Student engineers show savvy

Engineering students competing in this year’s Imperial College’s Entrepreneurs’ Challenge have benefited from the business savvy of seven Sainsbury’s Management Fellows.

Engineering students competing in this year’s ImperialCollege Entrepreneurs’ Challenge have benefited from the business savvy of seven Sainsbury Management Fellows (SMF).

The challenge, an annual event held in the last two weeks of March, is designed to offer engineering students the chance to acquire hands-on experience in developing a business concept. It also has an annual prize fund of £55,000, one of the largest such funds for a single UK university competition.

SMFs are exceptional engineering students who, under a scheme administered by the Royal Academy of Engineering, are offered the opportunity to study for an MBA at one of the world’s top business schools. Lord Sainsbury launched the scheme in 1987 to help change UK business culture.

The SMFs were called upon as mentors by over half of the 45 teams which entered, offering a mixture of real-life business advice focussing on how to market the products, highlighting key financial and operating risks, together with guidance on building an advisory board and attracting venture capital funding.

James Raby, SMF and team mentor, said, “The Challenge is tough, with really good and ambitious business ideas being tested and challenged hard by the panels. I was extremely impressed with the very high standard and determination of all of the participating teams. Innovation and entrepreneurship is absolutely alive and flourishing at Imperial and I hope that the advice that we were able to give will assist not just the finalists but all the teams and that they go on to turn their business plans into successful companies.”

The winner of the event was a group called Intervent, a company of four Industrial Design Engineering students who have designed a low cost suction device to clear accident victims’ airways. They received a £25,000 first prize and will now go on to produce the product and turn the concept into a reality.