The EDUCATE project started on 1 January 2017 and will open the doors of its EdTech collaborative Hub on 1 April 2017. This is a temporary website until we get ourselves setup – watch this space…
EDUCATE is a collaboration between UCL, F6S, The Education Foundation and Nesta. It is a £4.5 million initiative funded through European Regional Development Funding.
EDUCATE will bring together educators, researchers and the EdTech industry in order to develop and use the best research informed EdTech. We will set up a physical and virtual working space where EdTech SMEs and researcher entrepreneurs will work together with researcher, educators and business experts. All SMEs will have aces to research training and support. The focus of activity for the EdTech SMEs will be to help them to:
- use research evidence to inform the design of their products and services;
- to work with educators and learners to ensure that their product or service delivers what education needs;
- to learn how to set up an effective evaluation trial to demonstrate the value of their product or service.
The focus for research entrepreneurs will be on helping them:
- to develop the business skills and acumen to commercialise their research idea;
- to work with educators and learners to ensure that their product or service delivers what education needs.
SMEs and researchers will be mentored to work with teachers and parents (their customers) to evaluate their product’s educational value and stimulate the demand.
EDUCATE will translate research into new and better Educational Products, and will stimulate demand for new and improved products.
We will be running events such as what the Research Says and a lot more. We will also looking for people to work on this project, so watch out for the job adverts that will be coming soon.
In more detail
EDUCATE: The Business Case
EDUCATE will provide a unique physical and virtual co-working space for Higher Education researchers dedicated to Educational SMEs. Through this collaboration EDUCATE will translate research investment into new and better Educational Technology, stimulate demand for educational products, enable researchers to commercialise their research and increase the R & D investment made by SMEs. SMEs will be trained to use research evidence to improve their products and mentored to work with teachers and parents (their customers) to evaluate the educational value of their products thus stimulating demand. Researchers and teachers will receive business mentorship and training to commercialise university research.
EDUCATE will set up a physical and virtual working space where EdTech SMEs and researcher entrepreneurs will work together with research and business experts. All participants will be trained, supported and resourced. The focus of activity for the EdTech SMEs will be to help them to use research evidence to inform the design of their products and services. They will also learn how to set up an effective evaluation trial to demonstrate the value of their product or service. The focus for research entrepreneurs will be on helping them to develop the business skills and acumen to commercialise their research idea. SMEs and researchers will be mentored to work with teachers and parents (their customers) to evaluate their product’s educational value and stimulate the demand. In this way, EDUCATE will translate research into new and better Educational Products, and will stimulate demand for new and improved products. This will increase the sector’s economic growth and London’s competitiveness. EDUCATE will also facilitate knowledge exchange between Higher Education and SMEs. It will engage SMEs in the R & D process and stimulate their investment in these activities in the future.
The physical working space will be located at the UCL Knowledge Lab and cohorts of 10 SMEs and research spinoffs (pre-company formation) will be selected to join in this co-working space for a period of 3 – 6 months. An initial interview will assess whether or not the SME/researcher is ready to benefit from a place in the co-working space. SMEs/researchers who are not successful at gaining a place in the co-working space will be invited to use the EDUCATE virtual portal. Research start-ups and SMEs will be allocated the same level of support within EDUCATE, but this support will be tailored to their needs. All will be allocated an experienced mentor who will work with them throughout their involvement with EDUCATE. A key objective for the engagement will be for SMEs and researchers to develop their plans for working with their customer base of teachers or parents to design a research study to test the effectiveness of their product and give them evidence to present to investors and customers.
As SMEs and research entrepreneurs progress within the EDUCATE physical space a range of services will be offered to them: product evaluation, testing and validation; accountancy and tax advice; grant writing, investor readiness support; dissemination and showcasing. This support will be available as required and not in a strict order. In addition, bespoke training sessions will be organized in response to needs expressed by the community.
