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The UCL Awards for Enterprise – inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs with stories of the last

By news editor, on 25 May 2012

A startling and inspiring story marked UCL’s fifth Annual Awards for Enterprise – that of Professor Roger Ekins, who invented technology that enables a single drop of a newborn baby’s blood to be used to test for thousands of different substances and ensure that they begin life in the best possible health.

Yet the technology – now used in hospitals around the world and worth billions of dollars annually – started with research by one man, who was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the ceremony in recognition of his accomplishments.

It summed up the mood at the Awards – this year, with an appropriately chosen Olympic theme – of a feeling that a vision, with nurturance and support, can become a success that defies expectations.

Some visions for the enterprises awarded were very inspiring and exciting – especially Art Stavenka’s eye-catching bikes that can display 3D animations, ads and cartoons on the wheels.

A demonstration at the reception afterwards quickly grabbed the assembled guests’ attention, having already achieved that of the judges – resulting in an Award of £7,500 in funds to kick-start his business, Old Bond Ltd.

Art was just one of nearly a dozen students and recent graduates who received Bright Ideas Awards, which provide promising businesses with the funds to take their businesses to the next level. Judging from the enthusiasm in the Bloomsbury theatre last Thursday evening, UCL could potentially have the next generation of Mark Zuckerbergs on its hands.

What really struck me, aside from the fact that these students and graduates are taking a great – if exciting – personal and professional risk in setting up their own businesses, was just how big a difference support from UCL has made to their futures.

Trophies and promises of funding were important, yes, but it seemed that a vote of confidence was the most important thing, both from the team at UCL Advances – UCL’s centre for entrepreneurship – and from the family and friends visibly bursting with pride at seeing their loved ones accept their awards.

It wasn’t all an evening for students and graduates, though. Along with Professor Ekins, many other academic staff from a range of disciplines were honoured for the contributing to furthering enterprise at UCL.

It was great to see so many research staff seeing the potential of their work outside the lab, and working with companies large and small – or indeed, starting their own – so that it reaches the wider world.

Professor David Selwood, for example, was honoured for his work in discovering new drugs to treat multiple sclerosis, while Professor Philip Treleaven scooped the Provost’s Spirit of Enterprise Award for establishing the first undergraduate entrepreneurialism course at UCL.

It all added up to a very impressive picture of how much enterprise is part of everything UCL does, and how much the staff at UCL Advances are able to convince students that becoming an entrepreneur is a viable and rewarding career path.

The evening left me in no doubt that much of the success of the university in doing so is down to the seemingly inexhaustible energy and enthusiasm of Timothy Barnes, the Director of UCL Advances and Master of Ceremonies for the occasion, who’s missionary-like zeal carried the evening along on a wave of optimism that next year’s awards will be bigger, better and offer a tantalising list of ‘ones-to-watch’ in years to come.

Henry Rummins, UCL’s Media Relations Manager (Enterprise), attended the Awards ceremony on May 17th 2012.

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