How to set up your own enterprise?

After recently completing my PhD, I’ve been thinking of what career choices I could do in this time and economical climate. I had some bad luck with academic funding, with two projects with me as a named researcher judged worthy and interesting but ultimately rejected by the EU. So I will have to leave Newcastle University for a different career.

If this was, say, 2007 or even 2008, I could be reasonably sure of finding a job, and probably a decently paid one, but now all bets are off. Anyway, I have been thinking of setting up a small company to continue working on my software technology, as here we’re all convinced it could have many practical industrial applications, and it would not take much work to create a sellable product.

What I don’t have, however, is money. I have the ideas, and know people who could work with me, and also know who could be a potential customer, and so on. But not money. I’ve been told there used to be European funds for starting up enterprises, but could not find reliable information online. University advisors couldn’t help either - some have heard of this, but no current information. And I’d rather avoid chasing venture capitalists.

Suggestions? Ideas? I’d appreciate any. seem to have some information, don’t know if you’ve seen them yet. (Just on first glance, some of it is obviously advertising disguised as articles, but there might be something useful there.) You might also see if your local Chamber of Commerce has any ideas, I think that’s part of their job, maybe - though I’m the first to admit I don’t really understand what a Chamber of Commerce does!

The Citizens Advice Bureau may also be able to point you in the right direction, possibly?

(Sorry, this is an entirely unhelpful post. Hopefully you’ll get someone actually useful coming in with better, tried-and-tested suggestions soon!)

Also, the current government department responsible for looking after small businesses is BIS - - they might have some useful suggestions, they’ve specifically got an Access to Finance site -

Different country, but my local Chamber of Commerce offers such help as:

  • preparing a viable business plan,
  • figuring out sources of capital, including grants, institutional investing, loans,
  • filing all necessary paperwork for you,
  • explanations and assistance with taxes and accounting.

It would definitely be my first stop if I were you. I found their help invaluable when I set up my own business.

Universities are highly interested in translational research at the present time. Does the university not have incubator schemes for spin-off companies etc? Our place does - you get access to university labs and facilities, expertise, some office space, business-mentoring, an interest-free loan (10 grand I think) etc.

It’s probably small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, but it strikes me as ideal for folk who are right at the start of an idea. Things like this are typical of the Scottish central belt - there’s a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurs because there’s such a deficit of high-tech industry here. Maybe the NE is similar?

Also, did you get good mentoring for the grant applications? Critical to success when you start out. It would be helpful for you to know if your stuff (and you) is fundable, but the grant just wasn’t right, or if the package just wasn’t competitive at a fundamental level. The latter is not nice to hear, but at least it lets you know where you stand.