Exeter Engineering Graduate is Finalist in National Business Innovation Competition

On 28 October 2019 engineering students, graduates and postgraduates will compete for a prestigious Engineers in Business Competition award and a share of a £10,000 prize pot. 

Ten teams from UK universities have been short-listed to pitch their business innovations at the Champion of Champions Grand Final at the Royal Academy of Engineering – the awards ceremony will be attended by Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the patron of the Engineers in Business Competition (EIBC).

Duncan Lyster, an Engineering Physicist from Exeter University, is aiming to make a huge splash in the surfing world with his invention of an environmentally friendly surfboard which is currently going through the process of being patented.

The Engineers in Business Competition inspires engineers to gain business skills through their university enterprise competitions. They then harness their combined engineering and business skills to create innovations that can change people’s lives and improve the lived environment.


Duncan won his university heat of the Engineers in Business Competition receiving £3,000 cash prize to assist with the development of Lyster Surfcraft. He then entered the Grand Final and won a place in the Champion of Champions Final, where he is up against other engineers with equally forward-thinking ideas. Will Duncan walk away with the Gold for bringing fresh thinking to surfing?

Commenting on traditional surf boards, Duncan said: “I’ve always been struck by the fact that despite being portrayed as leaders of environmental change almost all surfers ride short-lived plastic foam-based boards, that are almost impossible to dispose of responsibly. I set out to make a sustainable alternative, and I now have a board which is longer lasting, more beautiful, and much more environmentally friendly than anything on the market, over the next few years fewer plastic foam-based boards will be made, and the waste of the surfing industry will be reduced as a result of my innovation.”

The Dragons’ Den Style competition will see each pitch team present and answer questions from the judges who are:

  • Ana Avaliani, Head of Enterprise, Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Tim Chapman, Director, Arup - Infrastructure
  • Andrew Doe, a Sainsbury Management Fellow, a serial entrepreneur, a highly experienced e-commerce and digital leader and a non-exec director
  • Kate Beresford, Head of Membership and Operation, Enterprise Educators UK

The judges are looking for:

  • Originality and viability of the idea
  • How the idea helps to solve a real problem in society
  • The benefits to the target audience/customer

In addition to the Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards, there will be two other exciting prizes:

  • Lord Sainsbury Prize – Lord Sainsbury will award this prize to the team he believes has created a business idea that will have a big impact in society
  • People’s Prize – the winner of this prize will be determined by the number of public votes based on the finalists’ videos which can be viewed on this website

The Engineers in Business Competition supports and promotes the idea of a combined engineering and business education. In a world that is moving and developing so rapidly, these skills are vital in order to tackle challenging global problems and to make lasting positive changes to the way we live. Duncan is one of those talented engineers with business skills that are aiming to make a difference in the world.

Duncan believes that “Engineering and innovation are often linked, and in my experience engineering minds tend to be kept awake with new ideas. Often people don’t realise they could be the ones to turn their ideas into successful businesses, and education can give engineers the tools required to take the necessary steps.”

Commenting on participating in the competition Duncan said: “Through taking part in the competition I gained the confidence to talk openly about my business in front of people who haven’t heard of it, and confidently answer questions that challenge the fundamental ideas behind the project.”

For further information on Lyster Surfcraft, contact Althea Taylor-Salmon at