The virtual EDUCATE Clinic will be available to individuals and organizations who are not considered ready to benefit from a place in the physical EDUCATE space and it will also be available to all who do use the physical space throughout and beyond their participation in the physical space. This will enable SMEs to maintain their connection with EDUCATE. Each SME and researcher that passes-through the physical space will also contribute evidence about their research use and trial design and results that will add to the content available through the EDUCATE virtual clinic.
Where the project will be delivered?
The EDUCATE project will be delivered across London. The EDUCATE project team will set up a co-working space at the UCL Knowledge Lab (LKL). Leading Education and Educational technology researchers from UCL will work alongside Education SMEs and researcher entrepreneurs. The EDUCATE physical co-working space will be complimented by a virtual co-working space: a web portal that provides a collated, searchable and curated database of research and evidence and a ‘meeting place’ where SMEs who are not members of the co-working space can connect with researchers and educators. Beneficiaries will also be welcomed at IDEA London incubator and NESTA premises.
Over what timescale?
Work will commence on 1 JANUARY 2017 and the first cohort of SMEs and research entrepreneurs will start working in the space on 1 APRIL 2017. The EDUCATE project will run until 31 DECEMBER 2019 (proposed activity end).
Who will deliver it?
The EDUCATE project will be delivered by UCL in partnership with F6S, The Education Foundation and Nesta. In addition to the delivery partners, GEMS, BESA, DfE, BIS, National College of Teachers and Founders Factory have agreed to provide technical and practical expertise to the delivery and evaluation of the project. They will be full members of the project Steering Group.
University College London (UCL)
The UCL Knowledge Lab (previously known as the London Knowledge Lab) is an interdisciplinary research centre at the UCL Institute of Education, University College London. The UCL Knowledge Lab mission is both to understand and to design ways in which new digital technologies can support and transform learning and teaching throughout the life course, at home and at work.
UCL will invest heavily in facilities and will lead on creating and sustaining the EDUCATE physical and virtual space. UCL Knowledge Lab will provide the research expertise and provide part of the delivery infrastructure.
EDUCATE will also work with London’s accelerators who recruit some of the best tech start-ups from the UK and Europe and then for an intensive period of 12-20 weeks provide them with seed investment, intense mentoring, training, connections to customers and investors, opportunities to pilot their product with leading companies and a fast track to raising further investment. From within these cohorts we will identify the EdTech start-ups who are ready to benefit from research advice and input. EDUCATE will help London’s best accelerators to intensify the support they can provide for EdTech. London is presently the No 1 Tech Start-Up ecosystem in the UK.
The recruitment for researcher entrepreneurs will be conducted by UCL IOE who will offer workshop sessions to researchers interested in finding out more about commercialising their work. In particular, researchers from across London whose grant funding is mature will be targeted and approached to encourage them to consider applying to join EDUCATE. Higher Education Institutions account for 24% of UK Research and Development expenditure and yet there is no space where researchers can collaborate with EdTech ventures to exploit research results, generate new or improved products and build SME capacity to innovate. EDUCATE will provide this space.
Enquiries from SMEs will be managed by UCL IOE who will qualify the leads to be further analysed by colleagues based in the UCL IOE department who will finalise the funnel of qualifying SMEs which fit best with the project priorities and will then broker the relation with researchers.
F6S runs over 550 individual programs, hackathons, events and contests serving tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and service providers, delivering free services to start-ups. F6S will provide the business expertise for EDUCATE and will take on the role of recruiting start-ups and SMEs in EdTech to become beneficiaries of the project using their existing community. This will be done online and through a series of small events programme to be designed with UCL IOE and delivered together with UCL staff. They will also provide support to beneficiaries around Tax credits, incorporation, grant application and general business processes. They will also provide free accounting for EDUCATE beneficiary SMEs.
The recruitment of SME beneficiaries will be done through F6S’s membership base, which has the largest active database of tech enabled high growth businesses in the UK with over 20,000 registered members. Every fortnight over 4000 SMEs read its newsletter and through this relationship EDUCATE will be more than able to target, engage and enrol businesses to EDUCATE.
