Blue skies thinkers urged to enter Aberdeen’s Dragon’s Den

Blue skies thinkers urged to enter Aberdeen’s Dragon’s Den

Research chiefs in Aberdeen are urging budding entrepreneurs to enter a contest worth thousands of pounds that will end in a Dragon’s Den style pitch.

The University of Aberdeen launched its first Blue Skies Thinking business ideas competition last year and it proved so popular organisers decided they must run it again.

Now staff and postgraduate students are being encouraged to submit their big idea and be in with a chance of winning the two top £4,000 cash prizes plus thousands of pounds worth of advice to help get their business idea off the ground.

Runners up can also scoop generous cash prizes – second and third place entries will receive £2,000 and £1,000.

Dozens of postgraduates and staff members entered the contest last year and the two winning pitches could be facing exciting futures.

Matt Kennedy took the top slot in the postgraduate category for his idea to create EmuBands – a web based service which allows independent record labels and unsigned bands and artists to sell their music through major online stores.

The idea came before Blue Skies, but success in the competition has been invaluable. Matt explained: "The Blues Skies competition enabled me to get the business off the ground and to help maintain the business through the development stage.

"EmuBands has now distributed over 1,000 tracks from unsigned bands and small record labels.  One of our tracks distributed even features Boy George.

"The amount of tracks we distribute each month is growing at a rate of more than 150%.  The money as well as the support and advice we received from the University of Aberdeen has been vital to the success of the business."

Last year's staff winner was Calum Proctor – a Project Manager with the University's Estates who came up with the idea for a reusable cool box for fish following a chance conversation.

He said: "The idea came from a conversation with a friend of mine who is a fish merchant who told me about the polystyrene boxes that are used to transport fish and that are used once and then thrown away. This seemed an incredible waste."

Calum devised a reusable box with cooling liquid in its lid – an idea that also landed him Scottish Enterprise Grampian's most innovative product in 2000. Again Calum's idea came before Blue Skies, but winning the contest has been a great help.

He added: "Winning the competition has given financial and business assistance to help push things along. My hope for the future is that the product ends up in the major supermarkets. The box was originally designed to hold fish, but we've refined and reassessed the prototype so that it can be used for other foodstuffs."

This year's competition launches on February 6 and would-be entrepreneurs have until March 2 to submit a 200-word document detailing their great idea. Entrants will then be whittled down to eight finalists category who will, on March 26, pitch to 'dragons' from the University and business community.

Professor Dominic Houlihan, Vice Principal for Research and Commercialisation, said: "The University of Aberdeen is absolutely delighted to be launching for the second time our unique Blue Skies competition.

"Last year's contest was incredibly successful with some fantastic ideas and we are confident we are going to get even more submissions this time round.

"Novel and creative ideas are what we are seeking. These great ideas should be supported by a robust business plan that outlines how the idea could be developed.

"Finalists will then pitch their idea to a panel but I should assure all those potential entrepreneurs out there that our dragons will have soft teeth!"

For more information about the contest see www.abdn.ac.uk/r&i

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