The Digital Economy Network delivered a two day entrepreneurship workshop and pitching competition specifically for Digital Economy doctoral students at the Digital Catapult Centre in London on 19-20 September.
Over 40 attendees from across 11 EPSRC Digital Economy Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) and Universities within the Network attended the event, which was led by Professor Philip Treleaven, Director of the EPSRC Financial Computing & Analytics CDT at University College London, who had put together an exciting and informative two-day programme of activities, including CDT alumni speakers, from which the students could gain valuable insights and expertise.
After being welcomed to the event, delegates benefited from masterclass seminars delivered by Professor Treleaven on idea visioning, branding, and funding pitches, as well as introducing three entrepreneurial case study presentations from former CDT students of the Financial Computing CDT at UCL, who had gone on to launch their own spin-out companies and products during and after completing their PhD. Chris Skilton, who is an entrepreneurship consultant, led a session on the components of the Business Model Canvas.
After lunch, the hackathon competition was launched by Dr Chris Carter, Assistant Professor of the Nottingham University Business School, and mentors Chris Skilton (Entrepreneurship Consultant) and Oonagh McGee of Newcastle University. The attendees formed small cross-CDT groups to work together on a chosen digital economy themed innovation idea, that would be pitched to a judging panel during the afternoon of the following day. The Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Ingenuity Process was showcased as a suggested three-stage model to help the students identify and develop an enterprising idea.
The students continued working on their ideas during the afternoon and into the evening over dinner in the capital city.
After starting the day with coffee and croissants, Philip Treleaven delivered an informative presentation on company structures, intellectual property and potential sources of entrepreneurial funding.
The groups then continued working hard on their ideas ready for the competition in the afternoon. Each group had been given the brief of a five-minute presentation, with 10 minutes per group for questions from the floor.
After a well-earned buffet spread (which was a working lunch for some), the final afternoon session was dedicated to the ‘pitch-off, where the seven groups of PhD students presented their idea to the independent ‘Dragon’s Den’ panel, and there was a £1000 cash prize for the PhD student group who were judged to deliver the best five-minute pitch. Each group was kept strictly to time by the Dragons!
There were some truly fantastic novel ideas put forward by each of the groups, that aimed to address a broad range of technological, societal and economic problems such as middleware to help solve home-buying/renting challenges in London, supply of bicycle storage racks/spaces, and stress-level measuring software and apps.
Overall Winners: Huge congratulations were in order for CDT students Cristina Guerrero Romero (IGGI CDT – Essex), Youssef Hamid (Embedded Intelligence CDT – Loughborough), Yitong Huang (Horizon CDT – Nottingham), and Alex Owen (Web Science CDT – Southampton) who collectively won the £1000 cash prize for the best business pitch for their proposed innovative CycleRack app idea (see logo left), which aimed to match cyclists and local businesses for mutual benefit to provide affordable, secure and convenient bicycle storage space.
There was also a People’s Choice Award up for grabs, which was voted for by the other PhD students anonymously, using a interactive voting app. The Dragons were exempt from voting for this category. The winners were Carlos Gonzalez Diaz (IGGI CDT – York), Dr Ege Sezen (HighWire CDT – Lancaster), Tatiana Styliari (Horizon CDT – Nottingham) and Fabio Turchet (Centre for Digital Entertainment – Bournemouth) for their employment skills matching data anaylsis AI platform ‘EmployAIble‘, who were rewarded with £250 of Amazon vouchers.
Relevant News items:
- Enterprise success at the DEN entrepreneurship workshop. (CDT-EI)
- IGGI students are champion pitchers! (IGGI CDT)
DEN hopes to deliver the same event in 2018, as the feedback from the students who attended was extremely positive, and they relished the chance to learn from entrepreneurial experts, as well as having the opportunity to meet and work collaboratively with their peers.
Acknowledgments and thanks
DEN would like to thank Professor Philip Treleaven of UCL for putting together the extremely well received two day programme together, and also Dr Chris Carter (University of Nottingham), Chris Skilton (Entrepreneurial Consultant) and Oonagh McGee (Newcastle University) for co-organising, delivering and mentoring the students at the event. Thanks also to be extended to Dr Catarina Fernandes, Academic Engagement Manager at the Digital Catapult Centre, for being part of the Dragons Den judging panel for the group presentations, and to DEN Social Media Advocate Chira Tochia for social media coverage. Finally we would also like to thank the Financial Computing CDT alumni speakers who gave up their time to come and share their experiences with the next generation of CDT students.
We would also like to thank all the CDT/PhD students that attended and participated, which made it such an inspiring and vibrant event!
Felicia Black – Digital Economy Network Manager