Projects / themes

Enterprise, Skills & Entrepreneurship Resource Pack

Enhancing the Curriculum in Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences

These pages provide a collection of information, ideas, examples of practice and case studies which is intended to provide a starting point for colleagues interested in including elements of enterprise / entrepreneurship within their modules or courses in geography, earth or environmental sciences.

It is by no means a definitive or complete collection but is intended as a starting point for curriculum development. Hopefully it will provide some food for thought, hints & tips, and practical ideas.

The pages can be viewed online below or you can download the Enterprise, Skills & Entrepreneurship Resource Pack (0.5mb pdf). Download the cover of the puiblication separately (0.3mb pdf).

Many more generic resources can be found on the Higher Education Academy "Enterprise and Entrepreneurship" webpage.



Information & Resources Available to Download (Word documents)

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Overview of 2005 GEES Subject Centre Entrepreneurship Project

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How were these materials developed?

The GEES Subject Centre developed these subject-specific curriculum materials through a one-year project which involved:

The materials were developed collaboratively by working with GEES staff throughout the UK to share existing practice, adapt generic materials for the disciplines, and to discuss and articulate relevant issues.

Students were also involved in the project through participation and feedback at a two-day residential event intended to provide a taster of entrepreneurship skills. As well as supporting skills development, the event gave the students an opportunity to network and learn from peers, staff and entrepreneurs with similar interests.

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What did the project tell us – what did we learn?

The project has provided a solid base of resources and information on which the GEES Subject Centre can develop further opportunities for supporting the embedding of entrepreneurial skills within the curriculum. In particular the project told us that:

There are people out there doing this in higher education in the GEES disciplines;

Some staff are really interested in including these types of skills in the curriculum both to enhance their students employability and to provide more creative ways of teaching.

Many students are very keen to learn more about setting up their own businesses;

Using enterprise as a curriculum development tool can create a real sense of enthusiasm, buzz, motivation and creativity, and can offer exciting ways to engage students in learning about our disciplines, enjoying the learning and wanting to apply it to their future work.

That we as a Subject Centre might work in more ‘enterprising’ ways and apply these curriculum tools to our own events and activities – it’s given us a desire to be more creative.

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Go on, persuade me: The GEES ‘Elevator Pitch’

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What is an elevator pitch?

In the United States during the 1980’s a new concept – the elevator pitch - emerged. Sales staff who were eager to ‘climb up the ladder’ discovered that the only chance of gaining the attention of the boss was in the lift. A decade later, the same technique became popular among entrepreneurs. Unable to get past the secretaries, they turned to ‘elevators’ in the fight to get venture capital and financing for their business ideas. Entrepreneurs would ride up and down elevators in New York’s skyscrapers waiting to meet the right person and the chance to get their foot in the door.

Elevator pitches have now moved outside of the ‘elevator’ and have infiltrated all areas of business life. They are used to motivate employees, they appear in print form on company websites, and there are people who organise ‘elevator pitch’ contests.

The ‘traditional’ orally presented version falls into the three categories, which reflect the various possible uses for an elevator pitch today. The first is the 10 second pitch. This might come in useful when speaking to an answer phone or being presented to a dignitary. The 30 second pitch is used for round table introductions or during networking events. And the three-minute pitch is used for presentations, at job interviews, sales meetings or recruitment fairs.

The following 3 minute pitch was developed for and delivered at the Higher Education Academy / SEDA ‘Enterprising Educator’ Workshop 14-03-05. It is based on research conducted by Prof Brian Chalkley as part of his National Teaching Fellowship into employability in Geography, and on feedback gathered at the GEES Subject Centre’s event for students and staff on “Enterprise, Skills and Entrepreneurship” in January 2005.

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The GEES ‘Pitch’: Why include enterprise skills in GEES curriculum?

With fees coming on line in 2006, student recruitment is going to get trickier and the students will be more demanding of a course to get them a good job at the end of it. So, each department is going to need its own big selling point to make it distinctive in the sector particularly if there are other institutions nearby in the region.