F6S will be engaging its SME community reaching over 70 Accelerator and Incubator programs (commercial, government funded and university based) and its Founders, Start-ups and more established SMEs in EdTech to widen interest for uptake.
The Education Foundation and EdTechUk
The Education Foundation is the UK’s first independent, cross sector, education think tank. Their work is focused on three priorities: education reform, technology & innovation. The Education Foundation and EdTech UK’s work will contribute to the promotion of EDUCATE with its existing network, will bring its network of experienced mentors to directly support the SMEs and researchers on the programme, have its key staff directly support start-ups in the knowledge lab space, run networking and showcase events, run EdTech specific workshops and represent and share lessons learned from the project to policy and wider industry stakeholders.
Research start-ups will be provided with a business mentor through The Education Foundation, who can introduce them to the business world and help them recognize what is valuable about their research prototype or idea from a business rather than a research perspective.
Nesta exists to mobilise ideas and imagination for the common good and boost the UK’s capacity to innovate. To achieve impact Nesta engagements include funding and non–financial support devoted to impact; Accelerators – commercial and social; Impact Investment and research.
Nesta will contribute to the promotion of EDUCATE with its existing network and reach out to mentors, business professionals, accelerators and recent start-ups to help support the EDUCATE cohort members. It will provide workshops for each of the cohorts and contribute to the virtual EDUCATE space. It will also provide expertise in the design of accelerators.
Nesta will provide an advisory role & expertise in accelerators:
- Work with the EDUCATE Hub leader to provide expertise on the accelerator design based on Nesta research and practical work in this area.
- Work with the Project Manager to commission external evaluation of the project building on Nesta’s expertise and networks in this area.
- Work with the Project Manager to explore future income generation and business models for maintaining the EDUCATE programme after the funding finishes, in particular paid for services for EdTech businesses.
Figure 1 EDUCATE partnership
Who will benefit from the project?
The target beneficiaries are London based EdTech SMEs (not excluding Education SMEs) and researcher entrepreneurs. The EdTech sector is predicted to grow from £45bn to £129bn by 2020 and more than 200 of the 1,000 British EdTech ventures started in London. 10 of these make up half of the 20 fastest-growing companies in the sector in Europe and the London based RefMe was a 2015 Edtech Europe winner. The principal groups operating in the Educational Technology domain: i.e. technology developers, HE researchers and teachers lack a single, common point of connection (Nesta 2012). The partnership between Higher Education and business that is embodied in EDUCATE will promote the economic and commercial exploitation of university research outputs enabling SMEs to leverage this research to support their product development process.
The support letter from Third Space Learning evidences the value of this sort of collaboration between HE and SMEs. The SMEs will be at a stage of development whereby research evidence and methods can benefit their products and services. Their ideas need to be mature enough to be evaluated by their target audience and open enough to be revised when research evidence indicates that a change would be beneficial. Researcher entrepreneurs are researchers who have an idea or prototype based upon their research and that they would wish to commercialise. These researchers will come from within and beyond UCL. We will also target teachers who would like to work with both the research base and businesses, or potentially starting their own venture; these practitioners have the inside track of their market but could benefit from both research and business support.
The specific activities that will be undertaken as part of the project
EDUCATE will provide an independent co-working space for Higher Education researchers and innovative EdTech SMEs (without excluding Educational SMEs). All SMEs and researchers considered for entry to the EDUCATE space will complete an entry-point diagnostic to ensure that they are eligible and suitable for the programme.
The primary aim of EDUCATE is to translate research into new and better educational products, and to stimulate demand for new and improved products. This will increase the sector’s economic growth and London’s competitiveness. EDUCATE will facilitate knowledge exchange between Higher Education and SMEs. SMEs will be trained to use research evidence to improve their products. SMEs will be mentored to work with teachers and parents (their customers) to evaluate their product’s educational value and stimulate to demand. Researchers will be trained to commercialise university research.
An initial group of 10 SMEs and research spinoffs (pre-company formation) will be selected to join in the EDUCATE co-working space for a period of 3 – 6 months during which there will be an intense exchange of knowledge facilitated by frequent targeted meetings for individual SMEs and the most relevant researchers. Figure 1 above outlines the ‘journey’ that SMEs and researchers will take within the EDUCATE space.
