What happens after the enterprise fellowship – RSE Enterprise Fellowship

Of the many ways to launch an innovative new company I think an enterprise fellowship is the best suited to new entrepreneurs with little business experience, like often those arising from universities. These fellowships offer a few months of training, good networking action, and fellows are prompted to assess with new eyes the potential of their company even before is totally formed. They are also very good for the local/national economy, as it seems a good fraction of the fellows stay around to grow their companies or bring their new skills to other local companies.

In Scotland there are a at least two programmes of this kind that I know of: the RSE Enterprise Fellowship and the Saltire Fellowship.

How the fellows fare after the fellowship?

In conversations about fellowships, challenges and prizes to support the creation of new innovative companies the question often comes about the past fellows and winners – where are they now?

The RSE programme was established in 1997 and has supported about 240 graduates so far. It has enough history to study how these kind of entrepreneurs continue their careers. I had a quick look at the bits of online information about past fellows that the programme has, and these are the results:

Figure 1: Fellows with vs without company already set up – 77% historical average, higher in the last few years.
Most of the fellows go into the programme with a company already set up (Figure 1). There’s no information available about the stage of development of the companies although it is assumed that most are at very early stages and some are counted even as pre-seed or concept stage companies.

Figure 2: Fellows with company set up before or during the fellowship, by origin of fellowship (Scottish Enterprise, BBSRC and SFTC
There are small differences in the percentage of fellows with a company already set up depending on the origin of their fellowship. BBSRC fellows seem to have a higher historical average than Scottish Enterprise fellows (Figure 2), although in any case a very clear majority of fellows have a company set up. This in theory may help personalise and enhance the learning experience, but obviously there is no information on the base data to conclude this.

Figure 3: Current employment situation of the fellows by year of fellowship.
After the fellowship, there is a slow transfer of fellows from their own start up companies to other companies in the field or to academia and other government related institutions (Figure 3). It is quite remarkable I think, compared to the experience of other entrepreneurs, how many RSE fellows continue to work in their companies after several years, meaning that they remain engaged with the local economy and also that the companies still exist. There is around a 35% chance after as long as 7-8 years that a fellow that had the fellowship with a company set up remains with that company, which is a good rate I think.

Figure 4: Current employment situation of the fellows by origin of fellowship.
Looking at the origin of their fellowship, there are some noticeable differences on the current place of work of the fellows (Figure 4), as the BBSRC fellows seem to transfer noticeably more than the rest into universities and government institutions.

This first glimpse at life after the RSE fellowship it’s quite encouraging for the strength of the programme. There are other complex questions to answer however, that would need maybe to conduct a survey of fellows, of challenges they have encountered and solved, and so on. Every story is certainly different and a learning source on its own, that requires more than a few numbers and graphs to conclude anything more specific about the virtues of the programme and how to make the most of it.