Durham University announces new Wilson Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship as part of record alumni donation

Durham University have announced today that they have received a transformative donation from alumnus Charles Wilson and his partner Dr Rowena Olegario, to launch a new Wilson Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship at Durham University Business School.

The Wilson Institute will provide entrepreneurs and leaders, especially in small and family businesses, with insightful and practical support to develop those businesses to full potential. The Institute will have a specific focus on servicing business leaders and business ideas in the local region at every stage of development: supporting ‘start-up, scale-up, and smart-up’ activities.

Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University, says,

“This is an extraordinary and hugely welcome demonstration of support for the University’s mission from two very distinguished friends. Philanthropy is changing the game for students at Durham and this record donation will leave an indelible and enabling legacy for the benefit of generations to come.”

Charles Wilson says,

“Rowena and I are delighted to be supporting Durham University and the Durham Inspired campaign. Durham is making an incredible difference to the North East, the UK, and within the wider world; we are pleased that our support will assist the University’s objectives in each of these areas.”

Professor Susan Hart, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business, Durham University, says,

“In establishing the Wilson Institute, we are seizing a unique opportunity to enrich the forward-thinking enterprise ecology in the region, stimulating business creation, scale-up activity, and beneficial economic development across the North East and beyond.”

James Ramsbotham CBE, DL, Chief Executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce, says,

“Businesses in the region will welcome news of this development at Durham with open arms. I am positive that the Wilson Institute will provide the world with yet another window into the North East economy and provide North East business with a wide-open front door into this leading Business School on our doorstep.”

The Institute is part of a record £7.5M donation from Charles Wilson and partner Dr Rowena Olegario which will also launch the Durham Inspired – North East Scholarships programme which will support students coming from low-income backgrounds from the region, and endowment for the University’s Institute of Hazard Risk and Resilience (IHRR) – a research Institute co-founded by Wilson in 2004 which supports research and practice in areas related to global natural disasters.

An endowment of £2M, including matching donations to the programme, will be used to inspire and support exceptional young minds from across the region to reach their full potential at Durham University, regardless of financial means. The Scholarships programme will support 20 students each year from low-income backgrounds from the North East, empowering and enabling local students to study for foundation, undergraduate, and/or masters level qualifications, whilst also pursuing vital leadership and development experiences offered at Durham.

The donation towards the IHRR will increase the Institute’s ability to produce leading, front-line research which helps professionals around the world to protect, save, and recover thousands of vulnerable lives and communities every year. The donation will enable Durham University to promote, share, and network new research and best practices with industry leaders, policy makers, and practitioners working in areas related to natural hazards.

The overall donation will have a transformative impact on the future of a vast number of low-income students who will now have additional financial support to attend the University, the research that the Institute for Hazard, Risk and Resilience is able to conduct and disseminate, and a huge impact on entrepreneurs and small businesses by launching the Wilson Institute.

The University are also delighted to recognise the contribution this gift will make towards its wider Durham Inspired campaign, chaired by former Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Worldwide, Rob Senior, which seeks to support the next generation of inspiration and leadership through Durham University.

Rob Senior, Chair of the Durham Inspired campaign, says

“The Durham environment allows exceptional students and researchers to test drive their full potential in so many ways, but some need a little extra support to reach that potential. As one student put it recently: “we often have all of the fire, but not enough fuel”. This landmark donation is an inspiring response to those underlying needs and will help Durham to remain a truly world class institution.”

News of the donation was formally announced at a major Durham Inspired campaign event at Durham Castle on 20 Feb 2020 by contemporary Durham University graduates of Charles Wilson, William and Hilary Russell – the current Lord and Lady Mayor of London.

Our Partners

Top Ten Most Read