Recruitment and dissemination (lead generation): F6S, UCL and The Education Foundation will communicate with their existing communities and raise awareness around the opportunity of working together with a UCL IOE Academic on new products and services; to improve an existing product, and validate current projects. IOE will run quarterly Researcher recruitment sessions for UCL researchers along with researchers from the other London Universities. The incentives for researchers will be the opportunity to generate evidence about the impact of their research as well as the chance to identify new research areas, start a business, learn new skills and fulfil their entrepreneurial ambitions.
Phase 1: Collaborations’ Formation: An initial interview will assess whether or not the SME/researcher is ready to benefit from a place in the EDUCATE co-working space. SMEs/researchers who are not successful at gaining a place in the co-working space will be invited to use the EDUCATE virtual portal. Depending on the shortfall of their application, they will be signposted to either existing services within UCL or other business support providers in London as well as to the EDUCATE virtual space. SMEs who are selected will receive a welcome and induction training session to familiarize themselves with the environment and with the EDUCATE process.
Phase 2 Incubation: Research start-ups and SMEs will be allocated the same level of support within EDUCATE, but this support will be tailored to their needs. SMEs will be introduced to a research mentor who will be an experienced research academic who will work with the SME throughout their involvement with EDUCATE, both physical and virtual. The SME will be able to meet and work with other academics too, but the research mentor will take personal responsibility for supporting the SME’s engagement with research. An IOE member of staff (Activity Leads Officers) will continuously follow the progress of the SME. Most SMEs have little or no knowledge of research methodology as evidenced in Nesta (2012) and by the popularity of the research training sessions organized by the LKL. The training will cover how to access and interpret existing research sources and how to conduct research studies, collecting data and using both quantitative and qualitative analysis techniques. Finally, SMEs will be provided with access to the evolving research resources being collated and edited by the EDUCATE team. These will include key research that has been translated from academic language into popular science language, this material will be part of the EDUCATE virtual portal.
Figure 2 – The training journey for designing a product or service evaluation trial
Research start-ups will receive basic business training to enable them to set up and register their business, understand how to account for their income and expenditure, register for corporation tax and market their product. Researchers engaged in the project will also be going through training to communicate science to business, provided by UCL. To compliment the EDUCATE research resources a set of basic business resources will also be collated and made available through the EDUCATE portal.
Phase 3: Acceleration A key objective for the engagement will be for SMEs and researchers to develop their plans for working with their customer base of teachers or parents to design a research study to test the effectiveness of their product and give them evidence to present to investors and customers. Phase 2 will ensure that all members of the EDUCATE co-working space have the knowledge and skills to design an evaluation study for their product. Phase 3 will introduce EDUCATE members to their target market of teachers, parents or learners and help them to test and iterate their products or services with real users. Working with these different audiences will help to stimulate demand for EdTech products and services as well as enabling SMEs and researchers to evaluate their ideas and build better products. The Education Foundation will provide market access to schools, colleges, universities and other education client groups relevant to the products created using their network of institutions across the UK. The letter of support from the College of Teaching evidences the importance of engaging with educators in the design of EdTech products and services. Phase 3 consists of the following broad categories of support:
Product/Service Acceleration Support
These activities include supporting user trials, testing and validation and UX analysis. Based on the success of services pioneered under the ERDF Capital Accelerator Programme – UCL will help companies improve products and services based on user/customer feedback – using Sprint and other agile methodologies that are now commonplace in design thinking. The Evaluations will be designed by the IOW and will advise on building the minimum viable product. Proper evaluations of the educational value – led by IOE – designed by beneficiaries.