Talking of jobs, did you know that 90% of geography students say that their prime motive for doing geography is to get a good job? And 50% of geography undergraduates aspire to run their own business? So, departments could get a real competitive edge and get those bums on seats by developing their skills provision to include creativity, risk-taking, idea generation and other enterprise skills. But don’t just take my word for it, here’s some quotes from some current lecturers in geography and environmental science:

“I recognise that most of our Masters students will quite possibly develop their own businesses at some stage in their career”

“[The development of enterprise skills is] An obvious gap in the curriculum and would work well in partnership with employability within my home department.” “[we want to support] More opportunities for students to get employed.”

Including these new skills in the curriculum is not that difficult to do and, to quote an earth science colleague “You can teach all this without resorting to jargon.” Rather than having to cram even more into the timetable you can drop this skills development into existing modules as a tool for teaching aspects such as economic geography, exploration geology, environmental tourism and so on. And the added bonus of including enterprise skills in the curriculum is that it will also help develop excellent research skills for those budding academics.

There is currently only a small handful of departments in the UK that have some elements of enterprise in the curriculum, and yet, when the GEES Subject Centre ran an event on this theme we had participation from geography, earth and environmental science students from all over the country – so there is a real demand from students out there but only a very few departments can provide for it. What did the students think about this workshop on enterprise? Here are a few typical comments…

“Thank you for a wonderfully entertaining and enlightening few days. I learnt such a lot… I admit my feet still haven't touched the ground. I still feel really motivated and keen to take this further”

“[the workshop] was really valuable. I circulated the materials here at Oxford to my tutors and lecturers.”

“Like the interactive-ness rather than constant lecturing. Uni courses should be more like this. Learning rather than Education!”

Enterprise and entrepreneurship are to this decade what key skills were to the last, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in 10 years time it will be similarly embedded into subject curricula. Any department getting involved now will have a competitive advantage not to mention the academic kudos of being at the leading edge of curriculum innovation. External examiners for those few departments already doing this are really enthusiastic. So, can departments afford not to take this on?

If you are interested, help is very much at hand. Following on from its enterprise event run for staff and students in geography, earth and environmental sciences, the GEES Subject Centre has developed a free resource pack to support curriculum development. This pack includes discipline-specific curriculum examples, case studies of graduate entrepreneurs and notes, comments and information from staff and students.

From September 2006 we will also be offering free, bespoke departmental workshops, available to all geography, earth and environmental sciences departments in UK HE and HE in FE.

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What does Enterprise / Entrepreneurship Mean to the GEES Disciplines?

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The following quotes are from geography, earth and environmental sciences staff and students who attending the GEES Subject Centre “Enterprise, Skills & Entrepreneurship” event in January 2005. They were asked to write notes on “What is entrepreneurship?” Their answers follow common themes including:

There is also occasional reference to business skills and knowledge but largely the GEES ‘definition’ of entrepreneurship relates to personal attitudes and aptitudes. This view of entrepreneurship matches the support needs of students as discussed in the ‘Student Interest’ section, in that they require support to boost their skills, confidence and idea-generation.

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What is Entrepreneurship? Students’ Responses

“Innovative ideas leading to an independent business venture.”

 “Developing ideas for & running a successful business – innovation in business, making most of scope to grow the business.”

 “Having your own ideas on how something should be done and the motivation and ability to put it into practice. Not toeing the line – being narcissistic”

 “Starting up your own business, with innovative ideas and goals.”

 “Being inspired / motivated to initiate plans for your own business, to sell your ideas.
- seeing an opportunity to fill.”

 “- Developing ideas and exploiting them
- The use of business and academic skills for personal as well as social benefit.”

 “- A relationship in business, skills to develop your own career.
- Way to cooperate & encourage people working in teams”

 “- Materialise your business ideas – creating your own business.
- Help to solve a problem or satisfy a business need”

“Self employment – owning own business. Being able to develop ideas with reality of a successful business, creating own opportunities with and for others and self.”

 “[Before workshop] Initiative / originality in the line of business. Individual development of ideas / plans. Riddled with risk.
[After workshop] Taking a chance + being able to convince those around you that it really can change things.”

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What is Entrepreneurship? Staff Responses:

“Innovation to achieve a specific goal, allows risk taking.”

 “Business initiation that has a higher than normal risk associated with it (i.e. not all business development is necessarily a result of entrepreneurship). It’s also Your risk, mainly.”

