Why the University of Edinburgh is investing £1.5m in social enterprises

In January 2018 the University announced it was investing £1.5m to support local social enterprises. Why did the University do this, and what did the University invest in?

The University of Edinburgh is committed to making a sustainable, significant and socially responsible impact in the local community, nationally and globally. Investing in local, Scottish and UK social enterprises is one way that it achieves this.  

The University has invested £1.5 million in Big Issue Invest, a social investment organisation which is a branch of The Big Issue, one of the best known social enterprises in the United Kingdom. Big Issue Invest offers both loans an investment to social enterprises, charities and profit-with-purpose businesses.

We are delighted to be working with Big Issue Invest and to be a major partner in Power Up Scotland. The programme is a great match to our ambitions and we look forward to working with our partners to deliver real impacts.

Dave GormanDirector of Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Major partner

The University of Edinburgh’s investment is the largest financial investment made by a University in the UK.

One million pounds of the investment is for Big Issue’s Social Enterprise Investment Fund (SEIF II) which aids the finding of solutions to the most difficult social problems, such as social and financial exclusion, homelessness and youth unemployment. 

£500,000 of the total investment is with Power Up Scotland, which is coordinated by Big Issue Invest. Power Up Scotland enables local community groups to expand and improve their services through funding new equipment or hiring new staff, in combination with support building business development plans and receiving mentoring from industry experts. The University of Edinburgh is one of four partners – including The Scottish Government, Aberdeen Standard Investments and law firm Brodies LLP and made the largest financial investment.

Find out more about responsible investment at the University

Power Up Scotland: meet the recipients

The programme supported 13 local social ventures with over 200 hours of mentoring from skilled business leaders. The programme also afforded them the chance to gain up to £50,000 of financial investment to power-up their business models to deliver local and national social impact.


One of the local groups that received funding was Viarama who use virtual reality technology as a force for good. They work to improve the quality of life among senior citizens and school children by working with hospices, nursing homes and schools to immerse people in a variety of settings and experiences. 



Invisible Cities

Another is Invisible Cities, an organisation that trains people who have been affected by homelessness to give tours of their own cities. They provide training in public speaking and confidence building and work to break down the stigma surrounding homelessness. 


Hey Girls

Hey Girls, a social enterprise combatting period poverty by giving away a box of organic menstrual products for each purchase of their environmentally-friendly products, was another of the organisations involved with Power Up Scotland.

Other support for local social enterprise

The University was a sponsor of the recent Social Enterprise Scotland awards, which recognises innovation and success in the sector. All nominees had demonstrated their work towards building a better economy and a fairer Scotland.

University recognised for contribution to community

The University has been awarded the Go Scotland- Social and Community Benefit in Procurement Award: Other Organisations. The panel was made up of experts in UK procurement from representatives of the Scottish Government and NHS National Services Scotland.

Edinburgh Local

If you want to learn more about what the University of Edinburgh does for the local community, check out Edinburgh Local where more details on our Community Grant scheme can be found.

Edinburgh Local