Enterprise & entrepreneurship

We place a strong emphasis on entrepreneurialism, creating opportunities for our students to develop their own business ideas and receive tailored support.

From practical workshops, mentoring and awards, budding entrepreneurs can benefit from the knowledge and experience of their lecturers and the strong industry links the University has carefully cultivated over the years.

“Winner of Enterprise Learning Provider of the Year, Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs Awards 2019"

Our award-winning Enterprise Programme (EP) provides an inspiring and supportive environment in which our students can share, develop and launch their ideas. Guided by lawyers, insurers, accountants and PR & marketing professionals, students from all degree courses and years have the chance to realise their aspirations in a professional and rewarding environment.

As well as acting as a springboard for the business leaders of tomorrow, our celebrated programme has attracted the support of business leaders across the UK, enabling us to organise networking events, enterprise workshops, mentoring services and inspirational talks.

A transcript of this video can be found here.

Start-up support


Do you have an idea for a business, or are you keen to find that spark of inspiration? Our 'Think' support provides you with the chance to attend idea generation workshops, inspirational talks from entrepreneurs, as well as meet with our Enterprise team to discuss your early stage idea.

Our support is open to all RAU students, from all degree courses and year groups. 

"The experiences from being part of the RAU Enterprise Programme were fundamental in me getting my dream graduate job as a purchaser - so thank you"

Elizabeth Boher, Graduate

two students holding branded merchandise


Once you have outlined and researched your business idea you are empowered to 'Try' and test your concept to prove that it works.  

The First Steps Fund provides students with proof of concept funding of up to £250 to help them test their business idea, as well as access to an external business mentor. Our business mentors provide at least 10 hours support to help you develop your business. In addition, our practical workshop series provides you with the opportunity to enhance your knowledge in areas such as social media for business, branding, intellectual property and accountancy.  

"The First Steps fund gave me a great boost to get my business off the ground. I can honestly say my business would not be where it is without the fund and support from the Enterprise Team"

Jen Winnett, Graduate

Jennifer Winnet enterprise prize winner


This stage is all about action and preparing your idea for launch. Students are provided with access to the RAU Enterprise team’s bank of experts who include lawyers, intellectual property specialists, accountants, retail consultants and branding experts. To further support our budding entrepreneurs, we also host a weekend Launch Camp, which provides an intensive start-up bootcamp covering all the key areas involved. 

Each year our entrepreneurial students are invited to enter our Grand Idea Competition and pitch their concept and business plan to our panel of expert judges who have included people such as Levi Roots (Reggae Reggae sauce) and Julian Dunkerton (co-founder of SuperDry). Students pitch in the hope of winning an equity free cash prize to invest in their business.

"The Enterprise Programme gave me the confidence and support to be able to launch my first company. I am now beginning to launch my second company and I wouldn't be able to do it without their support"

Augusta Campos-Martyn, Graduate

enterprise student augusta


Students and alumni can make use of the Cirencester Growth Hub, a space which is based at the RAU and gives them the opportunity to work alongside other start-up enterprises from the local community, as well as utilise an extensive network of business contacts. Use of the building is free to students, and there is a 50% discount on membership for graduates.

Those students wishing to start an agritech business can benefit from free membership to Farm491, an innovative business incubator that provides high-spec facilities created to foster entrepreneurship, ideas generation and collaboration, as well as 491 hectares of Cotswold farmland for research and testing. 

Cotswold Hills Wine social enterprise project

Cotswold Hills is an award-winning social enterprise project established by the Royal Agricultural University in 2016 when we took on the tenancy of a 6-acre vineyard on the outskirts of Cirencester. The project aims to provide students with real life employability and enterprise skills and experience, as they are encouraged to get involved in all aspects of the project from vine to wine sales and new product development. In addition, a proportion of the proceeds from Cotswold Hills wine sales goes into the University’s enterprise fund which provides grants to students wanting to start their own businesses. 

three bottles of wine and a can of wine

Cotswold Hills producing an award-winning range of still and sparkling wines in both bottled and canned form. You can find out more and purchase our wine via our website.

Cotswold Hills also has a strong innovation and sustainability ethos, and we encourage our students to research and apply new and emerging solutions. Examples of this include being one of the first UK vineyards to produce a canned wine in 2018, as well as being the first UK vineyard to use eco-plastic recycled and recyclable wine bottle which helped to reduced the carbon footprint. We have also removed the aluminium foil from our sparkling wine to reduce packaging waste.

Case study

Imogen Burgoyne, Founder Carrington Course & Pawpens

Imogen started two businesses whist at the RAU, the Carrington Course which is a three-day residential educational course, teaching school leavers basic fundamental life skills such as cookery, finance and household and car maintenance which isn't taught in schools. The second business is a private dog pen facility, equipped with agility equipment, training aids, benches and undercover areas set in three acres of beautiful grass and woodland where dog owners can take their dog off the lead without worrying.

Tips for students thinking of starting a business

The RAU has a wealth of knowledgeable and friendly experts/ resources to help entrepreneurs, whether their business is just starting out or more developed. Never feel embarrassed by a lack of knowledge in any field of business. If you are not overly confident with finances or marketing for example, chat to someone who is; become a sponge of knowledge! Speak out, get advice, and don't be scared to question your thoughts/ decisions because of other people's opinions.

“A large part of my decision to come to the RAU was based on the exceptional support for enterprise and entrepreneurship. I'm incredibly grateful to have studied at the RAU, and to be offered such valuable opportunities such as the Grand Idea Competition”

Imogen Burgoyne, Grand Idea Winner 2022

imogen burgoyne

The Accolades

  • IOEE Centre of Excellence 2019
  • Enterprise Learning Provider of the Year, IOEE 2019
  • Shortlisted Guardian University Awards 2018 "Enterprise and Employability"
  • Shortlisted Rural Business Award 2018
  • Shortlisted Duke of York Award for University Entrepreneurship 2017
  • Runner up, The Guardian University Awards 2016 in the Entrepreneurship category
  • Finalist NACUE Student Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 (National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs)
  • Winner Cirencester Business Awards 2016 - Business Innovation of the Year
  • Winner NUS Green Impact Scheme 2016 - in both the Innovation and Community Engagement categories
  • Finalist Duke of York Award for University Entrepreneurship at the Lloyds Bank National Awards 2016
  • Winner Green Gown Awards - Entrepreneurship and Employability category

Media featured in:

  • BBC Radio Four Farming Today
  • BBC Countryfile
  • BBC Radio Gloucestershire
  • National and local press