 “Innovation. Determination. Leadership. Risk-taking. Resilience. Vision. Ability”

 “To have or develop the skills to establish a business oriented mind set.
Thinking out of the box.

 “Ability to take ideas, own or others, and convert into a product or service which is profitable.”

 “A serial assembler of bits and pieces into a previously unconsidered commercial whole.”

 “Dev skills attributes & competencies associated with entrepreneurs applied in the environment helps to foster ‘entrepreneurial’ approach by staff & students for development of
- transferable skills
- employability skills
- creating & building for a successful future”

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Examples of GEES-graduate Entrepreneurs

Studying geography, earth or environmental sciences in higher education provides a thorough knowledge and understanding of the Earth, its people and environment. Through team projects, simulations, field courses, lab work and a variety of other learning experiences, students also have the opportunity to develop a range of work-related skills. Thus GEES graduates are well equipped to pursue a wide variety of careers both in these subject areas and beyond. During this project we have identified many entrepreneurs who have graduated from the GEES disciplines. The types of businesses they have set up include:

Subject-related: e.g.

Environmental consultancy e.g.

Geophysical site investigation services e.g.

Geological surveying

Field equipment design & manufacture e.g.

Tourism (eco tourism, geological tours) e.g.

Recycling e.g.

Marine conservation

And beyond: e.g.

Web development e.g.

IT training e.g.


Freelancing (tv production; filming; science journalism)

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Case Studies of GEES Entrepreneurs

The following four case studies of GEES graduate entrepreneurs are available to download in Word format:

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Enterprise or Entrepreneurship? Some Definitions

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There was some debate at the January workshop over the definition of entrepreneurship. It was agreed that a true ‘entrepreneur’ might be seen as “A serial assembler of bits and pieces into a previously unconsidered commercial whole”, as one colleague put in his definition. By this definition, the majority of GEES students are less likely to be ‘entrepreneurial’ than ‘enterprising’ and ‘interested in running their own business’. Whichever definition we personally prefer and whatever types of students we have, the basic skills and knowledge development needs are the same.

The following definitions have been offered as part of the Higher Education Academy’s generic work in this area (see

Enterprise involves measures to encourage individuals to become entrepreneurs and equip them with the necessary skills to make a business successful (Mason, 2000)

In essence enterprise is about spotting opportunities, creating new ideas and having the confidence and capabilities to turn these ideas into working realities (Nixon, 2004)

Entrepreneurship is an activity which leads to the creation and management of a new organisation designed to pursue a unique, innovative opportunity (Hindle & Rushworth, 2000)

Fundamentally, it is about using enterprise to create new business, new businesses and 'can-do' organisations and services (Nixon, 2004)

Intrapreneurship is the art of working within an organisation to effect change, by developing new ideas, procedures or products, by innovating practice and thereby enhancing the business (Kneale, 2002).

Social entrepreneurship involves using entrepreneurial skills for the public good rather than for private profit, that is using imagination to identify new opportunities and determination to bring them to fruition (School for Social Entrepreneurs).

Social Entrepreneurship is used to describe forms of activity and people who are socially innovative, or 'enterprising' in the non-economic sense of the word. Hence, the label 'social entrepreneur' has come to apply to any individual seeking to effect social change through creative and innovative ways (National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO))

The Higher Education Academy (and the GEES Subject Centre) has a very holistic view of enterprise, entrepreneurship and intraprenuership which is encompassed in the following definition:

“Enterprise is an inclusive concept which provides both the context in which subject disciplines can be explored, as well as an approach, through skill development, which can be taken to the exploration and discovery of a discipline. In these respects, it can provide a challenging environment within which to explore a variety of teaching areas (the small business context) as well as provide a dimension to learning, that of developing the skills of being enterprising, which provide students with an attitude towards learning, which rewards and supports innovation, change and development.

Enterprise supports the recognition of new market opportunities as well as develops the opportunity to change and develop at the individual, business and industry/sector levels. This includes the exploration of new ideas and developments from a corporate perspective (as intrapreneurship) as well as the creation of new ventures, social programmes and the exploration of new opportunities” (Price, 2004).

Definitions of further terms relating to enterprise and entrepreneurship can be found in the Glossary (79kb Word document).

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How can Enterprise / Entrepreneurship be Supported through the Curriculum?

