How to get the ball rolling

MW_DIIE_06112014_0768When you look at the Deloitte Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship today you see a thriving hub of activity. But the Institute’s executive director Jeff Skinner knows the amount of work that’s gone into reaching this point. And just like any start-up, the hardest part was getting going in the first place, because the chicken-and-egg situation is that you need to demonstrate what you can do before people will invest in you. “You need friends,” says Jeff.

That’s where Chris Ingram, an honorary fellow and long term supporter of LBS came in…

Building support
Chris first got in touch with the School back in 1998 after spotting an article in the Sunday Times about how it was starting courses for entrepreneurs. He felt strongly about the subject having founded the international media agency, Chris Ingram Associates, which was later sold to WPP for £432 million. Chris wrote a letter to the School, met the Dean and started to help with funding and advice for its efforts to teach entrepreneurship. By 2010 the School had built a critical mass of faculty who wanted to do research on the subject and felt there was enough momentum to launch an Institute – seeded by a £1 million donation from Chris. Inspired by this personal gift and activities being carried out, Deloitte came in with funding in 2011 to secure the Institute’s future over ten years.

Realising the impact
The Institute has invested in more than 50 research projects, involving faculty from across the School, half of which have already been published in leading journals. They range in topic from the qualities of entrepreneurial leadership to innovation in the champagne industry. The Institute has supported nine PhD students and sponsors student competitions and challenges. There’s the Enterprise 100 where students can pitch to an angel investor network for investment, bridging the gap between what’s happening in the classroom, the School’s successful entrepreneurs and the business community at large. And there’s the Summer School and Incubator where students can develop their ideas. Over the years alumni have set up a range of businesses from the online travel agency which has sales of £174 million to the rapidly growing Californian-Mexican restaurant chain Tortilla.

Pioneering work 
Pleased with how far the Institute has come, Chris acknowledges that: “LBS set up the first faculty teaching entrepreneurship and being able to support that has been great. It hadn’t been done before and many were skeptical: “Entrepreneurs are born, not made!” was the dismissive view. There was very little research on this subject. Now people can learn from this body of empirical work and act differently.” And what’s rewarding for Jeff is being able to fund small individual projects because they can generate so much positive activity. “Our seed money is multiplied by the energy and effort of our faculty and students. We see people who are really enthusiastic about doing something but they can’t afford to get it off the ground because they have to pay for data or trials or to travel somewhere. So £10,000 or £20,000 from us can release them to do that research and convert that energy into light.”