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The Duke of York Young Entrepreneur Awards and Enterprise in the North of England

This week I was honoured to receive the 2017 Duke of York Young Entrepreneur Award. The ceremony itself took place in Huddersfield, a town with a strong history of industry and development, and the event proved a great opportunity to meet and chat with students and alumni from other Northern universities, to learn about their business endeavours, and, of course, to meet HRH The Duke of York himself.

The Duke of York Young Entrepreneur Award is awarded to students and graduates who have displayed “remarkable entrepreneurship whilst at university”, where the business has created commercial or social impact, and has the potential for sustainability and growth.

The award forms part of HRH’s belief that the future prosperity of the UK can be bolstered by encouraging entrepreneurship among young people — particularly in universities, which provide fertile ground for innovation. Codogo began whilst Freddie Ridell and I were still at university in Durham, and I’ve talked previously about why engaging with enterprise at university is something you should consider (below).

Initially only awarded to students studying in Yorkshire, the initiative has expanded to include universities across the North of England. Encouraging enterprising students is of real importance, particularly in the North East; we need schemes that recognise the achievements of young entrepreneurs and enable networking across the UK more than ever.

The UK’s London-centric economy has long left the North neglected, despite successive Governments’ talk of a “Northern Powerhouse” and small steps towards devolved powers in the region. ONS statistics on the activity, size, and location of UK business show the North East has the fewest businesses of any UK region and ranks similarly on gross value added per capita. This has led to the region’s low levels of employment. This lack of opportunity means that despite the education opportunities in the North, skilled graduate retention is low which only worsens the situation.

While the UK Government does little to tackle issues in the region, those afforded opportunity must do whatever possible to enable the creation of new businesses, particularly in places where aspiration and employment are lowest.

This should start with the next generation of workers. The North East boasts an impressive variety of high quality academic and research establishments, as well as vocational universities and learning centres, but struggles with graduate retention. Universities take note: allowing students across these universities to meet and collaborate is key.

Whilst at Durham University, many would-be entrepreneurs I encountered complained they couldn’t find the technical expertise they needed to start their business ideas, despite the glut of talent emerging from Northumbria, Newcastle, Teeside, and Sunderland- all only a few miles away. Were enterprising students given more opportunity to meet and connect with like-minded people from other northern universities, they may be able to grow core networks based in the North, and therefore be more inclined to stay on in the region once they have graduated.

“The North East is well positioned to excel — it has the talent and the infrastructure”

Professor Roy Sandbach of Newcastle University believes that the North East is well positioned to excel — it has the talent and the infrastructure. By pushing economic development and innovation and creating a more connected business ecosystem, the Northern Powerhouse concept will be driven ahead.

We, at Codogo, are very conscious of these problems and, though currently based in London, ultimately hope to establish a base in Newcastle, a place we view as a strong base for technology companies. We are very thankful for all the opportunities we received while at Durham and plan to remain involved with university enterprise in the North in every way we can.

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Hey! We are Codogo, a fresh new digital agency with a passion for creating amazing digital experiences. We are specialists in web design, development, and user experience design, supported by digital strategy expertise.

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