Enterprise & Employability

A word cloud illustrating the use of enterprise terminology in the RDF – link to word doc.Enterprise skills are incredibly useful in many aspects of life and make you very attractive to potential employers. (Accessible version of the enterprise word cloud image (Word - 14KB)). You may have noticed that Enterprise features in Vitae’s Researcher Development Framework (RDF) - it sits within the Engagement, Influence and Impact domain. It therefore features in the Development Needs Analysis, which you are required to complete annually as part of your research programme.

The term enterprise can be confusing and is often associated with starting a business venture, but in fact it simply refers to the generation and application of ideas to address practical situations (QAA definitions). Enterprise isn’t so much a skill, but rather a collection of skills and attributes. In fact there are 38 descriptors within the RDF which relate to enterprise - see the image below. (Accessible version of the Vitae Enterprise RDF image (Word - 14KB))

Vitae's Researcher Development Framework with enterprise skills ticked - link to accessible doc

This may seem daunting, however you are already half-way there to becoming more enterprising…

  • The very act of deciding to undertake a postgraduate research degree demonstrates enterprise skills and attributes such as having an inquiring mind, enthusiasm and perseverance.
  • You have had to identify a gap or need or problem which you are addressing through your research, therefore you have generated an idea, spotted an opportunity and worked out a strategy to explore it.
  • And your degree inherently requires you to develop your project management, critical thinking, argument construction, communication and presentation skills. So you can tick those off your list!

Vitae, 2010

“Research by its nature requires creativity, determination and problem-solving.”

But why are enterprise skills important?

No matter what career you have in mind, enterprise skills will make you more employable and better at your job.

For a career in academia, enterprise skills will help you:

  • have impact with your research – opening you up to options such as commercialisation, spin-out, licensing, participatory research
  • win grant applications – knowing how to pitch your research, awareness of the wider research agenda and policies, knowing how to effect greater dissemination and reach of the outputs
  • partner with external stakeholders – awareness of relevant sectors, experience in collaborating with or consulting for industry, commercial awareness
  • engage the public – generate innovative and effective communication tools and strategies

and, they will make you a better researcher and educator for future students.

For example, at the University of Birmingham we have academics who have created spin-out companies (Professor Mark DraysonProfessor Lee Chapman), created a social enterprise (Professor Joan Duda), collaborated with industry (Professor Kai Bongs), engaged with the public and disseminated their research in novel ways (Dr Christalla Yakinthou, Dr Tom Dunkley Jones, Dr Tarsem Singh Cooner).

In industry, enterprise skills will make you a valuable intrapreneurial employee who can contribute to business growth through problem solving, horizon scanning, research and development and innovation.  (An intrapreneur is someone who is employed by a company, but is creative and innovative in their work for the company.  Whereas an entrepreneur is the founder of a new venture, an intrapreneur supports, develops and has impact on an already existing organisation).

Now you know the why, it’s time for the how!

The PGR Entrepreneurial Development Officer specifically offers enterprise skills development opportunities through a range of activities:

Postgraduate Enterprise Summer School

The Postgraduate Enterprise Summer School (PESS) is an intensive week-long programme where postgraduate researchers work together in small inter-disciplinary teams to create an innovative business solution to solve a real-life strategy challenge being faced by the industry partner.

Click here for more information.

Consultancy Challenges

The Virtual Consultancy Challenge is a completely online flexible part-time programme which runs for three-four months each year. Working in an inter-disciplinary team with fellow postgraduate researchers you will draw on your expertise to solve a real-life challenge for your charity sector client. Find out more about the Virtual Consultancy Challenge.

The Universitas 21 & PwC Innovation Challenge is an international competition for individual postgraduates. It involves researching a real problem PwC are facing and pitching a solution in a 3 minute video. Find out more about the Universitas 21 & PwC Innovation Challenge.

PG Skills workshops

This series of live online interactive workshops and asynchronous resources covers the key skills employers tell us they are looking for. The aim of the series is to help you to survive and thrive in the post-COVID-19 job market.

Join the Canvas course to access resources and attend online workshops.

Business start-up advice

If you have started a business, have an idea for a business (including consultancy) or are interested in commercialising your research you can book a Business Start-Up Advice appointment.

Click here for more information about Business Start-Up Advice appointments.

Innovative Researchers

The Innovative Researchers series features University of Birmingham PhD alumni and academics who are making an impact with their research in innovative and practical ways. In this informal, friendly environment you will hear first-hand how exciting, challenging and rewarding innovative research practice is.

Live events in this series are on hold in 2021-22, however video recordings of previous events will be made available in due course.

External competitions


The Careers Network team offer enterprise support and activities for all students, such as Boot Camps, Start-up training, Freelance workshops, funding and more. Visit their website.



Professional Services