Company Services Support
During Phase 3 SMEs and new spin-out companies will also be prepared for market entry with additional support services from F6S and The Education Foundation. This includes R&D Tax Credit Services, Accounting Services, Incorporation Services, Grant writing support, Raising seed and angel investment, HR Services, Legal services and Export support. Preparing the company and key management give the SME the greatest chance of success. The following workshops are also available in Phase 2:
Workshop 1: Incorporation, Growing your Edtech Start-up and Company Basics
F6S Start-up Growth Services professionals will host a workshop, promoting best practises on how to incorporate the start-up in London and what one needs to know to successfully grow and manage their business. A general practical advice, explaining ‘step-by-step’ the most common practices for start-ups and 1 on 1 consultation on individual needs will be provided. The workshop will enable start-ups, either London based or from abroad to be prepared for the move into the vibrant London start-up ecosystem.
Workshop 2: Tax and Compliance
Different businesses have different needs in terms of their compliance with the country regulations. Such is even more important with high-growth start-ups as they usually deal not only locally, but globally, thus creating all sort of questions related to taxation and compliance. Workshop will explain the frequent issues and questions that most global start-ups incorporating in UK face. Practical advice on the tools as well as provision of the tools for free will be provided as well as 1 on 1 consultation addressing individual needs of the start-ups.
Workshop 3: R&D Tax
Start-ups create lots of innovation within the ecosystem and can benefit from great incentives offered by the government. However, a big percentage of start-ups never considering benefiting from such incentives, being afraid of complex administrative and time consuming burden on their shoulders. R&D Tax workshop will educate start-ups about the benefits of the incentives as well as explaining ‘step-by-step’ how to apply for consideration of such incentives. During the workshop, general advice and individual 1 on 1 consultation sessions will be done. All attending start-ups will also be offered free R&D Tax Relief Eligibility check and advice.
Workshop 4: Grants
Both UK government and the European Commission have a lot of support mechanisms to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation. This includes various education programmes, funding tools, accelerators, innovation grants, etc. Workshop will provide an up-to-date summary of the available initiatives, explaining how they fit to different stages of the start-up. A specific focus will be given to the grants offered by the UK and EC. A general practical advice, as well individual 1 on 1 session will be provided. During the individual consultations, recommendations for the best fit Grant scheme will be offered explaining the application process and providing insights.
Timeline of provision based on demand, with a goal of five attendees minimum. Based on demand for each workshop, we will vary the availability of each type to ensure that workshop availability matches recipient needs. Workshops may be given as group or as individuals depending on needs.
Investor Readiness Support
EDUCATE will integrate the supported SMEs into the wider London ecosystem. This includes working closely with partners like Capital Enterprise, a strategic partner to the project committed to making introductions to private investors, as well as acting as a co-ordinator for the London Co-Investment Fund. Letter of support from Founders Factory who recognise the need for and value of an entity like EDUCATE is enclosed. We will work with Founders Forum to introduce EDUCATE SMEs/researchers to investors.
NESTA will provide the following support for each of the 5 cohorts over the course of the project duration (3 years):
- Attracting the talent – actively promote the EDUCATE accelerator across their networks and known accelerators. Nesta has a wide network and is well respected in this area.
- Selecting Start-ups – work with the Hub leader to develop the criteria/process and help select cohort members. These processes will be reviewed regularly and adjusted according to project’s need.
- Programme package provided by Nesta
- 1 networking event per cohort at Nesta
- Workshop on business pitches and what an impact investor wants led by Nesta’s Impact Investment Team
- Opportunity for an Individual business pitch and feedback for ventures per cohort
- Workshop on testing EdTech products in schools and the practical considerations which need to be accounted for led by Nesta’s Education Team.
- Access to networks – Nesta has a strong network with accelerators, investors, mentors, start-ups, business professional and school networks
- Reach out to wide network of mentors and professionals who could potentially support the EDUCATE cohort
- Reach out to network of recent early stage starts-ups and those who have recently been through accelerator programmes to support the EDUCATE cohort.
