Solent Creatives - Keeping it Real

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In conversation

Professor Suzanne Dixon

Director of Enterprise and Student Entrepreneurship Southampton Solent University

Keeping it real for students has been central to the success of Solent Creatives – the UK’s No 1 student creative agency.

Started in 2011 by ProfessorSuzanne Dixon and her talented team, Solent Creatives has allowed literally thousands of students to work on real projects with top companies ranging from the likes of Carnival and M&S to B&Q and even the TV adventurer, Bear Grylls.

Everything from film, web development, photography, written content, CGI, animation, fine art and illustration is offered through Solent Creatives and it has become its own major success story.

So much so that Suzanne is now looking at ways to roll-out the model and keep talented graduates in Southampton as they build their own businesses.

Universities from across the world are queuing up to find out more about the agency set-up that allows students to cut their teeth on commissions with commercial deadlines and showcases their talents to potential future employers.

There have been repeated visits to China to share with academics how Solent Creatives works and each visit allows more of Southampton Solent University’s innovative approach to enterprise to be showcased.

“Solent Creatives is still the only one of its kind in the UK.”

“We’ve had interest from many different parts of the world from Norway to Spain and particularly in China where enterprise is part of their five year plan and they are looking for new ways to teach it,” said Suzanne, whose background is in journalism.

Suzanne visited five universities in Chongqing, China to give enterprise lectures and promote Southampton Solent.

“At Baoji University arts and science students have started their own businesses. They are mixing creativity with engineering and we are looking at how they are doing that,” she said.

Establishing good links with businesses has been critical to the success of the venture. The growing reputation for the standard of work has been matched by the prestige of the projects – a group of students have recently been filming on board Queen Mary 2 for a promotional video.

“It had always been an aim of mine to set up a creative agency for students. In 2011 we had a bit of money from the Government allocated for HE innovation. We found a space in the University that wasn’t very much used and we took that  space and kitted it out.

“We started by offering students the opportunity to work with businesses outside of their courses but after the first nine months, we saw there was an opportunity to embed the learning in our courses.

“Now students can choose to enrol with the agency outside their course or take options that are embedded,” Suzanne, explained.

By 2013, it became clear Solent Creatives could do morewith the University’s journalism and English students. The Solent Press publishing house was born and it enables students to work on commissions for newspapers and magazines including titles produced by Haymarket and Archant.

Students create their own publications as well as styling and writing Southampton’s Westquay shopping centre magazine. With the onus now on universities to help graduates secure the best possible jobs, Professor Dixon has recently been made the university’s first ever Director of Enterprise.

An innovation space where graduates can build their businesses is central to their plans and Suzanne is excited by the prospect.

“We are looking to find a space in the city where we can open an innovation centre where we can support graduates.

“We are taking lessons learned and applying them across the University to ensure we offer students opportunities in all areas whether it be the Maritime Academy or the School of Business, Law and Communications. We want all our students to learn the skills of enterprise.

“I will be working more closely with business to identify opportunities and particularly looking at ways to retain graduates in the city when they finish their studies,” she explained.

Interested in working with Solent Creatives?