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Capturing the spirit of Churchill’s intent to produce the leaders of the future.
The Churchill College Enterprisecompetition (now in its second successful year) seeks to identify the best business ideas of current Churchill students and alumni. Open to teams or individuals; the competition awards the winning entry £1000 including experienced business mentoring from the panel of judges (drawn from Churchill alumni) that could be valued in multiple thousands if accessed on the open market.
Churchill alumnus and Chairman of Cornwall Energy, Simon Jones (U85) is the Chair of Churchill College Enterprise Competition. He is clear about the benefits of strengthening professional links between students and alumni.
“The aim of the competition is to create an environment where Churchill students and alumni can gain knowledge and skills in whatever future direction their careers take: corporate, banking, consulting or entrepreneurship. Through the Churchill Enterprise Competition we are bringing a bit of that magic into College in the expectation that we can bolster the chances of success of specific start-up ideas and also broaden business awareness amongst Churchill students and alumni.”
Another panel alumnus, Richard Brockbank (U96) identifies the need to equip Churchill graduates with entrepreneurial skills to enable the transition of their ideas to businesses that will have a real and lasting impact on the world:
“Churchill is a strong College academically, but to make an impact in today’s world I believe that’s not enough and the College must also strive to produce graduates with the entrepreneurial ability to take their ideas forward and turn them into winning businesses.”
This impact has already started to take shape for the winners of last year’s competition, Urologic. “We had exceptional guidance and support from our mentors”, explains Igor Romanov from the Urologic team, who are now at the stage of finalising the patent assignment for their invention; a novel urinary catheter design that dramatically improves bladder drainage efficiency leading to the reduction of infection, and they are now looking to apply for public NHS funding in January 2017 to fund a proof-of concept development.
This year’s competition finals took place on the 25 April and the winners were Biotechspert led by Churchill alumnus David Holden-White (G14) and Graham Mills. Speaking about their experience David said:
“We entered the competition last year with a different idea, but we were unsuccessful, however, through the excellent mentorship and constructive criticism that we received, we re-evaluated our idea and ultimately switched our focus to 'Biotechspert.com', putting together a more fully developed business plan based on advice from the Churchill mentors.”
Biotechspert’s idea for an online platform facilitating freelance consultancy within the biotech industry was the panel’s favourite due in part to its founders persistence, but they could also see the business as ready to go now with an eminently realistic and achievable strategy.
There was also particular praise for the two runners up who are well positioned to be successful businesses, addressing huge potential market opportunities – HALO with their wearable solar charging devices and Favalley with their mission to educate under privileged people in emerging markets.
The Biotechspert team will be using their prize money to pay for the completion of their website which will in turn allow them to start pre-launch marketing and expert recruitment for their online platform within weeks.
“We hope to launch the final version of the site in August this year and from there expand into other markets to provide online knowledge-exchange platforms in the engineering and legal services industries as well as the biotechnology industry.”
Looking ahead, it is hoped that the growing pool of participants will help generate entrepreneurship within the College and pave the way for further success. Providing entrepreneurial Churchillians with the opportunity to test their ideas and fast-track their learning in a safe and supportive environment is certainly needed if they are to succeed.
In a report published earlier this year by Barclays Bank it was identified that the entrepreneurial revolution currently taking place in Britain has not yet resulted in a corresponding upsurge in fast-growth, 'scale-up' companies with factors including a lack of investment at the scale-up stage along with a shortfall in expertise and management talent and in some cases a lack of ambition limiting the capacity for start-ups to achieve real market success.
With the support available through the Churchill Enterprise Competition it is hoped that some of the start-up ideas being explored at Churchill today may lead to one of the real market winners of tomorrow.