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VCUQatar launches design entrepreneurship programme.

By Bonnie JamesDeputy News Editor

Hundreds of alumni and students from Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar are expected to benefit from the Design Entrepreneurship Network (Den) which offers facilities including free studio space, business mentoring, exhibition and retail space and funding.

Den, launched yesterday in line with Qatar National Vision 2030, aims to support design-led innovation and start-up business ambitions delivering high value to partner organisations, communities and the region.

VCUQatar has partnered with Qatar Development Bank, The Bedaya Centre, Social Development Centre, Qatar Professional Women's Network, Silatech, Rhouda Centre, Injaz Qatar, as well as established VCUQatar alumni entrepreneurs to launch Den.

"VCUQatar has 320 graduates as of now and this number will reach 360 after this year's graduation ceremony next week," dean Allyson Vanstone said.

As of the fall 2011 registration, VCUQatar has a total of 244 students from 42 nationalities, including 228 Bachelor of Fine Arts students and 16 Master of Fine Arts students.

The BFA students comprise 119 Qatari (11 male, 108 female) and 109 expatriate (13 male, 96 female) students whereas the MFA students comprise five Qatari (all female) and 11 expatriate (five male, six female) students.

VCUQatar, the branch campus of VCU School of the Arts in Richmond, Virginia, US, was established in Education City in 1998. "This is our 14th year in Qatar and the 11th group of graduates," Vanstone pointed out.

Roger Griffiths, director of Design Entrepreneurship and Industry Affiliations at VCUQatar, explained that Den will help aspiring design entrepreneurs at a crucial time as they move from the identification and planning stage through to launch and implementation of their business.

Through Den's partner organisations, the beneficiaries can access training and development programmes, business planning advice, early stage funding, soft loans, personal development workshops and exhibition and retail space.

"As the network grows, we aim to attract students and alumni from other Education City campuses to build multi-disciplinary creative businesses in design, technology, media and the arts."

Den will offer hot-desking facilities at VCUQatar, furnished office and production facilities at various locations across Doha, one-to-one mentoring sessions, seminar series, networking events and guest speakers.

"Our Design Incubator and Partner Network aims to capture what is already happening in Qatar - an eco-system where students from all programmes and all years can engage in new business creation or pursue a freelance career in design," Griffiths said.

The objective is to build a culture around entrepreneurship - the notion that aspiring young designers can and will be supported to pursue their passion and establish their own business in design.

"Opportunities here seem to be endless. Not a day goes by without our department receiving requests from national and international brands, with strong corporate social responsibility programmes who wish to work with our students.

"In just the last semester, we have worked with The United Nations, Interpol, Mannai Corporation, Shell, Qatar Museums Authority and Maserati.

"Our students already have that competitive advantage. Now is the time to build a creative industry for Qatar where products and services are designed in Qatar by Qataris and their non-national peers".

Griffiths was of the view that as Qatar diversifies its economy, an indigenous creative services industry must be built -- 'an industry built around micro-enterprises, many of which must be Qatari owned sole proprietorships, others will be expatriates in partnership with Qataris, to establish limited liability companies.'

VCUQatar's own Centre for Research and Design already employs alumni to apply their design skill sets on design problems.

"We are working with major companies and placing users at the centre of the design process in order to develop better products, services and systems.

"Our latest project for the Sidra's world class medical hospital has seen our alumni work with medical staff, patients, consultants and planners to produce a comprehensive range of apparel for all its staff and patients," Griffiths added.

Bedaya Centre's programme manager Elaine Gold, QDB's head of advisory Iqbal Kaundal, VCUQatar alumna Joanna who has established Common Thread, a boutique for upcoming designers, spoke. QPWN's Margarita Zuniga and Caroline Zeitler were also present.Student store

The Design Entrepreneurship Network (Den), launched by Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar yesterday, will have a student store at Education City Student Centre.

"To begin with, there will be a 35sqm exhibition and retail space run by VCUQatar alumni and students," Roger Griffiths, director of Design Entrepreneurship and Industry Affiliations, said.

Den is also establishing partnerships with Doha's leading retailers who will provide space for the Network's beneficiaries to display and sell their creations.

"We will be working with Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, as part of commencing our collaborations with other institutions in Education City," Griffiths explained. Den will also be providing work space for its beneficiaries free-of-charge as part of its programmes.

Gulf Times Newspaper 2012

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Publication:Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar)
Date:May 2, 2012
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