Case study


Established in 2020, Generation Next is a professional network for entrepreneurs and employees aged 18 to 35 across the East Midlands. It’s run by East Midlands Chamber and the University of Derby has been a key partner since 2021.

What does Generation Next do?

Generation Next was created as a platform for aspiring business people in the East Midlands region. Its mission is to help those people to grow and develop, and by doing so, retain the skills of a thriving region, producing better businesses, better ideas, and better minds. It provides forward-thinking people with the experience and opportunities to take them where they want to go.

By joining this vibrant and diverse community, individuals can connect with like-minded people, develop their skills and open the door to new opportunities. Members can build their networks through formal and informal networking events and mentoring, learn new professional skills through a dedicated programme of educational workshops, and get access to blogs and resources. Every year, members are also celebrated through the Generation Next Awards.

How the University plays a role

Since February 2021, Generation Next has been integrated into our Innovation Hothouse: a co-working space for entrepreneurial students and graduates, based in the University’s Enterprise Centre. The Chamber has a physical presence here and uses it to host some of its networking events.

As part of our sponsorship of Generation Next, we gain 100 memberships every academic year, which we give out free to enterprising and ambitious students and recent graduates. This enables them to upskill, find mentors and business partners, and build a professional support network to help them succeed.

They can also celebrate their achievements and raise their profile by being nominated for a Generation Next award. The University is the headline sponsor for the ‘Future Leaders’ category at these awards.

The impact so far

We are only partway through our second academic year of offering Generation Next membership to our students and graduates, however, 130 people have already benefitted from this scheme, with more members currently being recruited. Here are the stories of two people who have been members of Generation Next, and its impact on them.

Case study - Fred Gough, Graduate

Aged 32, Fred Gough joined Generation Next in late 2021, as a recent Writing and Publishing graduate. Fred was diagnosed with Autism and Dyspraxia while at University, after suffering from low mood and social anxiety. He found interviews particularly hard. After being overlooked for several jobs, he secured an internship in the University’s Careers and Employment Service and was encouraged to join Generation Next.

Fred joined the network, keen to develop his general confidence, expand his network, and develop stronger commercial and business skills. During his membership, he took part in a panel discussion about mentoring, sharing his own experience about how mentoring had helped him.

Fred Gough - head and shoulders shot

The main thing I have gained is the confidence to be assertive with my thoughts and approaches…being able to speak about things in a public space...has grown over time, and I now know my opinion is valid and can be acknowledged.

Fred Gough
Generation Next member, ambassador, and award-winner

Fred has become a strong advocate for mental health issues, and neurodiversity, and is proud to positively represent and ally LGBTQ+ individuals. For instance, he used his knowledge and lived experience in these areas to advise on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) issues for the Careers and Employment Service, while he was an intern there. In July 2022, Fred was awarded a Generation Next award for Diversity and Inclusion for his efforts in this area. He has also recently been appointed as Generation Next's Ambassador for Wellbeing for 2023. 

He has now moved into a new role in the University’s Research and Knowledge Exchange Office and is part of an EDI working group looking to develop support and recognition mechanisms for staff across the university’s innovation and research team. The group also aims to increase diversity across the whole University’s workforce and activities. Fred says:

“It feels very exciting to be part of something which could implement positive impact and change within an organisation.”

Case study - Harvinder Singh Saluja, Student

Harvinder is just completing an MSc in Tourism Management, after eleven years of experience working for British Airways in India. He joined Generation Next in Autumn 2022, after finding out about the network through the University's Enterprise Manager.

Harvinder already had experience in leadership – as a member of the Students' Union board, as Head of Derby Enactus (an international organisation which encourages students to find innovative solutions to social issues within their communities), and through his previous roles at British Airways.

It was this experience that led to him being chosen as a Generation Next board champion. Like any board, these champions help shape the future of the network and make key decisions.

I've met some very inspiring people; people who have - through dedication, perseverance and patience - overcome lots of hurdles in their lives and built up a successful brand and company. This gives me the confidence and motivation to move forward myself.

Harvinder Singh Saluja
Student and Generation Next Board Champion

Harvinder has found the seminars and board meetings he has attended so far, really valuable:

"I'm networking directly with the owners of really big businesses, and finding out about their experiences and how they made their brands successful. This is very valuable. I'm still a student so I never thought I would have this opportunity!"

So, what's next for Harvinder? He's currently waiting for the results of his masters and says he hopes to find a management role in something that really interests him - possibly in tourism, hospitality, marketing or sales. He will continue to serve as a Generation Next board champion and encourages other students to get involved in the network:

"If people have aspirations, want to grow their skills and learn what entrepreneurs do - they can see this live through Generation Next. You become aware of how things works in business. Usually you have to learn this after graduation, but with Generation Next, you can start this process while you are studying and it only needs you to commit a few hours a month."