From SW7 – to the worldBruno Cotta

Bruno Cotta (Electrical & Electronic Engineering 1992, MBA 2002) is founding Director of Imperial’s Enterprise Lab.

Illustration: Joel Kimmel

Innovations that come out of universities such as Imperial affect us all. And by all, I’m not just talking about the campus, or even the country. I’m talking in global terms.

Take the case of two Imperial alumni – now California based – who recently raised $14m to develop sailing drones that capture ocean data. So if you needed to pick up data about habitats or oil spills, they’ve produced something very special to do this. And while students like this go on to attract significant investment, in other cases, a large company spots their extreme talent. Magic Pony is a great example – an artificial intelligence startup from two of our graduates that Twitter acquired for around $150m.

These, and others like them, such as the electronics specialists FlickTek (featured in the last issue), are the product of a growing focus on design, technology and innovation. The Enterprise Lab has huge reach because it’s a place where our students and alumni – as well as the wider world of employers and decision makers – can mix in supporting innovation within and outside the university, not just in terms of entrepreneurship but enterprise more generally.

It’s why Imperial is an essential destination for any serious tech discussions and visits. After Fiona Murray, MIT’s Professor of Entrepreneurship, visited us recently, she went on to the Prime Minister’s office to continue a discussion with government on the value of enterprise education and improving the skills and competencies of not just graduates, but others in the economy. After all, there’s a growing recognition that skills over and above technical skills – things like being able to negotiate, build a team, manage scarce resources and being resilient to deal with failure – are hugely valued by employers and essential to create growth.

Located in the heart of the university, our Lab takes up 250 square metres in what used to be a basement of the College library. The £1.7m refurb means we now have five key areas – a reception for hosting visitors; a studio with a hang-out area where students engage informally with each other and us; a work-out area where they get more serious with business planning; a dedicated office for up to nine staff; and a small, but state-of-the-art boardroom to engage aspiring entrepreneurs and corporate executives alike. We’ve also incorporated a reconfigurable ‘green room’, where students and others can prepare to present in the main studio, or practise in front of a simulated audience.

The Lab is open to students from all disciplines at Imperial, and alumni are seen as equally important stakeholders. We know alumni are really keen to be involved, so we are working with them locally and globally to help guide and mentor our students and act as role models. What we do here is very much a cyclical process, so when students graduate, we aim to keep on supporting their success. The Lab also targets many nuanced areas, such as the particular challenges that women can face when it comes to pursuing their entrepreneurial ambitions, and how international students can bring their ideas to fruition whether here in the UK or in their home countries.

Imperial is already well known for its impact on society through its world-leading science. But in today’s world, where career aspirations are constantly changing, we have a chance to really help our next generation of innovators make an impact through enterprise too.

Find out more about the , including opportunities for alumni to get involved and use the facilities.