Social Venture Pathway

What is the project doing?

The project aimed to develop a new and dedicated multi-step pathway to support academics interested in forming a social venture. The unique pathway included a set of tools and guidance documents, to allow innovation teams to readily guide the formation of a social venture. These tools are now available on the Aspect Member Hub.

The Translational Impact Acceleration Hub (Phase 2), Social Ventures Pathways project, and the RC CoP project worked together on this project to create complementary resources for both academic and professional services staff.

Work Package 1 – Audit of material

  • Deliverable: Audit
  • Description: An external consultant was engaged to support an audit of material created for academic & professional services staff to support commercialisation. This audit included all templates and tools for social entrepreneurs, to find the gaps in the current disparate materials.

Work Package 2 – Creation of New Materials

  • Deliverable: New materials to support the gaps identified in WP1.
  • Description: This included the creation of guidance bite-sized videos on social enterprise to incorporate legal guidance from Taylor Vintners. This included a template for the Theory of Change, impact assessments, social lean canvas or the mission model canvas. In addition, materials were developed for a mini-course to engage both externals as well as how to incentivise academic researchers in this space. There will be specific resources aimed at each stage of the innovation process, to be aligned with the TIAH process.

Work Package 3 – Funding Guide

  • Deliverable: Guide on investors
  • Description: To create a categorised guide to impact investors and a clear guidance document on routes to funding for social ventures

Work Package 4 – Sharing sessions

  • Description: To take advantage of the large group of universities with varied experiences, we will hold one-off sharing sessions on topics related to social ventures, likely led by a specific university. Topics to be identified through the audit.

Charlotte Rowan, LSE

Pathways to increase SHAPE academic business engagement

What is the project doing?

Using a thematic context (Sustainability; Digital data and risk; Levelling up) as a hook to get academics engaged, the programme showcased pathways to increase academic engagement. Includes workshops with academics, ECRs, and businesses; and development of case studies and a framework for academic engagement.

The project worked in collaboration with the ‘Building on ABC’ Phase 3 project.

Train the Trainer

What is the project doing?

Following the first scoping phase of the ‘Train the Trainer’ project in 2021/22, the KE/Comms CoP implemented plans to improve the accessibility and use of the toolkits and other outputs produced in the first phase of Aspect and develop some new resources and sessions for PS staff tasked with
communicating/promoting/supporting knowledge exchange (KE), innovation and its impact for SHAPE researchers within their institutions.

The main aim of the project was not to add significantly to the volume of resources on the Aspect platform, but rather to curate existing resources and develop short, targeted resources (checklists, slide decks, templates) to better support PS staff. We would also like the ethos of ‘Train the Trainer’ to be adopted by all Aspect projects, i.e. thought given to outputs and how PS staff can best use them.

Our platform (available under Communities on the Aspect member Platform) provides templates for doing so, and a means of sharing any new resources going forward. We welcome contributions from Aspect members as we begin to develop these resources, particularly via members of the KE/Comms CoP and through the knowledge shares we run at our monthly meetings, which will feed into the project.


Louise Jones, Head of Research Communications and Engagement, LSE

Building on ABC

Co-creating an online training resource for social sciences researchers.

What was the project doing?

A collaboration between three Aspect member institutions, this project built upon the collective learnings and successes of the ESRC NPIF Accelerating Business Collaboration fund to pilot a comprehensive Knowledge Exchange training programme for research active and professional support staff.

With its Phase 3 Funding, the project drew on learnings from the ASPECT Phase 2 Project “Building on ABC- Co-creating an Online training resource for social science researchers.” It proposed the development of training materials to give SHAPE academics insight into the processes and requirements to develop business partnerships.

These resources are now available on the Aspect Members Platform.

In Place of War

What is the project doing?

This project sought to explore the possibilities of commercialising education programmes that emerged from an AHRC funded project, In Place of War (IPOW) at the University of Manchester. In doing so, this enabled IPOW’s education programmes to be offered for free for participants from disadvantaged backgrounds and in communities education setting in sites of conflict.

The initial analysis into the undergraduate market, discounted the feasibility of developing accredited BA modules of CASE. However, the market analysis identified the feasibility of executive leadership development programmes and music making CDP by adapting existing CASE resources.

The next phase of the project continued to refine the initial executive leadership programme concept and pricing strategy as well as review of how to adapt existing CASE materials.

The final output is an evaluation report on the findings of the initial phase. Members goit involved by sharing their insights or experiences into ethical models for commercial lifelong learning training.


Theresa O Bradaigh Bean, Head of Research and Education, In Place of War.


What is the project doing?

ENT COP was a collaboration amongst members of the Aspect Entrepreneurship community of Practice to develop best-practice on how we can support to international graduate entrepreneurs (IGE) effectively (re: startup and innovator visa scheme); creating framework for measurement and tracking of economic impact from SHAPE international graduate entrepreneurs (IGEs); developing policy recommendations for the scheme.

How can members get involved?

This project was designed to involve and benefit the wider Aspect member network. We have presented the project idea at the Aspect Entrepreneurship CoP, and have also invited new members Kingston, Plymouth, Warwick and Southampton to participate in the project.

