Inspiring Futures

Inspiring Futures is uniquely designed to enhance the employability skills of our undergraduate students from the very start of their university careers, giving them the opportunity to work on consultancy projects which address real business issues set by organisations. In turn, the organisation benefits from free business advice from a team of talented, business students.

Facts and figures

What started out as a small pilot project involving just 16 students, is now in its sixth year and has grown to include:

  • over 3,500 students
  • in six modules
  • undertaking over 600 consultancy projects
  • in over 250 organisations
  • with an estimated value to the local economy of £900,000.

How does it work?

Inspiring Futures is part of assessed modules which teach students about employability and enterprise whilst developing their professional skills. They are taught the necessary theory to undertake projects, including: project management, team working, communication, presentation and report writing.

An organisation provides a project brief, detailing the business issue they wish the students to investigate on their behalf and this is allocated to a group of students. Students usually work in groups of five and self-select a group leader. At the beginning of the project, students meet with the client to clarify the objectives and ask questions. Under the supervision of an academic member of staff and ongoing guidance from the client, they work remotely to fulfil the brief.

As part of the students’ assessed learning experience, they present their findings to the organisation at the end of the consultancy project. This is usually in the form of a report and/or presentation.

Students may be studying the following programmes:

What sorts of projects are suitable?

Projects need to suitable for the students to undertake remotely as most of the research would be conducted using the internet. Projects also need to be low risk and not business critical.

Each of the following is an authentic brief provided by organisations that have already participated in Inspiring Futures:

  • undertake an online competitor analysis
  • create a social media strategy
  • research funding options
  • undertake a supplier analysis
  • identify potential markets for existing or new products
  • conduct a website review

How do clients benefit?

In addition to the potential financial gains from participating in Inspiring Futures, clients frequently say how beneficial it is to work with the students as they bring fresh eyes and thinking to their organisation. Sometimes the simple questions asked by students as they try and understand a business are more effective than much more expensive consultancy.  

Clients' experiences

Martyn Flynn, Talent Acquisition Manager, Enterprise Rent-a Car:

"The students have done a fantastic project and highlighted some real areas where, as a company, we can really push our CSR efforts within the South West.”

Ian Smith, Director, Food Plymouth CIC:

“The students did a tremendous job for us and they were a pleasure to work with.”

Kate Smith, Director, Memory Matters South West CIC:

"They exceeded our expectations! They came to the initial meeting having researched our business, to gain understanding, and their findings have shaped our marketing plan for the coming year. It has been great meeting the bright minds of the future."

Steve Cooper, Director, Ramer Ltd (Salston Associates Ltd):

“Findings and recommendations from their report will be fed into Ramer’s marketing review on this market sector.”

Andrew Prosser, Chief Executive Officer, Series 41:

“The students added value in a number of ways. Being able to delegate market research to them freed me up to work on other things like company strategy and marketing. I used the research that the students did to win funding from the South West Biomedical iNet.”

Clever Student Lets' Consultancy Projects

I was presented with a document that not only gave me a detailed, conclusive and very thorough account of what we asked for but it also rivalled some of the multiple marketing and research agencies I have worked with in the past.
Read more about their projects

Devon & Cornwall Food Association's Consultancy Project

Business students identified potential sources of funding for the charity, Devon & Cornwall Food Association. They were using the students’ findings successfully by the time the project was half way through.
Read about their project's success

A client’s experience of Inspiring Futures

Hear what Liza Oxford-Booth had to say about taking part in Inspiring Futures.

How do students benefit?

In today’s globalised world, more students are going to university than ever before and graduates need more than just their degree to stand out from the crowd to potential employers. Inspiring Futures enables them to gain invaluable business awareness, be able to self-manage, work in teams, be able to problem solve and develop professional communication skills. These are key competencies and core professional skills they have to be able to evidence when they apply for jobs.

Students' experiences

Miles Hillier, BA (Hons) Business Administration

“I felt that the project was a great opportunity for me to explore a different market sector. I've worked in building and catering industries for several years now and this project was the first time I'd worked in an exclusively marketing position. The Inspiring Futures project enabled me to get a feel of what market analysis and customer research actually consists of.”

Hugh Waters, BA (Hons) Business Management (2 Year Fast-track)  

"Ramer Sponges Ltd provided me with an invaluable opportunity to gain skills in implementing and managing a real life marketing research project brief. I have since used the skills and experience gained, as a foundation for other successful projects and will continue to do so in my future career."

Business students in Inspiring Futures

Inspiring Futures enhances the entrepreneurial and employability skills of Plymouth Business School students, giving them an opportunity to undertake a real, consultancy project for an organisation.
Read about Shubha’s experience

A student's experience of Inspiring Futures

Hear what a student had to say about taking part in an Inspiring Futures project.

What sort of businesses or organisations can take part?

We work with pre start-ups in their ideation phase through to mature businesses and organisations. This includes the public sector, private businesses, social enterprises and charities.

When can I get the students' support?

Inspiring Futures features in several modules and the majority of the projects required are for modules starting in the spring. However, we also need a limited number of projects for modules that take place over the summer. You can contact us at any time of the year to register your interest in taking part. Nearer the time, we will contact you to request a project brief. This would normally be:

  • Summer - projects are requested from March onward and need to be finalised by early June, ready for the modules which start at the end of June and beginning of July
  • Spring - projects are requested from October onward and need to be finalised by early January, ready for the modules which start at the beginning of February and March

What contact will I have with the students?

Different modules have varying requirements. There is usually a minimum of one face-to-face meeting involving the client and students. In some circumstances, this may be conducted via Skype. Students would then maintain contact with the client over the duration of the project by email or telephone. 

What about matters of confidentiality and intellectual property?

Best practice is achieved by managing expectations of both students and clients from the outset and in order to familiarise students with legal documentation they will encounter in their entrepreneurial careers, all parties are asked to sign a work based learning agreement, covering intellectual property and matters of confidentiality.

How do I get involved?

For more information about Inspiring Futures, to discuss an idea for a project or for details about how to make an application, email: inspiringfutures@plymouth.ac.uk

National Enterprise Educator Awards - Inspiring Futures: HE Team Enterprise Award - Highly Commended

The National Enterprise Educator Awards recognise excellence within enterprise education. The aim is to reward and celebrate those who have demonstrated and exceptional and inspirational commitment to supporting student and graduate entrepreneurship in further and higher education in the UK.

Inspiring Futures was shortlisted for the HE Team Enterprise Award in which a team of HE staff are recognised for delivering exceptional enterprise or entrepreneurship education inside or outside the curriculum. At the National Enterprise Educator Awards in September 2016, the Inspiring Futures team was Highly Commended.