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Innovative Emanuel

Mr Rupert Tong has been appointed as Head of Innovation and Enterprise at Emanuel. We caught up with him to find out what this means for our pupils...

What does your new role entail?

My new role is effectively a blank canvas and I have been given a good deal of scope to improve the entrepreneurial and innovative skills of our students here. This will involve engaging with willing parents, colleagues and alumni who have the practical and industrial skills that will give our students a clear link to different industries that they may like to be employed in when they leave full time education. I am also keen to forge some links with local primary schools and hopefully inspire some potential Emanuel students of the future.

What plans do have for encouraging innovation and enterprise activities and opportunities at Emanuel?

I am already busy starting up the 'Industry Champions' programme with year 12 students, which will culminate in the all day 'Entrepreneur and You' competition in June. All year 9 students participated in the Enterprise Oil Trading simulation activity during Arts and Science week. The new Digital Music club is due to start this term with the help of parent Clive Broadbent, who is going to help our budding musicians learn to play instruments like Therimins and Uilleans. We have also developed a link with Google, who have agreed to lend some expertise and help out our Computer Club regulars with their robotics. The Dragon's Den competition that traditionally ran in year 9 is now likely to be rolled out to the local primary schools who will have the opportunity to compete against each other at an event hosted by us. Hopefully there will be many more initiatives to add to this as the role develops but much depends upon the support that I can enlist from colleagues and other willing participants.

What top tips do you have for young people looking to start their own enterprise in the future?  

Entrepreneurs of the future will need to be flexible and dynamic in their approach to business. Traditional jobs that we have become accustomed to are likely to be a thing of the past in many industries. Our students need to be prepared for their clients to be far more unpredictable and demanding and they will have to be able to respond to rapid and uncertain change. It is more important than ever to develop a network of friends and contacts, to communicate regularly with different groups of people and to make best use of the technology that is available to them.

Not all enterprises are successful, and many not first-time round. Can you tell us about a time when something 'new' you were working on didn't quite work out? 

Our students mustn't fear taking risks. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs have spent their first years in poverty and desperate for a big break. You learn more from failure than success - James Dyson spent 15 years creating 5,126 versions of his vacuum cleaner before he made one that worked. He is now a multi-billionaire. When I was a university student, I persuaded the organiser of a local Falconry Festival where I lived to let me run a beer tent over the weekend that was running one summer. He wasn't sure that it was a good idea but I thought it would be simple. So I bought several barrels of beer and set them up prior to the event, expecting to make a fortune as I had exclusive rights to sell alcohol. Unfortunately, it turned out that falcon enthusiasts are almost entirely abstemious and kept asking me if they could just have a glass of tap water. I ended up spending more on washing up liquid than I generated in beer sales over the course of the event and spent much of the time there in the first aid area, after being stung several times by the wasps that were nesting nearby and who were clearly more interested in the taste of the 'amber nectar' than the paying public!