We will seek to engage a high number of institutions in the research phase, where we will seek to interview stakeholders in charge of the visa process (min 10), and distribute the tracker to all Aspect members. Due to the current lack of best practice exchange in this area, against increased uncertainty and a lack of official guidance, we are positive that we will find high engagement.

The findings from the project will be made available and disseminated to all members via the Aspect members Platform.


Dr Anlan Chen, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Henley Business School, University of Reading

Prof Norbert Morawetz, Professor in Entrepreneurship and Digital Innovation / Programme Director UG Entrepreneurship, Henley Business School, University of Reading

Marion Anderson, Student and Graduate Enterprise Manager, University of Glasgow,

Aspect Angels

What was the project doing?

Aspect Angels was a first-of-its-kind network that built pathways from ideas and research through to commercialization via angel investment.

Working closely with the Aspect Research Commercialization (ARC) Accelerator and the newly launched SHAPE Catalyst, the purpose of the network was to encourage investment into SHAPE ventures that created positive social and environmental impact alongside financial returns.

Aspect Angels aimed to support and foster scale in innovative solutions that addressed pressing global challenges, such as climate change, poverty, inequality, and access to healthcare and education. They believed this was a crucial role in identifying and nurturing promising startups that had the potential to make a difference in the world.

Additionally, Aspect Angels provided strategic guidance and operational support to portfolio companies to help them scale and achieve their impact goals. This could include connecting them with networks and resources, advising on governance and management practices, and helping them measure and report on their impact.

Aspect Translational Impact Acceleration Hub (TIAH) Phase 3

What is the project doing?

As a result of the Phase 2 funding, the TIAH members developed a workable process, and an understanding of the the costs (in time and funding) required to deliver a comprehensive SHAPE commercialisation offer. Now that they had a stable model to take forward, phase 3 funding was used to underpin TIAH, specifically with a (0.4FTE) hub manager, and associated administrative support, to oversee the TIAH’s shared project pipeline and programme of activities for both SHAPE academics and professional services teams. Programme activities fell into 3 categories: Pipeline stimulation and consolidation; training, support and capacity building; resource consolidation.

Chris Hewson, Faculty Impact Manager, University of York

Apple – Academic Promotion Pathways linked to Enterprise

Aspect Members: University of Reading (Henley Business School), Cardiff University, University of Glasgow, The University of Manchester, University of Sussex, University of York, University of Durham, University of Exeter, Queensland University of Technology, Australia, Teesside University.  

What was the project doing?

This project aimed to explore how systems underpinning academic career progression could be better aligned to support meaningful engagement with E&I. It examined the current state of play with ASPECT partners in terms of recognition, reward, and workload allocation and co-created solutions. These were presented in a project report and position paper for senior stakeholders at network universities, as well as resources for ASPECT partners. In addition, the project developed recommendations for developing and implementing an enterprise pathway(s).

Why was this needed?

A perceived lack of engagement from academics had been identified as one of the foremost reasons for comparatively low levels of entrepreneurship and innovation (E&I) relating to commercialization in the social sciences (Aspect Learning Gain Report, 2021). This project aimed to address this issue through systemic change.

How could members get involved?

While the University of Reading and the University of Sussex led the work packages, the other named partners actively contributed, including direct participation, provision of feedback, and co-creating solutions. The project was designed to benefit all Aspect members and offered opportunities to participate in all work packages, which had consultation built in.

For further information, please contact Loran Hards (

Methods for Change Phase 2

Aspect member: University of Manchester. 

What is the project doing? 

Methods for Change Phase 2 draws on the existing collaborators from Phase 1, and the wider and expanded Aspect network partners. 

The project’s first monitoring and evaluation survey conducted in summer of 2021 has shown that for 85% of people being involved with Methods for Change Phase 1 (Aspect contributors, academic and non-academic stakeholders) has ‘prompted them to think differently about their work and the role of social science methods’. Phase 2 looks set to continue the ambitious aim of realising the value of social science methodologies for creating change in society, and continue highlighting their importance, relevance and potential use beyond academic contexts for non-academic stakeholders from business, industry, government, and third sector organisations.

In this iteration, the project hopes to engage more strongly with critical and interpretive approaches to spatial, mixed methods, and quantitative methodologies. It will also more strongly engage with academics who are using social science research methods within interdisciplinary settings. Building on the success of Phase 1, the project will also look to explore non-traditional funding for social science methods driven projects (e.g., Innovate UK KPTs) and cooperative, social science consultancy projects across University of Manchester and other academic partners building partnerships, collaboration and non-academic impacts that will live beyond Phase 2 of the project. 

Visit the Research Methods Library

Why is this needed? 

The social sciences offer many possibilities to deepening understandings of societal needs, environmental challenges, and wider political dynamics that can enhance the practices of customer, consumer and policy research within businesses, third sector organisations and government departments. The robust methodologies developed within the social sciences are often under-utilised by non-academic sectors and in interdisciplinary settings. Given the complexities of current national and global socio-ecological and socio-economic problems, there has never been a more important moment to mobilise the potential within social science methodologies with non-academic stakeholders to invoke transformative socio-ecological and political change.

How can members get involved? 

The project will take place for 15 months from June 2022.

For further information on how to be involved please contact Dr Ali Browne (