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Including these skills in the curriculum need not be an added burden but can provide an opportunity to

Examples of modules, projects and short tutorial exercises from geography, earth and environmental sciences are provided in the body of this resource pack, together with more discursive papers on embedding enterprise / entrepreneurship in the curriculum.

Discussions with staff in the GEES disciplines and with colleagues involved in supporting graduate start-ups, has suggested that higher education can support entrepreneurship in two ways:

Developing and enhancing skills, aptitudes and attitudes.

This includes providing students with the opportunities and motivation to:

This dimension of entrepreneurship sits well with current skills development within the GEES disciplines and is often manifest within team projects, dissertations, field and lab work. Such skills are invaluable to all graduates whether they wish to set up their own businesses, work for an employer or research / teach in secondary or higher education.

The resources developed by this project will provide additional support to higher education staff looking to include entrepreneurial skills more explicitly within their curricula.

[See also student support – this is what they want too]

Business and Financial Knowledge and Understanding

Many staff in the GEES disciplines are less well equipped to provide detailed information on the business and financial knowledge required to set up a business. However, supporting the students in the above skills areas empowers them to seek out and take advantage of other sources of information. Many, if not all, higher education institutions offer resources (e.g. booklets, workshops, courses, guidance and advice) to support entrepreneurship through careers services, enterprise units and business schools. In addition, several universities now have graduate start-up facilities, including incubator units, which can directly support new ventures.

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Student Interest in Entrepreneurship Skills

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Fifteen students attended the GEES Subject Centre’s two-day residential workshop on “Enterprise, Skills & Entrepreneurship” in January 2005. In order to win a free place on the workshop, each student was required to write a short statement detailing why they wished to attend and what benefits they hoped to gain from it. These statements provide a revealing insight into the practical and ‘blue skies’ motivations behind student career choices.

Some of their statements can be downloaded from here and make very interesting reading. These students come from a variety of universities and it’s not unlikely that there’ll be some just like them in your department. If you only have 5 minutes to spare, just pick one at random or have a look at the quotes below for some inspiration:

Despite the impact of student loans and an increasingly consumer-driven society, the main motivations for these students to set up their own business are environmental concerns and the desire to ‘make a difference’; that is, social / environmental entrepreneurship. For example:

“I want to reduce fossil fuel dependence and see starting business/social enterprises as the best way to achieve this through supplying affordable alternatives to the inadequate services available.”

 “[To] contribute to solving some environmental problems with a realistic market friendly way.”

 “I believe that ‘we’ can make business more sustainable or ‘green’ and I think that there are spaces in the market place for ideas of mine.”

 “I would like to set up a global natural hazards consultancy or join an existing consultancy….It would combine my interest in earth sciences with my ambition of setting up a business. I would like to make a difference by hopefully helping people, communities and governments.”

 “…my long range goal is to start an environmental consultancy…Additionally, one of my greatest concerns is to develop educational programs for Vietnamese people at all ages. I realise that improving human awareness of the significance of the ecosystem and its function is the best way to prevent the nature from being exhausted and polluted, so as to obtain sustainability.”

 “…my interests lie fundamentally in the developing world and the challenges they face, but also in the attitudes and understanding of the developed world to these challenges. I see myself as a freelance researcher and spokesperson, working alongside charities and political agencies to challenge people’s perceptions and promote a greater understanding, not only of the differences in our cultures, but also in the similarities of the challenges that we all face.”

 “I am also very interested in socially/ethically driven businesses, as I believe that businesses and entrepreneurs have a responsibility to the communities they serve.”

“My goal is to set up an Outdoor Education centre, providing young people with the opportunity to participate in a wide range of outdoor pursuits. I would also like to provide high quality facilities to ensure an unforgettable and invaluable learning experience…to youngsters regardless of their race, background or class, at an affordable price that is accessible to all.”

Of course, they also have practical reasons for considering self-employment as a career option:

“[I want to] take control of my life, being independent financially and work wise. Hoping to achieve better work life balance as well as improvement in quality of life.”

 “I would like the freedom / flexibility of running my own business.”

 “Like the idea of having my own business – alternative lifestyle.”

Some examples of students’ workshop entry statements (80kb word document)

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What Support do Students Need?

