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Startup or freelance – Bath Spa University

Startup and enterprise support

Want to run your own business or work for yourself? Let us help you turn your dreams into a reality

Around 14% of Bath Spa graduates go on to either work as a freelancer or to run their own business – higher than the national average!

If you’re interested in either of these options, our BathSparks programme of support is here to help you turn your idea into a reality. For more information Submit a question with Bath Sparks in the title, or visit our resource library to read our BathSparks FAQs and Terms and Conditions. 

Get started

We have a number of guides in our resource library to help you start your own business or set up work for yourself. This includes topics such as: 

  • Guide to Self-Employment
  • Guide to Freelancing
  • Guide to Funding Your Creative Project
  • Business Model Canvas

Get support from the Bath Sparks team

If you can't find an answer online and you have a query about:

  • Turning your idea into a business
  • Freelancing
  • Enterprise
  • The Bath Sparks Awards

You can submit a query to us on MyCareer. We aim to respond to all queries within five working days.

We offer 1:1 appointments to support you, whether you want to talk through your idea, get start-up information, have questions about funding, or something else. Book a Business Enterprise / Freelance / Bath Sparks Funding appointment through MyCareer Appointments. When you book, just add some details about what you wish to discuss to help our advisors prepare in advance. 

Funding available

Find out more about our funding options for startups and freelancers via the schemes below.

Tax and HMRC

If you are earning money from freelance or self-employment, it is important to ensure that you are paying your tax correctly and on time.

You may need to set yourself up as a sole trader or register your company with HMRC, as well as filling in an annual tax return. For more information on this, visit the HMRC website.

Accessing professional support

Have more questions about starting your own business, or how to set up as a freelancer? There are regional organisations and groups that can help via workshops, one to one sessions and more. A few of these are provided below.

Competition FAQs

What can I use Bath Sparks funding for?

You can apply for Bath Sparks funding if you have an enterprise idea you want to get off the ground and need some funding to make it work. Enterprise ideas include:

  • A startup or enterprise idea – this could include creating and selling products, developing new technology and/or delivering a service.
  • A freelance / sole trader venture – this could include delivering a service and/or promoting yourself for freelance opportunities such as commissions or freelance work opportunities.
  • A creative project – that has commercial intent as one of the drivers. This could sit alongside a social or educational aim. You need to provide evidence that there is potential for growth of the activity beyond the life of the project.
  • A social enterprise – a business with a social or environmental mission where profits are invested back into the business or into the local community (for further information see Social Enterprise. To search examples of social enterprises, see SEUK Members

We really want you to feel that there are no limits to where your idea may sit. Makers, scientists, designers, artists, tech specialists, product developers or educators - social enterprises to high growth startup

For information about the types of enterprise ideas, previously been funded via Bath Sparks, please see the FAQ section for each competition.

Can I apply for Bath Sparks funding to fund my degree show?

Bath Sparks funding cannot be used to fund your degree show. However, you may wish to use the university’s crowdfunding platform Launchpad.

For further information, visit our Alumni crowdfunding page, or email

Who can apply for Bath Sparks funding?

We run four main Bath Sparks awards a year, some with more than one opportunity to apply:

  • Explore It!
  • Launch It!
  • Grow It!

Awards are open to current students (except International Tier 4 Students – see below) as well as alumni who have graduated within the previous 2 years.

Can International Students on a Tier 4 visa apply for Bath Sparks funding?

Unfortunately, Tier 4 International Students are unable to apply for Bath Sparks funding as this funding does not comply with Tier 4 visa conditions.

The Tier 4 visa does not permit students to be self-employed or engaging in business activity. Should you wish to speak to someone about your Tier 4 visa, please contact the International Advice Team at

Can I apply for Bath Sparks funding as a graduate?

Yes, as long as you meet the rest of the application criteria and have graduated within the past two years then you are able to apply for some of the Bath Sparks awards funding (2021/2022). Please note: Bath Sparks funding eligibility is reviewed on an annual basis.

