University of Exeter commits to supporting female entrepreneurs


The team of University of Exeter spin-out company SENISCA

The University of Exeter has signalled its commitment to supporting female entrepreneurial activity by becoming the first university and 200th organisation to sign the Investing in Women Code.

By signing the Investing in Women Code, the University of Exeter has pledged to take practical steps to support female entrepreneurs and business leaders in accessing the support they need to grow their businesses.

This includes improving access to tools, resources and finances as well as regularly monitoring and reporting on the progress made towards meeting their goals.

Led by the Department for Business and Trade and the British Business Bank, the Investing in Women Code was established in 2019 following the findings of the initial Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, which demonstrated that up to £250 billion of new economic value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men.

Dame Alison Rose, author of the Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship and Group Chief Executive Officer of NatWest, said: “It is fantastic to see that the Investing in Women Code has reached 200 signatories, following this commitment from the University of Exeter – the first university to sign the Code. By bringing together organisations from across the financial services landscape and beyond, the Code is central to driving progress and improving access to funding for women starting and scaling successful businesses.

“We know from the 2023 Rose Review Progress Report that women between 16 and 25 founded nearly 17,500 businesses in 2022, and I hope that more universities follow in Exeter’s footsteps and will be inspired to adopt similar practices to ensure the next generation of female founders realise their potential.”

The University is already leading the way in supporting female entrepreneurs. It runs a thriving student startup programme and an internal Entrepreneurial Researcher Programme, available to researchers and staff looking to turn their academic passion into a business.

The Innovation, Impact and Business team is well placed and connected to support both staff and students in the entrepreneurship journey from early stages right through to spin-out formation and follow-on funding via 1:1 support, grant assistance, acceleration programmes, plus further investor introductions support through the national ICURe programme or SETsquared partnership programmes.

One example of the University’s support is the spin-out company, SENISCA. A team of world leaders in molecular and cellular biology – led by Professor Lorna Harries – pioneered a new anti-ageing technology, turning back the clock on ageing cells. Following an initial Intellectual Property Assessment, the SENISCA team was encouraged to pitch to the University for initial financial support and commercial exploration.  

During this early investment consideration stage, the team was put through the Innovate UK-funded ICURe programme to carry out market exploration, which led to the formation of the company and an Innovate UK grant. Since then, the company has continued to thrive – raising £2 million in its latest seed funding round. 

“We are proud to be the first university to sign up to the Investing in Women Code,” said Chris Evans, Director of Innovation, Impact and Business at the University of Exeter.

“We believe that by fostering a culture of diversity and inclusivity, we can help bridge the gender gap in entrepreneurship and unleash the full potential of our female students, researchers, and alumni.”