After three intense days of competition, a team of budding digital entrepreneurs from The University of Nottingham emerged as the winners of the inaugural Digital Economy Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (Digital Economy YES).
Digital Economy YES is designed to develop business awareness and entrepreneurial creativity in postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers during a three day residential workshop.
During the event, attendees learn from experts including representatives from leading digital economy companies including Microsoft UK and Google. They also benefited from hearing from successful Nottingham alumni who have created digital economy start-ups, before specialist mentors helped the students to prepare business plans that were pitched to a panel of investors.
The Concept of YES
The core concept of YES — developing a business plan for a hypothetical technology based business — was conceived at The University of Nottingham 20 years ago for students in the biological sciences and was launched in the format of a national competition, Biotechnology YES, in 1997. In the intervening years almost 4,000 PhD students and early career scientists have now taken part.
Chair of the competition’s judging panel, Professor John Peberdy MBE explained: “In the current economic climate postgraduate students need to seriously consider broadening their skills and knowledge base and thereby enhance their employment opportunities. It is well documented that participation in a YES competition meets these needs, as well as providing an excellent starting point for understanding the requirements for commercialisation of science and technology.
“Clearly the more recent and expanding digital economy provide an opportunity to students engaged in this area of research to think of opportunities for commercialisation. The launch of this pilot is therefore very timely as it gives more students the chance to acquire knowledge of commercialisation practice and develop their business awareness and skills.
“I would like to congratulate all the students that took part in the first Digital Economy YES competition and hope that they will look for opportunities arising in their own research which could lead them on to develop the new digital based products to replace the likes Facebook and Twitter.” Entrepreneurs in the making
A cash prize of £2,000 with additional support in the form of a £500 prize, provided by the Higher Education Innovation Fund was won by NeeHoy
— a team made up of PhD students Tim Pearce, Julian Rosser and John Harvey from the University’s Horizon Doctoral Training Centre. The team were rewarded for their concept of a digital service that encourages collaborative consumption to help people reduce waste and save money by sharing items.
After successfully demonstrating the impact of digital economy research, both NeeHoy and a second team — Hive, made up by students Lamma Zghoul, David Bailey, Sean Reed and Antonio Alonso — also secured ‘in-kind support’ from the University’s EnterpriseLab
and Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute
— part of a £40 million investment from Research Councils UK to develop the UK’s digital economy and society. The funding will be used to help the teams develop their products and launch them in the market.
John Harvey, a member of NeeHoy, said: “We had an idea for a service to encourage more sustainable consumption of goods whilst offering real value for consumers. Digital Economy YES helped us develop a business case to support it.”
Delighted by the quality of the submissions Dr Andrew Greenman, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Creativity at The University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation, added: “The Digital Economy Young Entrepreneur’s Scheme demonstrated how central doctoral students are developing a sustainable UK digital economy.
“The UK’s global footprint in this sector will continue to benefit from events like Digital Economy YES that invite students’ to re-imagine their research in terms of its commercial potential. The participants’ venture ideas demonstrated the value of combining world-class technical and entrepreneurial education. These provide the knowledge and competencies to identify opportunities and exploit disruptive and transformative digital technologies.”
Digital Economy YES was delivered by The University of Nottingham Institute of Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI) and Graduate School and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The total prize fund was valued at £5,500. —Ends—
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