[Guest Post] IP Education Series #1

Following the introduction last week, the first post in the IP Education Series is kicking off with a post from Claire Howell! Do remember, if you have successfully implemented or been the recipient of a successfully implemented IP Education Initiative, please feel free to contribute to the discussion! (We're looking for small or large contributions so do not be deterred!)

Now over to Claire:

Patent Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship: The PIPE Club

Aston University is in the heart of Birmingham, which is in the heart of England. At Aston students, across all schools, are consistently encouraged to cultivate entrepreneurial and employability skills and foster an understanding of how to develop new businesses.  We know a good idea, even if highly innovative, is not enough to create a successful business.  You also require an enterprising mind-set and a recognition of the importance of practical skills including legal and financial knowledge. Traditionally universities are good at imparting knowledge - but knowledge is not enough. We must equip our students with the skills needed for the life that awaits them when they leave university. There are many ways to foster skills acquisition and encourage an enterprising mind-set. PIPE is one of them.

How PIPE started

I became aware of the UK Intellectual Property Office StudentshIP Enterprise Awards. The aims of the award were to support the use and understanding of [IP] in student enterprise activities where students display an enhanced capacity to generate ideas and utilise specialised skills to turn these ideas into commercial and/ or social ventures.  The PIPE Club was the obvious thing to propose. A practical multidisciplinary course aimed not only to create IP awareness but to provide the knowledge and encouraging the skills and confidence needed in students too start up their own businesses.
We managed it! We won a StudentshIP Enterprise Award of £54,640.


PIPE was a voluntary Club - not a module, open to ALL students at the university from ALL disciplines and at ALL levels, from first years to PhD students.  Working in teams the students created a ‘company’ with a CEO, Finance, IP and Research Directors and of course with a product or service.

The PIPE Club ran over two terms and started with 43 student companies comprising 183 students from all disciplines. Over time (and most noticeably when credit-bearing module coursework needed to be completed) our PIPE core reduced to 46 devoted students. Ten companies lasted the entire life of the club and seven companies, entered the final competition where three could win cash prizes to be used as seed funding for their businesses. All ‘companies’ in the PIPE Club were to submit a business plan using material learned over the course of the club.

Nine academics took part in running the club, design engineers, explaining about forming the idea and product development; marketing experts, teaching about researching the market place, getting funding and writing a business plan, accountants demonstrating the intricacies of financial forecasting/cash flow and lawyers advising on  business forms, taxation, employment and of course IP. We were extremely fortunate that local businessmen and women participated as PIPE Mentors. Each Mentor advised, guided, challenged and supported PIPE companies when developing their business idea.

PIPERS were asked to obtain the UKIPO’s online IP equip certificate, create a business plan, a poster and a ten minute film of their entrepreneurial journey demonstrating their ability to market their idea and translate their idea to potential customers, partners or investors.  The UKIPO money was spent on not only the prizes but producing the posters, cameras to make the videos [which could be used in future years] filming the awards lunch and of course administration and creating the materials for the course [which again could be reused]. One first and two second cash prizes were awarded. Judging was conducted by Dr Alison Brimelow ex-President of the European Patent Office, Dr Roger Burt ex-President of CIPA and Head of Intellectual Property Europe IBM and Professor George Feiger, Executive Dean at Aston Business School.

Benefits for PIPERS

PIPERS became commercially aware, creating IP intensive companies with potentially real products/services based on ideas generated by the PIPERS themselves.  It was an excellent problem based learning experience. PIPERS developed the main skills and knowledge needed for management and the employability of PIPERS was greatly enhanced.

The cash prizes were to be used as seed funding for their businesses but most importantly ALL PIPERS have available the future support of Birmingham’s Skills for Enterprise and Employability Network (BSEEN) which is based in the local business incubator next door to Aston University.

But not only that- they enjoyed it! Quote from PIPER
“PIPE Club is one of the most amazing things happened in my academic life. I've met a lot of great people and learned so much, best club ever! Thanks for giving us the opportunity."
The future

The PIPE Club has been adopted as a credit bearing optional final year module in Aston Business School as well as part of the MSc Professional Development Programme. It is in the future to be offered to all schools at Aston University. The main requirement for putting on such a course is an entrepreneurial spirit. You need the complete buy- in of all the academics involved, your university and the local business community. It is also essential that the companies have further support, something like BSEEN, a business incubator, to help their businesses grow and prosper in the future.


The world of work is changing. The skills we teach our students today must equip them for jobs that do not yet exist. But what sort of teaching and what type of new modules will help us develop the necessary skills in our students to allow them to succeed in their future life? PIPE Club has shown that it contributes by helping to generate resilience and foster the entrepreneurial spirit in the Clubs members.

[Guest Post] IP Education Series #1 [Guest Post] IP Education Series #1 Reviewed by Tosshan Ramgolam on Friday, September 27, 2019 Rating: 5

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