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01 May, 2012

VCUQatar Unveils the Design Entrepreneurship Network for Aspiring Design Entrepreneurs

Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatars Design Entrepreneurship and Industry Affiliations Office launched the Design Entrepreneurship Network for aspiring design entrepreneurs on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at VCUQatar in the presence of VCUQatar students, alumni and partners from the industry.

Qatar’s Amir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani underlined the long term strategic importance of entrepreneurship in Qatar when His Highness launched the Qatar National Vision in 2008. In line with this vision, VCUQatar aims to support design-led innovation and startup business ambitions delivering high value to partner organizations, communities and the region.

VCUQatar’s Design Entrepreneurship Network will help aspiring entrepreneurs at a crucial time as they move from the identification and planning stage through to launch and implementation of their business. With one-to-one mentoring sessions, students and alumni will have access to seminars, exhibitions, networking events, guest speakers on topics including goal setting and personal development as well as functional topics such as accounting, recruitment and project management. “Through our network of partner organizations including Qatar Development Bank, The Bedaya Centre, The Social Development Centre and the Qatar Professional Women’s Network, aspiring young design entrepreneurs can access training and development programs; business planning advice; early stage funding; soft loans, personal development workshops and access to exhibition and retail space,” says Roger Griffiths, director of Design Entrepreneurship and Industry Affiliations at VCUQatar. Other partners include Silatech, Rhouda Center, INJAZ as well as established VCUQatar entrepreneurs, and The Network is available to all students and alumni of all VCUQatar Bachelor and Masters’ programs. “As the network grows, we aim to attract students and alumni from other Education City campuses to build multi-disciplinary creative businesses in design, technology, media and the arts”.

The primary aim of The Network is to build a culture around entrepreneurship - the notion that aspiring young designers can and will be supported to establish their own businesses in design. VCUQatar will continue to develop a culture that is conducive to the entrepreneurial mindset. “We aim to change the attitude to risk and failure - that in order to succeed, we often fail; that we can learn more from our failures that we do from our successes. We want to support a generation of designers by creating a thriving, vibrant and sustainable design sector for Qatar. We aim to make available grant based funding so that aspiring design entrepreneurs can apply for early stage investment to undertake market feasibility studies and produce proof of concept prototypes. Sustained economic improvements are best achieved through cultural change: promoting an entrepreneurial spirit and behavior that is not inhibited by over regulation and procedures. Real progress towards the National Vision will be delivered through leadership, vision, commitment and a belief to succeed. VCUQatar, a pioneer in the Arts will lead the way for aspiring design entrepreneurs in Qatar,” adds Griffiths.

The need for a structure to support the development of startup businesses for the creative industries was immediately noted by Griffiths when he joined the University last September. Across Europe, the United States, China and Asia, there has been a change of course in the last decade as higher education has attempted to embed entrepreneurial thinking into all areas of the curriculum and culture of its universities. In order to support the next generation of entrepreneurs universities have appointed Enterprise Champions or Directors of Entrepreneurship to focus on supporting the needs of young design talent to develop their concepts to a point where they can be commercialized through startup micro-enterprises.

Qatar does not have an established design sector. It also imports the majority of its goods. “In order to achieve His Highness the Amir’s National Vision, Qatar must diversify its economy, and, as many countries across the world have witnessed, it is the creative industries that will be the driving force behind this transition from an economy that is reliant on income from oil and gas to one that is a creative, knowledge based economy that produces goods designed in Qatar by Qataris,” says Griffiths. Through VCUQatar’s network of talented student and graduate designers, artists, professional companies, and organizations, the University aims to create a transformational, interdisciplinary environment that nurtures the designers’ innate creativity.

Roger Griffiths, director on Design Entrepreneurship and Industry Affiliations at VCUQatar launching the Design Entrepreneurship Network (DEN)

VCUQatar dean Allyson Vanstone welcoming the gathering during the launch of the DEN

VCUQatar senior students and alumni with industry partners during the launch of the DEN

(left to right) Margarita Zuniga from the QPWN and VCUQatar, Roger Griffiths, director on Design Entrepreneurship and Industry Affiliations at VCUQatar with Iqbal Kaundal, Head of Advisory, Qatar Development Bank, VCUQatar Dean Allyson Vanstone, Caroline Zeitler, Qatar Professional Women Network and Elaine Gold, Program Manager, Bedaya Centre