Entries for the UK’s top University-led student start-up competition, Venture Further, reached new highs this year with over 100 applications submitted by the early March deadline.
Students and recent alumni from across The University of Manchester were invited to apply to win a slice of a £75,000 prize fund to turn their innovative business ideas into reality. Ideas ranged from products to tackle hot topics such as fast-fashion and water pollution, to services concerning more niche areas like 3D printing and robotics. The initial shortlisting of 4 finalists across each of the 5 categories – Business, Creative, Environmental, Social, and Technology - was carried out in March and the budding-entrepreneurs were notified that they had reached the finals.
In a bid to show that they have a viable business start-up with a credible implementation plan, finalists are required to pitch their idea in 10 minutes to a panel of judges consisting of senior staff from The University of Manchester, distinguished alumni, competition sponsors and a selection of industry experts.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the planned final round of pitching has been rearranged to take place virtually. The 20 finalists have been informed and are being supported to prepare a 10-minute video presentation that will be viewed online by the judging panel.
Ellie Buckley, Enterprise Business Development Executive who manages the competition commented: “This global pandemic has affected many planned activities across the University and Venture Further has been no different in facing these sudden challenges. We’ve had to make significant changes to the competition, including using video pitches instead of live pitching and postponing the awards dinner; the show, however, must go on. In the face of adversity, we’ve been working hard to ensure all our finalists are well supported throughout the new process and it’s involved a lot of video calls.”
She added: “It’s never been more important to ensure that this process is as fair and transparent as in previous years, so we’re still involving external judges to scrutinise the finalists’ business plans and come to a decision on the winners. We’ve given judges strict guidance on how to judge the videos and we’ve been in constant contact with all involved to share updates and feedback.
“Whilst it isn’t what we initially planned for the finalists, we’re excited to see who the final winners will be. Regardless, all our finalists have worked incredibly hard in the face of real misfortune and I’d like to say a personal thank you to all the finalists and judges who have been so flexible in light of these changes.”
Winners and runners-up will be announced in late May, with the annual celebratory event taking place later in the year.