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Overcoming disadvantage: Millennials doing it for themselves

Innovation Caucus Internship – Steve Workman

Oxford Brookes doctoral research student, Steve Workman, recently completed a three month internship with Innovate UK. Steve won the internship through an open competition run by the Innovation Caucus and chaired by Professor Tim Vorley, Associate Dean and Professor of Entrepreneurship at Sheffield University Management School. Steve’s application involved writing an essay, entitled ‘Millennials Do it On Demand: Millennials, Innovation and Decision Making’, which contrasted the more immediate, technology enabled decision-making of Millennials with that of Baby Boomers and Generation X.

Working alongside Dr Emily Nott, Head of Diversity and Inclusion Programmes at Innovate UK, Steve made a valuable contribution to the ‘Ideas Mean Business’ programme, which encourages Millennials to innovate and take an entrepreneurial route into employment, by starting their own businesses. Steve produced a series of papers, including ‘Mapping the Support Landscape for Young Entrepreneurs from Disadvantaged and Diverse Backgrounds’ and ‘Millennials: The Role of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Combating Disadvantage’.

This internship provided Steve with the opportunity to work on a live, leading edge project, aimed a tackling an important social problem. Commenting on his internship Steve stated:

‘In my professional career I did a lot of work with organisations like Business in the Community and the Prince’s Trust, to encourage young people into employment with major businesses. Innovate UK’s ‘Ideas mean Business’ project took a new and potentially more rewarding approach, by supporting young people to develop their own businesses. It was fascinating to gain insights into both the enablers and the barriers facing young people. I really enjoyed working with the Innovate UK and Innovation Caucus teams and seeing my work shape the development of the project. I would certainly recommend this type of internship, which broadens one’s academic and business horizons’.

This is an excellent example of how internships can add value to the work of Innovate UK, by aligning with and feeding directly into their programmes of activity. Emily Nott, who supervised Steve’s internship, said:

‘This placement gave us much needed extra capacity to undertake an in-depth piece of research. Steve brought an alternative perspective and generated valuable new insights into how entrepreneurship and our Young Innovators programme can help young people overcome disadvantage by turning their ideas into successful businesses.’

There were direct benefits from this internship for the young people participating in the programme, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, who gained from Innovate UK’s deeper insight into their specific barriers and support needs. There is also potential to derive wider societal impacts from supporting young people, who may struggle with traditional employment, to go down a self-employment route.

Economic benefits include the potential cost savings from reducing the numbers of young people who are not in sustainable employment, as well as the multiplier effects of creating exciting, cutting edge new businesses.

This internship also highlights the potential for Innovate UK to engage with a wider range of stakeholders, increasing its visibility and impact, by exchanging perspectives and expertise. There is further potential for the Innovation Caucus to help broker relationships between Innovate UK, academia, businesses, public sector agencies and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.

For further information about this internship, please email Emily Nott, Head of Diversity and Inclusion Programmes at Innovate UK,