Monday 13 September 2004

blueprint

University Business Plan Competition St To Bring Rich Rewards To North East

The North East's five universities have joined forces for the first time ever to run a business plan competition aimed at unlocking the entrepreneurial talents of their thousands of students and helping to create innovative new businesses based in the region. Funded and administered by NECSE (North East Centre for Scientific Enterprise), the blueprint business plan competition - which took place over the last academic year - has proved an unequivocal success in its first year, generating more than 450 new business plans, a ten-fold increase on non-competition years. Those 450 entrants have now been judged and ten finalists chosen - two from each university. The competition comes to a fitting finale on Thursday 28th October at the Gosforth Park Marriott Hotel, where a high profile panel will announce the winning business plan at the 2004 Grand Final.

Billed as 'blueprint - the future of enterprise in the North East' - the competition is designed to support innovation and create an environment in which tomorrow's future business leaders and gurus can flourish. The initiative has already fired the imagination of many local business leaders who have committed significant sponsorship and long-term support. Open to students and recent graduates, the first prize carries a major cash award and extensive access to crucial business advice. Runners-up awards include a range of cash prizes and the provision of key business support services. Finalists' entries range from business ideas in the environmental sector, international publishing, computer games development and scientific and technological innovation.

The competition's coordinator, Professor Max Robinson, Enterprise Education Manager at NECSE, who has himself taken a company from start-up to the London Stock Exchange, says he is delighted with the response from the region's universities. He says: "We are over the moon with the way the business plan competition has been received among the participating universities - Northumbria, Newcastle, Sunderland, Teesside and Durham. It was our aim from the outset to foster a spirit of collaboration within academic circles and encourage, through the business plan competition, the spirit of entrepreneurship within the student fraternity. "This is the most significant initiative of its type ever to happen in the North East - where university leaders and private sector business are working together pro-actively to ensure a bright future for the entire region."

Prof. Robinson is keen to point out that whilst there can only be one winner on the night - all are winners. He says: "There are no losers in this competition - simply by taking part the students have taken the first important step to starting their own enterprise and I think it is highly likely that we see several strong and successful businesses emerge, not just from the finalists, but also from those who haven't made the top ten."

Key to the strong interest in blueprint and, therefore, its success, is that NECSE plans to run the competition annually - which was crucial in attracting early interest and sponsorship. Prof. Robinson says: "The fact that blueprint is planned as an annual competition - not a one-off - was key in securing early commitment from our sponsors. This first competition has been so successful that we have already started planning for next year."

"We are very grateful to all our sponsors - in particular Dickinson Dees, One North East and Ward Hadaway - which have enabled us to put excellent prize packages together. However, there are excellent sponsorship opportunities still available for local businesses and organisations should they wish to support the Grand Final and forthcoming competitions."


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