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News3rd April 2023

New ventures strategy at Ark sees spin-out of incubator

There are some important changes coming at Ark. Since our foundation in 2002, innovation and entrepreneurship have been central to our approach.

We exist to make sure that all children, regardless of their background, have access to a great education and real choices in life. In seeking to close the gap for every child, education has been the driving force of our work over the last 20 years.

As we have grown to run 39 schools, many of our ventures and initiatives are tightly associated with schools. They either share lessons that we have learned from that frontline experience and expertise – as in the case of Ark Curriculum Plus. Or fill gaps that we identify – in the way that the need for early years support focused on education led to the creation of Ark Start.

However, schools are only part of the story. Over the years, our ventures have ranged far over the educational landscape – from extra-curricular support and STEM-focused campaigns to approaches that explore solutions beyond schools or address challenges in other sectors like health and social care.

Both school-inspired ventures and these more wide-ranging projects are critical to achieving our mission. As we continue to grow, we want to ensure that we do not lose focus by trying to take on too many projects.

Our approach has always been to incubate innovation but then allow individual organisations to flourish independently. We believe that the scale of our incubation activity has reached a point where it has sufficient scale and demand to support the current ventures team to thrive as an independent charity.

This new charity incubator will work to solve intractable challenges in education and society and will be spinning out from Ark in September 2023. Led by Michael Clark, the long-standing deputy CEO of Ark, it will focus on identifying and creating innovative not-for-profit start-ups that aim to give young people access to a great education and real choices in life. The new organisation will work closely with Ark and other partners to help tackle a wider range of challenges facing families, children and young people from with activity ranging from baby banks to postgraduate careers in the UK and internationally.

Ark will also continue to create new initiatives and innovate to learn lessons from our schools and address the challenges we learn from the frontline. Most immediately this will be with the development of Ark Curriculum Plus and Ark Start as well as the exciting completion of EdCity.

We will work in partnership with the team of the new organisation on a range of projects and in the same way as we do with all our past ventures. In particular, they will be based at EdCity and an integral part of the new community of mission-aligned organisations we are building.

Lucy Heller, CEO of Ark said:

“Ark has a long history of seeding successful ventures and spinning them out, so it is particularly satisfying that our ventures arm itself has now grown to the point where this is possible. With several live projects already planned as joint endeavours, I know that we will continue to work very closely together. Not least as the foundation of the community of EdCity education reformers.”

Michael Clark, Deputy CEO of Ark and leader of the new organisation said:

“We have learned a great deal over the last 20 years of building ventures at Ark and this experience and expertise will give us an incredibly strong platform from which to build our new incubator. We have some big growth plans and hope that our broader ranging remit will bring new and unexpected benefits to the wider sector as well as, more immediately, all Ark schools and students.”