry.
Thanks to HCfE's input, Afrinolly Creative Hub has since developed its own business model and become a benchmark for incubators in the creative sectors across Africa. By collaborating with training providers, it has rapidly expanded its range of technical training programmes and increased its suite of technical equipment available to its entrepreneurs, enabling more content to be made on site. Afrinolly is in the process of raising private finance in the UK to support its further expansion and has recently been recognised by the African Tech and Creative Group (ATCG) as one of ten MyAfCFTA Nodes in Africa to drive the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The programme was judged to be one of the most successful in the British Council’s history in west Africa and HCfE was commissioned to repeat the programme in Ghana in February 2020. The British Council’s report on the programme can be read here.
Creative Spark Georgia Case Study
The project, which launched in 2018, is jointly led by HCfE, the Business and Technology University of Tbilisi (BTU) and the British Council. The research project has made a hugely positive impact on Georgian start-up businesses, supporting a hugely impressive 556 entrepreneurs and 286 SMEs.
In the first year of the research project the start-up business Sapo was a major success story, producing homemade, natural and child-friendly soaps in the shape of animals. Sapo benefited from the project's Start-Up Incubator, increasing its production and sales, and went onto become an international winner in the creative category of the Big Idea Challenge 2019. In addition to gaining prize money, Sapo received expert mentoring and an invitation to the Startup Sprint led by London Accelerator.
The second year of the project saw even greater successes. Many companies took part in a Business Clinic, designed to offer new businesses one-on-one guidance from a business expert, and a Start-Up Bootcamp hosted by BTU to help new businesses formulate a business plan. Notable companies that used these opportunities to develop included Phubber (a digital marketplace for buying and selling clothes), Villam App and Hardware (a digital solution for farm and cattle disease management), Unikeys (an app for the hospitality sector) and Elven Technologies (a business that creates technologically advanced personal protection suits).
Thanks to the project's support, Phubber are now exploring international business opportunities, Villam App and Hardware received an invitation to pitch for funding at the Global Startup Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Summit and Elven Technologies won the Georgia IDEAFEST Competition and earned £1,000 prize money to develop their business idea further and turn their prototype into a final product. Perhaps most impressively of all, Unikeys won a 'digital demo day' and were rewarded with a chance to meet potential investors through the prestigious Georgia Innovation and Technology Agency.
Creative Spark Ukraine Case Study
The Creative Spark Ukraine research project, which started in 2018, is led in tandem by HCfE, Kyiv National Economics University (KNEU) and the British Council. It has actively supported 16 entrepreneurs in Ukraine through their own versions of the Start-Up Bootcamp and IDEAFEST, adapted from HCfE's initiatives and hosted by KNEU.
The Ukrainian IDEAFEST has identified several promising new business ideas, with 2019 runners-up New Vision being a major success story. New Vision produces portable skiascopic rulers to reduce eye strain. Their product is two times smaller than the classic rulers, is made of an easily recycled eco-plastic, meets all optometry industry standards and is 17 times cheaper than equivalent products in Europe.
The team behind New Vision has also taken guidance from HCfE to ensure their manufacturing product portfolio diversifies, developing an innovative and interactive mobile application for training. It requires minimal eye contact with the phone screen, as it uses sound and vibration signals, and working with the Centre for Eye Microsurgery and the INGO Clinic they have created personalised training programs.
Find more information about research and outputs delivered by HCfE here.