The winners of the first-stage of a University-wide entrepreneurship competition have been announced.
With constant references to the recession, unemployment and graduate job prospects in the media, it is easy to become negative about the future economy. The current stagnant economic climate does however encourage the development of a new kind of entrepreneur, one who has the potential to make the best of the current business environment, which is the aim of a bold new initiative at Robert Gordon University's Aberdeen Business School (ABS).
The Charles P Skene Entrepreneurship programme aims to further develop and embed enterprise skills across the University, and is funded by local businessman, entrepreneur and avid innovator, Charles Skene OBE, an Honorary Professor at ABS who first funded the University's Chair in Entrepreneurship in 2001. This latest initiative is headed up by former Research and Development Director for Pepsi Europe, Dr John Park, and is supported at all levels of the University, from the Board of Governors to the Senior Executive Leadership Team of Faculty Deans, who take an active interest in the programme.
Dr Park explains: "As a graduate myself and ex-graduate employer, I am hugely appreciative of the scope and support I have been given from across the University to really drive change. After a University wide tour, talking to staff and students explaining the great endeavours being done during the current economic climate and the opportunities available to do even more, we now have a forward looking and highly ambitious strategic plan with full backing of the Senior Faculty Planning and Resourcing Group and the Board of Governors."
There are three core elements to how the University, recently awarded The Sunday Times Scottish University of the Year 2011, and consistently at the top of employability league tables, aspires to even higher levels of achievement in student enterprise.
Dr Park continues: "I have personally tried to get into every first year class to share my own story of a chemistry student whose only ambition was to work in a lab complete with white coat, to how I became a senior executive in two of the world's largest corporations. As part of the programme, we are seeking to inspire students about the importance and value of entrepreneurship in any career and how having entrepreneurship skills can pave the way to an extremely successful career, in any sector.
"It's more than simply a case of inspiring students, we have to deliver the curriculum to help them realise their own potential. We plan to re-engineer the teaching of core disciplines to include enterprise skills as part of the DNA of every course at the University. The final element of the strategy is to nurture entrepreneurial ambition and turn it into real business start-ups."
Recently, the University has staged it's first cross-Faculty New Ideas Competition, as a prelude to the annual National New Ideas Competition run by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE), with student interns Glenn Buchan, Robert Wavell and Mike Queen, funded jointly by SIE and RGU, acting as individual enterprise champions across the Faculty of Health and Social Care, Faculty of Design and Technology and Aberdeen Business School.
The competition received over 120 entries featuring stimulating new venture ideas, from which 3 prize winners selected from each Faculty, whose ideas showed businesses with real potential:
Aberdeen Business School
Louise Dawson (Management) & Adrian Bell (Management with Marketing)
• Devised an idea for a multi-platform web portal that would provide students with a one-stop student-owned Aberdeen directory and community, as well as direct routes to events, products and businesses in Aberdeen who are keen to engage with the highly sought-after student market.
Faculty of Health and Social Care
David Lumsden (Pharmacy)
• In-Pharmacy testing and personal health scorecards to enable consumers to take more responsibility and control of their own health diagnosis as an alternative to the costly and time consuming use of GP's.
Faculty of Design & Technology
Andrew Stalker & Ben Owen (Computer Science)
• Developing a range of bespoke computer products involving service support access for rural areas, elderly consumers and recycling and upgrading computers rather than sending them to waste.
• Already run a part-time business, Ellon Computers, to test the market and make money whilst studying.
The competition was designed to develop initial student ideas which can subsequently be supported by the University Business Incubator, an initiative which will work with the finalists to help them turn their ideas into reality.
Dr Park continues: "Much of the technology and expertise required to realise these business ideas already exists within the University, and we are actively trying to partner students with the help and support to develop them to the next stage."
Shona Cormack, Vice Principal (Student Experience and External Relations), comments: "The University is extremely grateful to Charles Skene's generosity, which is enabling us to extend the opportunities we offer our students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and skills. We believe this will make an important contribution to ensuring a continued strong employability record for our graduates. I would like to congratulate John Park and our three SIE interns for their boundless commitment in driving forward a range of exciting developments."
Professor Charles Skene adds: "I have just returned from another visit to Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore and the continued expansion of their economies is simply staggering. Hong Kong and Singapore owe a great deal to our Scottish forebears who left their homes and used their enterprising talents to tremendous effect in countries where such abilities were encouraged. At the University, we continue to encourage and help our students to develop their latent enterprising skills which will help to grow Scottish and UK economies".
All nine finalist ideas were invited to the SIE start-up day in Dundee on 12 February for an intensive day of business coaching designed to refine their entries for the national competition. The results of which will be announced at this year's SIE National Student Summit in Glasgow on Thursday 24 March.
The University plans to run a ‘Dragon's Den' pitching competition as the final stage of the University competition at the end of the academic year and would like to hear from companies who would be interested in both sponsoring and judging next year's competition.
If you are interested, please email Dr Park at email@example.com.