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Budding Entrepreneurs Impress in Dragons' Den Style Challenge

British Quinoa Student Venture Challenge

Stephen Jones

A chair that folds away to the size of a small stack of DVDs, a mobile app for easy file sharing and a smart business plan to exclusively grow and sell British quinoa – some great money-making ideas came out at The University of Nottingham’s annual Student Venture Challenge.

Thirteen teams pitched their ideas to an expert judging panel as part of the challenge and a top three was chosen on the innovation and inventiveness of their idea, the quality of the team, and their financial and market awareness.

The competition – which was open to all students – is intended to help students to explore their business ideas and is run by The University of Nottingham's Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

British quinoa production

Plant Science PhD student Stephen Jones took first prize with his proposal to grow and sell British quinoa, an extremely healthy cous cous-like grain. Despite rising demand for the grain, there is currently no source of British grown quinoa. Stephen holds exclusive rights to growing UK strains and is already in talks with supermarkets.

Mechanical Engineering student Tom Gallagher finished second with his compact foldable chair, which folds down to the size of three DVDs in a stack. Sustainable Architecture PhD student David Bailey and PhD Economics student Antonio Alonso scooped third place with their mobile app to enable simple time and location bound file sharing.

£10,000 of business support and cash prizes courtesy of the sponsors will be divided between the winners to help develop their ideas further. Additionally, entrepreneurial grants were awarded to eight of the finalists thanks to the University’s Careers and Employability Service.

Diversity of ideas

Stephen said: “The competition was a fantastic experience and gave me a real focus to take my idea to the next level. The money and on-going support will, of course, also be very helpful! The money is going to help me to get approval to use herbicides in my quinoa crop to help control weeds and improve my production practices. In the future I intend to contract out some of my quinoa production to other farmers so that I can increase my overall production.”

Santander’s Linda Brentnall, who was chair of the judges, said: “It was a really enjoyable day for the judging panel because of the sheer diversity of the ideas and the quality of the proposals. It’s great to see that The University of Nottingham is helping to inspire the next generation of young entrepreneurs. I look forward to see how these ideas develop in the future.”

James Liptrott, Director of Haines Watts, said: “The standard of this year’s competition was exceptional. Although there could only be one winner, I hope that all the entrepreneurs will continue to develop their ideas in the future and successfully bring these to market.”

The event was sponsored by Santander, Haines Watt Ltd, MarkeTest, University of Nottingham Innovation Park (UNIP) and Nottingham Entrepreneurs.

The top three

The British Quinoa Company Limited: The company’s aim is to be the only grower and supplier of British grown quinoa grains. There is currently no source of British grown quinoa which is a problem for retailers and consumers whose affinity for locally grown food is growing.

Kompact Design: The Kompact Chair takes the principles of the existing large camping chair, which is comfortable and ergonomic, as well as the small tripod stool which folds up to a small handheld packet which is easy to transport.

Hively: Hive is a location based sharing application. In a world increasingly filled with smartphones and tablets the Hive application allows individuals to create an invisible sphere of information centred round their mobile device and location. Photos, music, pdfs, PowerPoint presentations and documents can all be uploaded to an individual’s Hive domain through their phone or tablet device. Once in a Hive, files are then available to anyone within proximity of the Hive through the free application downloaded on their mobile device.

Posted on Thursday 28th March 2013

Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

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