£1m pot of gold for fairy-tale endings

March 16, 2001

A £1 million business plan competition, which aims to fast-track ideas from United Kingdom universities into high-tech companies, is inviting applications.

The competition, which is funded by a United States venture capital company and an internet incubator, is not for dotcoms, but for "serious science and technology enterprises" -along the lines of Zeus Technology, the global internet server company started by two Cambridge University computer science students.

A second contest will award £20,000 to the university deemed the "most innovative" in Britain. Launchit2001, which is funded by Cross Atlantic Partners, is the brainchild of technology and innovation writer Marcus Gibson. The only entry rule is that one member of the business must be from the staff or student body.

Mr Gibson is particularly keen that teams demonstrate collaboration between technology students and business students. Technology students often lack the business know-how that could be provided by other departments, he said.

James Milligan, senior associate at Cross Atlantic, said the venture capital firm wanted to develop closer links with the university sector:

"Zeus Technology was a fairy-tale, and we think there are a lot of those sort of latent assets around the country."

The business plan competition will focus on: enabling technologies, internet technology, enterprise software and e-communications. The strength of the management team, the commercial potential of the technology and business model and the value of the intellectual property will be among the judging criteria. Prizes of up to Pounds 500,000 will be awarded.

The competition for the most innovative university will be judged on criteria aimed at levelling the playing field between universities established in spinning off companies and those starting out. The strength of business links, the range of the university's innovation education and networking schemes and the value of the university's intellectual property portfolio will be considered.

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