A former University of Buckingham student, and Germany’s richest woman, has pledged £1.8m to fund an Innovation and Enterprise Centre in the town, which will bring with it extra students and jobs.
Susanne Klatten, who graduated from the university in the 1980s with a BSc in Business Studies, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist with fond memories of her time in Buckingham.
Now living in Germany, Susanne said: “Some of my most formative experiences in business and management took place at the University of Buckingham.
“Since then I have been deeply convinced that entrepreneurship is key for progress and value in both economy and society.
“Therefore, it is a pleasure for me to deepen the connections between Buckingham and the community of like-minded people already doing this work in Munich at UnternehmerTUM, the Centre for Innovation and Business Creation I founded 15 years ago.”
As well as enabling the University’s enterprise and entrepreneurship department to grow from 100 to 600 students, in the next decade, the funding will also help provide internships, scholarships and PhD courses.
Nigel Adams, head of enterprise and entrepreneurship at the university, estimates that the donation will lead to the creation of six jobs by 2020 and will benefit business in Buckingham as an entrepreneurial continues to be fostered.
He said: “The new Buckingham Innovation and Enterprise Centre (BIEC) will be the base to develop a local entrepreneurial ecosystem, led by local and regional entrepreneurs and start-up founder.
“This group of people, working closely with the university’s new Centre, are willing to help, encourage and advise new start-ups. We think that between 5 and 10 new start-ups will be encouraged to start in the local/regional area in the first year or so.”
Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, added: “We are extremely grateful for this extraordinary gift that will enable Buckingham to become one of the country’s leading centres for entrepreneurship and enterprise.
"This is very timely as the government is calling for entrepreneurship to become a key part of the curriculum for the next generation so that we can create business men and women who can help the country to enhance its position in world markets. It will also enable us to grow as a university and inject more money into the local economy.”
A £3m donation by Buckinghamshire Thames Valley LEP on top of entrepreneur Nigel Vinson’s £7m donation has enabled the university to construct its new Vinson Building, which will be a centre for liberal economics as well as housing the new Buckingham Innovation and Enterprise Centre.
Richard Harrington, CEO of Buckinghamshire and Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The University of Buckingham is key to the local economy, already one of the areas of fastest growth and start ups in the UK. Developing entrepreneurship is one of our aims as more businesses set up in this area and this new centre will dovetail brilliantly with everything that we are doing to promote business locally.
We are delighted that it is going to be run in the new Vinson Centre, which we helped to fund, as we can see the many benefits of the University and council working hand in hand to enhance the prosperity of the area.”
The donation comes after the government committed to more funding for the Oxford-Cambridge growth corridor, which encompasses Milton Keynes and Buckingham, to expand technology, housing and infrastructure.