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It is sometimes argued that ‘true entrepreneurs’ will not need additional support as they will ‘naturally’ have the drive and motivation to find their own way. For a very small minority of students this may be the case. However, there are also other students out there who are fully capable of setting up their own businesses and have some great, enterprising ideas but who need a little guidance and confidence-boosting to get them started.

At the beginning of the GEES Enterprise, Skills and Entrepreneurship workshop the participants were asked to note down what they wanted to get from the event. Their notes, together with their application statements, suggest that their main reasons for wishing to attend the event related to enhancing their general skills base and developing self-confidence.

These quotes are from some of the students’ application statements:

“…although it develops academic knowledge, a PhD like mine will not really give me scope to learn the day-to-day practical, creative and business sides of life….I feel I need to improve these kinds of skills to increase my employability.”

 “I am a motivated person. I want to learn as much as I can and whenever and wherever I can so that I am able to apply those skills that I have learned in the future, to contribute to society.”

 “I am now looking to develop my personal & creative skills with a particular focus within the environmental sector. I also aim to develop my social entrepreneurial skills on the basis that I am managing an increasing number of Charity Co-ordinators.”

 “I want to find out about support available. I hope to be able to leave with even more enthusiasm and confidence and some proper direction about my next steps. Meet new people and exchange ideas, have discussions, maybe keep in touch for morale etc.!”

 These are some relevant quotes from the students’ notes at the beginning of the workshop:

“[I need] the confidence to take what ideas I have and give them a go, rather than just becoming another slave to the system.”

 “[I want] methods of communication – practicalities – inspiration, motivation and most of all the belief that I can do it!”

 “[I want] ideas for innovation & ways of thinking. See behind business – is it viable for me to get involved as a self-employed business entrepreneur? Do I really want to sent up my own business?”

 “[I need] more inspiration and enthusiasm to start. Know where to get help when problems arise.”

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A Few Useful Web-sites

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The Higher Education Academy Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Web Pages

Contains generic resources to support embedding enterprise and entrepreneurship in the curriculum,

DTI: Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

Information for research organisations, HEIs, FE colleges companies and graduates. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships enable HEIs to apply their wealth of knowledge and expertise to important business problems. For graduates: business based training and personal and professional development, whilst managing a project within a company.

Scottish Enterprise

Scottish Enterprise is Scotland's main economic development agency, funded by the Scottish Executive. Our mission is to help the people and businesses of Scotland succeed. In doing so, we aim to build a world-class economy.

The Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept Fund

This supports the pre-commercialisation of leading-edge technologies emerging from Scotland's universities, research institutes and NHS Trusts. It helps researchers to export their ideas and inventions from the lab to the global marketplace.

Invest Northern Ireland

“Invest Northern Ireland was formed in April 2002 by the Northern Ireland Government as the main economic development organisation. As well as companies and individuals, we work with universities, FE colleges, local councils and other public sector organisations to achieve [our] objectives.”

Go Wales: Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship

This web pages provides an annotated list of really useful web sites with information and resources on starting up your own business in Wales.

Shell LiveWIRE

“Shell LiveWIRE helps 16-30 year olds to start and develop their own business and hosts a national competition for new business start ups.”

Channel 4: The REAL DEAL

“The REAL DEAL is the place where people with great ideas can find out how to stand on their own two business feet.” “If you already have a great idea or just want to know how to get an idea off the ground, we're here to help you work out how to do it. When you've got an idea, we'll show you how to put a formal business plan together, what kind of investment is out there and we'll help you pitch to potential investors.”

BBC 2: Dragon’s Den

“High drama meets big business with nail-biting results in Dragons' Den, the new show that pits ambitious entrepreneurs against the Dragons – the crème of business talent. Watch as wannabe millionaires from all walks of life try to persuade the super-successful dragons to part with their cash.” This web-site also includes links to information on pitching and other entrepreneurial skills.

Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative (SFEDI)

“SFEDI is a Government-recognised body responsible for researching and disseminating what works best for small businesses.”

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Information & Resources Available to Download (Word documents)

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Information / Papers

Examples of Practice

Case Studies of GEES Entrepreneurs

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The Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences,
Buckland House, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA
Email: Tel: ++44 1752 584529 Fax: ++44 1752 584880