Winners of SPARC business competition announced

Winners of SPARC business competition announced

The potential business talents of Aberdeen students were showcased on Friday as the winners of a new competition to encourage creative thinking were announced at a special awards ceremony.

The SPARC competition (Stimulate Potential and Release Creativity) launched its search for talented business minds earlier this year. As part of the competition, Irene Watt Mitchell, a graduate of the University of Aberdeen the Aberdeen-based Executive Director of New Horizons, a professional development consultancy, offered the Irene Watt Prize for Entrepreneurship.

The prize was open to all Aberdeen students and aimed to encourage them to consider ways in which their degrees could be of use in an entrepreneurial context.

The three winners were awarded their cash prizes at Friday's awards ceremony. First prize was awarded to RGU PhD student John Marshall, whose innovative product design website, secured him £1,000. The second prize of £650 went to University of Aberdeen student Leigh Cassidy for her idea for an innovative environmental treatment for toxic waste; and £350 for third prize was awarded to University of Aberdeen student Adam Hammill for his social enterprise café idea.

Students were required to submit a business concept, focusing on how their degree could be put to use in an entrepreneurial venture. A panel of adjudicators, including Ms Watt, judged the ideas based on set criteria including vision, creativity and innovation, practicality, people/team, commercial viability and potential, and customer focus.

Ms Watt said her experience as a student who went on to become a professional development consultant gave her the ideal opportunity to encourage today’s students to explore their ideas.

She said: “I believe there is great untapped entrepreneurial potential among students from all constituencies – not just business students.

“As a former Arts graduate I know looking back that I had lots of ideas buzzing around my head but no way of bringing those ideas together or give them form – I never even thought of them as business ideas.”

Ms Watt, who was born in Gardenstown, studied at Aberdeen as a mature student graduating with an MA Honours degree in English, and spent many years in various teaching positions before taking the plunge to set up her own business.

“I have now been in the business of developing people for 10 years and this is my way of giving something back,” she continued.

Ms Watt added: “The prize money will be used to help development of the students’ ideas. In addition the winners were asked to keep a journal of their experiences - highs, lows, problems, reflections and hopefully these shared experiences will serve as valuable lessons and to encourage and motivate other students for succeeding years.”

Bill Fraser, Commercialisation Practitioner, Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) said: “This competition has captured the imagination of the student population. SIE are pleased to support this innovative initiative designed to stimulate the entrepreneurial minds of Aberdeen students.”

Further information on New Horizons is available by visiting: www.newhorizonspdc.com

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