- Reach out to network of early stage investors
- Reach out to networks of incubators and accelerators
- Reach out to networks of school groups and teacher networks
Phase 3 will conclude support by showcasing SMEs to new customer and go-to-market delivery partners with promotional / marketing activities:
Showcase event: Each year EDUCATE will showcase the SMEs/researcher start-ups who are and have been its members. These will be flagship events developed and delivered by The Education Foundation to which educators, investors, policymakers and the media will be invited. These will both stimulate demand for EdTech products and services and help SMEs and researchers to promote their work and make connections with those who can help their businesses to grow.
We recognise that researchers who have, as a result of their engagement with EDUCATE, commercialised their research will need extra mentoring to help them to navigate their future. They may wish to make the transition from academia to business or they may wish to remain within academia and to work with partners to progress the business they have created. We will provide mentoring from successful individuals who have commercialised their research and maintained their business either from within or from outside academia.
We also plan to have a yearly presence at BETT Futures Start-up Zone, run by The Education Foundation, in order to attract more beneficiaries in first instance and as project progresses to showcase the results of our work and seek development of partnerships developed in EDUCATE seeking investment or users.
Virtual EDUCATE Clinic: Once SMEs have completed their time in the co-working space they will be able to maintain their connection with EDUCATE through the portal. The Virtual EDUCATE Clinic enables the SME to also maintain contact and engagement with their mentor and any of the other experts with whom they have worked with whilst in the co-working space.
The support offered within Phase 3 is available as required and does not need to be used in a strict order. In addition, bespoke training sessions will be organized in response to needs expressed by the community. Each SME that passes through the EDUCATE physical space and/or takes advantage of the resources available through the virtual space will also contribute evidence about their research use and generation that will provide further resources for EDUCATE. The increased knowledge that each SME has about how they can develop their own research programme to demonstrate the value of their product or service will start to seed this approach within the EdTech SME community.
Throughout the life of the ERDF funding for EDUCATE we will be exploring the potential funding mechanisms for sustaining the EDUCATE space, activities and services. We will also be ensuring that EDUCATE is established as a trusted, respected and independent source of knowledge and knowledge sharing for educators, researchers, industry and policy-makers around the world, adding to and supporting London’s world leading position in educational products and educational technologies, and our competitiveness.
Nesta will provide resources for the EDUCATE virtual space based on Nesta’s areas of expertise – this will be based on Nesta publications on EdTech research, Accelerators and Impact Investment. Timings: Throughout the project as advised by the project lead.
Figure 3 The Beneficiary Journey in EDUCATE (Physical Space)
The EDUCATE virtual portal
The EDUCATE virtual space is designed to complement the physical co-working space to provide resources and support to those who are not able to join the co-working community and for those who have already completed their stay in the physical space. Figure 4 below provides an overview of the journey that a beneficiary could take through the EDUCATE virtual portal. As with the physical space SMEs are welcomed and introduced to a research mentor or a business mentor for research start-ups. The mentor will provide guidance to the research and business knowledge available through the portal. The additional resources available through the EDUCATE portal will be:
- Access to Educators or other product user groups, e.g. parents;
- Access to Funding and Finance Resources in London, with direct connection with the London Co-Investment Fund and support from Capital Enterprise
- Access to training sessions that will be run at the London Knowledge Lab;
- Access to the showcase events;
- The Virtual EDUCATE clinic.
Figure 4 The Beneficiary Journey in EDUCATE (Virtual Space)
Schools spend over £900 million each year on educational technology and education exports are worth £17.5 billion a year. It is vital that after the ERDF funding has finished, we sustain the EDUCATE activities that have been supported through ERDF funding. Throughout the life of the ERDF funding for EDUCATE we will therefore be exploring the potential funding mechanisms for sustaining the EDUCATE space, activities and services. We will also be ensuring that EDUCATE is established as a trusted, respected and independent source of knowledge and knowledge sharing for educators, researchers, industry and policy-makers around the world, adding to and supporting London’s world leading position in educational technologies, and our competitiveness.
The letter of support from Founders Factory demonstrates their belief in the value of the approach being adopted by EDUCATE.
 ESIF Call Template PA1, published 9 July 2015
 Edtech: London Capital for Learning Technology, Edtech UK 2015