Budding entrepreneurs impress in Dragons' Den style challenge

20 Mar 2013 12:44:57.520

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 run by the University’s Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI).

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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 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.


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Notes to editors: The University of Nottinghamhas 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It was ‘one of the first to embrace a truly international approach to higher education’, according to the Sunday Times University Guide 2013. It is also one of the most popular universities among graduate employers, one of the world’s greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the UK’s Top 10 and the World’s Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS World Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fundraising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news

Story credits

More information is available from Kelly Cookson, Communications Officer, UNIEI – The Haydn Green Institute, via +44 (0)115 846 6860, kelly.cookson@nottingham.ac.uk.

Fraser Wilson - Communications Officer

Email: fraser.wilson@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 846 6691 Location: University Park

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