Social enterprise

There is no standard definition for social enterprise. We use the UK Cabinet Office definition:


‘Social enterprises are businesses with primarily social objectives. They principally reinvest their surpluses in the business or community for these purposes. Unlike commercial businesses, they are not driven by the need to produce profit for shareholders and owners. Social enterprises range from small community-owned businesses to large charities delivering public services, and from individual social entrepreneurs to national businesses.’

Government data (Annual Survey of Small Businesses UK 2005-2007) estimates that there are approximately 62,000 social enterprises in the UK contributing at least £24bn to the UK economy. Social enterprises are estimated to employ 800,000 people.


Benefits to UCL:

  • Innovative projects which create social impact, get good publicity and help to increase the reputation of academics in their particular fields, which in turn helps to generate further research and research income.
  • There is a clear fit between social enterprise and the impact agenda. Social ventures allow academics to carry out research with clear practical outcomes.
  • Social entrepreneurship provides academic staff with an opportunity to be innovative and deliver their role in a new way. This can be formally recognised by their department and university.
  • Most academics want their research to make a difference. Social enterprise spin-outs could harness a range of academic expertise, which will benefit society.
  • Social enterprises can make a profit for UCL and individual departments which might be used to fund student scholarships, professional development, etc.

Guides and Toolkits to Start-up

Organisations supporting Social Entrepreneurs

  • UnLtd ( – A charity which supports social entrepreneurs in the UK by providing a package of seed funding and support to start-up
  • Social Enterprise London ( – Membership and support network for social enterprises in London.
  • Ashoka, Innovators for the public ( – An international fellowship of outstanding social entrepreneurs.
  • Skoll Foundation ( – Grants and development programmes supporting social entrepreneurial organisations internationally created by Jeff Skoll, one of the founders of ebay.
  • Social Enterprise Coalition ( – National membership coalition representing the interests of social enterprises.
  • School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) ( – Action learning programmes for potential social entrepreneurs. Associate schools in various parts of the UK.


UCLB can help with:

  • Idea assessment
  •  Business plan development
  • Contractual advice
  • Intellectual Property advice
  • Proof of concept funding
  • Identification of other sources of funding including social investors

 Getting involved – Contact info

  • Are you a UCL academic looking to develop a product or service arising from your research?
  • Is the main driver to set up a social venture to create public benefit rather than private gain?
  • Are you developing a technology that has the potential to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged communities? For instance by increasing access to basic healthcare or education?

Please contact Ana Lemmo Charnalia on 020 7679 9821 or  to discuss further.