The following awards are open to applications from recent graduates:

  • Launch It! (final-year students and graduates)
  • Grow It! (exclusively for graduates and available throughout the year)

Email for more information on how to apply.

Can I apply for more than one Bath Sparks competition during the academic year?

Yes, you can apply for more than one Bath Sparks competition if you wish to, but you must meet the eligibility criteria for each competition you wish to enter – see FAQ section for each competition.

Can I apply for Bath Sparks funding if I have applied in a previous academic year?

Yes, you can apply for Bath Sparks funding if you applied in a previous academic year, regardless of whether or not you were previously successful in your funding application.

If you have been successful in accessing Bath Sparks funding in a previous academic year, it would be expected that any future application(s) for funding must either progress your idea further or be an application based on a new idea.

I have an enterprise idea or creative project that I am working on as part of my course, can I apply for Bath Sparks funding?

Yes. If your creative project, business or freelance idea is one you have been developing as part of your course, you can still apply for Bath Sparks funding provided you meet the eligibility criteria for the award you wish to enter and have the intention to explore/progress your idea after you graduate as a commercial venture.

I have an enterprise idea or creative project that I am working on in my spare time that is unconnected to my studies, can I apply for Bath Sparks funding?

Bath Sparks funding exists for current students and recent graduates who want to develop their enterprise ideas, regardless of whether they are connected to their degree subject or not. 

We want our Bath Sparks awards to enable your curiosity to realise your entrepreneurial potential.

Do I need to apply for Bath Sparks funding as an individual or can I apply as part of a group entry?

You can apply as an individual or as part of a group for all Bath Sparks funding Awards (Explore It!’, ‘Launch It!’, ‘Grow It!’, ‘Tech It!.’).

If applying as part of a group you need to identify one person to submit the application and be the point of contact with Bath Sparks. Any funding awarded to groups will be paid to the named individual contact for that group.

If you are part of a group and developing your idea with others who are not Bath Spa University students, you can still apply for Bath Sparks funding as a current student. However, you cannot apply for Bath Sparks funding is you are buying into a business already owned by a non-Bath Spa University student

Please see our competition Terms and Conditions or, if in doubt, contact before you apply to check your eligibility.

Does my startup or enterprise idea have to be based in the UK?

Yes – both you and the business need to be based in the UK. If in doubt, contact

What support is available to me to help me develop and reflect on my idea and make a strong application?

All enterprise activities through the Employability Team comes under the overarching brand, Bath Sparks. This includes everything from 1-2-1 mentoring, workshops, events and funding awards. 

You can book in for a 1-2-1 insight appointment to get you started and to help with initial signposting of your business idea. Email:

You might also wish to review our top tips for applications (PDF).

Who provides Bath Sparks funding?

For 2021/22, our funding is generously provided by Santander Universities. Bath Spa University is proud to partner with Santander University Enterprise Awards to help you access the best enterprise support opportunities, funding and networks to help make your idea a reality.

What happens if I am unable to spend the money I was awarded on my creative idea?

That’s ok – don’t worry! Please contact Bath Sparks as soon as possible at

What happens if my business idea fails? Am I liable to pay the money back?

Bath Sparks exists as a learning experience to test your enterprise ideas. We expect all recipients of funding to be motivated to make their idea a success and to carry out the activity or attempt to carry out the activity as per the awarded application

However, if your venture isn’t a success at this time, you are not required to repay the funding. We ask that even if your idea doesn’t work that you complete the feedback on you activity. This helps us show how our funding has been used to help our students and graduates, ensuring we can continue to provide these opportunities for others in the future – there is always something to learn from both success and failure.

Are there any Terms and Conditions?

You must read through the Bath Sparks Funding Terms and ConditionsYou will be required to confirm that you agree to these prior to receiving funding.

For all queries please email

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