Student entrepreneurs battle it out at final of business plan competitions

Ideas Empowered business plan competition

Ideas Empowered business plan competition

Student entrepreneurs battle it out at final of business plan competitions

Imperial Entrepreneurs organise event to create an entrepreneurial spirit and students take top prize at the IBM challenge - %0A "

Thursday 14 May 2009
By Naomi Weston

A ‘Dragon’s Den’ style business plan competition organised by Imperial College London’s student entrepreneurial society has awarded £3,000 to a student team for their innovative idea to improve mobile phone technology.

The Ideas Empowered competition is organised by Imperial Entrepreneurs and is open to all students from across the UK. The aim of the competition is to create an entrepreneurial spirit amongst students taking part and help them turn their ideas into businesses whilst at university.

The winning group, called Microantennae, developed the idea of ultra small antennae which can transmit and receive radio waves for use in mobile phones and other devices using wireless internet. The antennae is 100 times smaller than current versions. The smaller size means the power consumption of the device is lowered and more space is generated inside the phone for other technology and a bigger memory.

Microantennae is made up of Marita Cheng and Jonathan Webster from Imperial’s Faculty of Engineering and Stuart Milne and Dhiraj Sinha from the University of Cambridge.

Managing Director of Microantennae, Dhiraj Sinha, said:

“The business idea competition at Imperial significantly empowered our confidence and vision related to the business. It came at a time when we needed it the most. The feedback from the judges and the institutional links which we formed with prospective investors was just brilliant. We hope that it will act as a turning point in our business.”

The competition also awarded runner up prizes of £500 for second place and £250 for third place.

Runner up, Daniel Burrows from the Department of Physics, came second for his idea for improving the aerodynamics of large trucks. He spotted that in the US 85% of trucks have problems with air drag as a result of a gap between the cab of the truck and the trailer. The air in the gap causes the truck to slow down and use more fuel.

He came up with a device for trucks which closes the gap between the front of the truck and the trailer. Trucks in the UK are newer and don’t have the same problem.

Daniel hopes to develop his idea, called x-stream trucking, and start testing his product in America. “In current economic times, trucking companies are looking to reduce their fuel costs, without having to buy a new fleet. This upgrade device is an elegant, money saving solution to an environmental problem.”

All teams had to submit a 1,500 summary of their idea and a panel of judges, made up of investors and professional entrepreneurs shortlisted the entries down to nine. Imperial Entrepreneurs also organised a series of lectures for students to help them with developing their idea, looking at technology transfer, intellectual property, marketing and managing finances.

The grand final of the competition took place on Friday 1 May with student teams pitching their business plan ideas to the panel and facing questions from the judges about their ideas and commercial awareness.

Student organiser and President of Imperial Entrepreneurs, Niccolo Corsini, from the Department of Physics, says:

“In the current economic climate, our focus has to be on the principles of value creation and innovation. These are challenging times but they also represent a historic opportunity for start-ups to make their mark. I also think that there is no better place to start than at university given the resources and haven of co-founders one can leverage on. The competition has built an entrepreneurial ecosystem and brought together all the resources required to build successful ventures. The quality of the winning ideas holds great promise and we hope to have accelerated their development into great businesses."

The judging panel included Sachin Duggal, CEO of Nivio, an online storage utility, Oliver Woolley, CEO of British Business Angels Association (BBAA), Emmett Kilduff, founder of, an online business community for business owners, entrepreneurs and investors, Reshma Sohoni, CEO of Seedcamp, a week long event to help young entrepreneurs and Christopher Fogg, CEO of Connect London, which helps potential businesses obtain funding and connecting them to a support network.

For more information about the Ideas Empowered competition and Imperial Entrepreneurs please visit:

This month also sees other entrepreneurial students from Imperial winning the top prize of £1,000 in the IBM University Business Challenge (UBC), beating off competition from over 250 teams from more than 70 UK universities.

The UBC is a simulation exercise that provides students with the opportunity to take on the role of business consultants and work on improving the performance of a company.

Each team is given details of a company, its markets and its current financial position and they compete against each other to run the business the most successfully. They looked at all aspects of the business from sales and marketing to production and pricing. They also had to constantly ensure they are being competitive and keep an eye on the other teams.

The Imperial team successfully managed a fictitious perfume company and ensured they both satisfied their customers’ needs and made good profits.

“They are a credit to the university,” said Peter Cardwell, Director of Learning Dynamics at IBM. “They are professional, very astute, and all round fabulous individuals who deserve to go a long way.”

The winners included Jason Lin and Ashley Uglow from the Department of Maths, Hesham Zafar, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Daban Abdul-Hamid, from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Maximilian Tay from the Department of Bioengineering.

An informal prize giving will take place in the Business School on 14 May. For more information please visit the website:

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