Swansea University’s Professor of Entrepreneurship receives highest European Accolade

Professor Paul Hannon of Swansea University has won the Entrepreneurship Education Award, bestowed by the world-renowned Sten K. Johnson Centre for Entrepreneurship in Sweden.

‌The award is in recognition of his tireless contribution to the improvement of entrepreneurship education in Europe.   This is the fifth year in a row that the Centre, which is based at Sweden’s Lund University, has made an award.

A Swansea University graduate, Paul Hannon returned to Swansea University in 2013 as Director of Leading Business Growth and Director of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IfEL) and brought with him nearly 4 decades of experience.

Professor Paul Hannon (pictured) said:

“All four previous winners have provided impressive, robust and powerful stamps on the field of entrepreneurship within education. They are inspiring icons.  To be placed alongside these figures is a true honour.  It was a total surprise to receive the phone call”.

Paul HannonIn 2015, the Lead Wales and Leading Growth Project reported that the programme had delivered courses to 906 participants within Welsh SMEs, with estimates suggesting delegates went on to increase combined turnover by £52m, adding 2424 new jobs to the Welsh economy.

The latest venture, ION Leadership, is designed to develop and enhance the leadership skills of owners, managers and key decision-makers within businesses across Wales. 

The flagship programme, led by Swansea University, in partnership with Bangor University, is backed with £2.7m from the European Social Fund and is tipped to have huge impact on the economic regeneration of South West Wales and beyond.

Also under the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, Swansea University’s Enterprise Support Programme, has delivered training to over 400 students and graduates over the last year alone working closely with the University’s Employability Academy. 

Ceri Jones, Director of Research, Engagement & Innovation Services, where IfEL is based, commented:

“Paul has done it all – he’s been a graduate entrepreneur, he’s worked at Universities within research and education roles, he’s worked in Government, supported policy making and been on the front line supporting SMEs develop and grow, sharing his experience with like-minded entrepreneurs.

This is a unique experience that enables Paul to bring fresh perspectives to supporting and developing entrepreneurship at Swansea University”.

Terry Matthews and Mango BikesProfessor Richard B Davies, Vice Chancellor of Swansea University, said:

“We were delighted when Paul returned to Swansea University, having amassed such a rare and sought after portfolio of experience. 

He has been tireless in driving innovation agendas and ensuring that they reach every part of the University.  It’s very pleasing to hear he has gone on to gain the recognition he so thoroughly deserves within his field.

Not all students progress down their initially chosen career paths.  Providing our students with every opportunity to develop as well rounded, multi-faceted individuals gives them the strongest footing on which to build successful careers after graduating including starting their own ventures.” 

Picture:  Swansea graduate and business leader Sir Terry Matthews, with Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott and Swansea students Jezz and Ben who set up Mango Bikes.

Recent figures from the Times / Sunday Times rank Swansea University in Top 20 (16th) for Graduate Employability.

Institute for Entreprenurial Leadership

Research, Engagement and Innovation Services

Swansea Employability Academy

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Biography: from engineer to entrepreneur

Paul Hannon originally studied Civil Engineering at Swansea University back in the mid-1970s under the watchful eye of world-leading Professor Olgierd Zienkiewicz, pioneer of the Finite Element Method.

Entrepreneurial sparks ignited for Hannon as an undergraduate student when he went into business with housemates selling a range of international and speciality foods to students at the University. This was thanks to an initiative by the Students’ Union that allowed students once a month to ‘have a go’ in a student market on campus. 

Sourcing stock initially from London markets, the trio would transport larger volumes back to Swansea to sell in smaller retail quantities and test out ideas for new product mixes.  Surprised by the un-tapped demand and after graduation a shop was set up in Swansea town selling products to the City’s blossoming multi-cultural population.

One outlet became several, with the business branching out across South Wales, before setting up a wholesale distribution unit, supplying goods direct to other retailers from their newly leased warehouse. 

On the venture, Hannon commented:

“We learnt on the job by doing, making many mistakes along the way, and coming very close to going bust on one occasion.

Swansea University sparked something in me. I had no idea as a fresher that my future was going to be far removed from Civil Engineering.

An entrepreneurial streak ignited that I cannot explain - my father was a carpet weaver and my mother, a nurse.  Both were very proud that I had graduated from Swansea University with a degree in Civil Engineering and explaining to them both that despite spending 4 years completing an undergraduate degree I was now going to be carving out an alternative career path was one of my biggest challenges initially."

With ten years of experience amassed, Hannon moved on into local government support for entrepreneurs as CEO of Dinefwr Enterprise Company and then back into higher education at Durham University, where he spent the next 10 years designing and delivering entrepreneurship and business growth programmes for SMEs in the North-East of England and nationally for UK support agencies.

Here he worked with Professor Allan Gibb, the first recipient of this European Award and a leading academic in entrepreneurship and small business development, and along with a phenomenal group of leading entrepreneurial thinkers and developers.

Hannon commented:

“This was an exciting and inspiring time in my life thanks to Allan and other colleagues at the Small Business Centre at Durham University. I learnt so much about how to link my practical experiences with relevant concepts and models and how to build new ideas and experiences into meaningful and useful outcomes for learners – no matter if they were owners/directors of SMEs, business advisers or policy makers.

I would certainly not be receiving this valuable Award if I had not had the opportunity to work with such inspiring role models such as Allan Gibb”.

Hannon later took on the role of Chief Executive of the National Council for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE, a perfect job that allowed him to combine his background in Research, Education, Policy & Graduate Entrepreneurship.  Since its formation NCEE has collaborated with many partners and organisations across the UK and internationally on a wide range of activities and projects.

In 2013, Professor Hannon returned to Swansea University, bringing the benefit of this wide-ranging experience in entrepreneurship.