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Graduates from the University of Nottingham Make it to the Final of the Engineers in Business Innovation Competition

Thirty-seven-year-old Ebenezer Berko Owusu, an Advanced Materials graduate, and thirty-four-year-old Philemon Gyasi-Antwi, a Microbiology and Immunology PhD graduate, from the University of Nottingham have secured a place in the final of the Engineers in Business Champion of Champions innovation competition, which will be hosted by TV presenter Rob Bell at the Royal Academy of Engineering on 22 October 2021.

Ebenezer and Philemon are revolutionising composite boards as we know them, using solid waste (such as plastic bags, wood shavings and sawdust) to produce a low gas emission alternative, and will be pitching their innovation against nine other teams of student and graduate innovators in the national final. A total sum of £15,000 is up for grabs, providing vital seed money to help the winners develop their innovation. The winners will also receive mentoring from business leaders who are members of the Sainsbury Management Fellows network, plus CV packages from Purple CV and entrepreneurial books from Cambridge University Press.

The competition is sponsored by the registered charity, Engineers in Business Fellowship which champions business education for engineers and supports universities by giving them grants to award prizes to students who develop ground-breaking ideas. The grants enable universities to inspire more engineering and technology students and post-graduates to participate in innovation and entrepreneurship, skills that they take into their careers. The world is changing rapidly, and these skills are vital to tackle challenging global problems.


Eco Composite Boards - A Cheaper, Environmentally-Friendly Alternative for Every Trade!

Ebenezer’s and Philemon’s innovation will transform the production of composite boards. These eco alternatives are constructed from solid wastes using low gas emission techniques. Their processing method converts the wastes (eg plastics) into a powdery form without the gas emissions commonly associated with the approaches used by most plastic recyclers. It also renders the boards less flammable, more durable, relatively cheaper and eco-friendly to give customers like property owners and building, construction, cladding and joinery contractors value for money. 

It was the graduates’ first-hand experiences of the adverse effects of solid wastes that inspired their innovation: “Flooding and environmental pollution in our home country Ghana and other low/middle-income countries inspired our idea. Our innovation will help to reduce the quantity of plastic wastes that go into landfills and water.

The Engineers in Business competition is designed to inspire engineers to study business and innovation. Philemon said, “It was the business innovation skills that we learnt that helped us use our experiences and transform our idea into a sustainable and viable venture. Student and graduate engineers learning business innovation skills can use them just like we did to bring their brilliant ideas to market so they end up on the shelves of sustainable ventures and tackle societal issues like unemployment, security and environmental pollution.”

The Awards Presentation Ceremony – 22 October 2021

The live online dragons’ den style competition will be compered by TV presenter, Rob Bell. Competing against nine other teams, Ebenezer and Philemon will have six minutes to convince the judges, through their presentation and Q&A session, that they should be crowned a Champion of Champions and take home a cash prize of between £1,500 and £8,500 depending on the award or awards received! Amongst other criteria, the judges will be assessing the potentially positive impact of their composite boards on the environment.

The members of the judging panel are:

  • Dr Andy Phillipps, Entrepreneur and early-stage tech investor and venture capitalist
  • Ana Avaliani, Director of Enterprise and Sustainable Development, Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Dr Jeroen Bergmann, Associate Professor of Engineering Science, University of Oxford
  • Serge Taborin, Government Digital Transformation, Amazon Web Services

Ebenezer and Philemon will be competing for an Engineers in Business Champion of Champions title against nine other teams from Aberystwyth University, University of Aberdeen, University of Exeter, Imperial College London, Nottingham Trent University, University of Portsmouth, University of Birmingham, University of Sheffield and the University of York.

Commenting on the importance of reaching the Engineers in Business Champion of Champions Final Ebenezer and Philemon said, “The mentoring and coaching we’ll receive as finalists will help us transform our innovative idea into a viable venture. Additionally, the cash prize will enable us to secure some of the vital equipment needed to produce samples that meet required standards and obtain the appropriate license to start commercial production.”

Ebenezer and Philemon Gyasi-Antwi participated in their university's business innovation competition through Ingenuity Impact and won their first Engineers in Business prize in this programme. The Ingenuity Programme began in 2016 as a business plan competition for the student and graduate population of the Haydn Green Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HGI) and the wider University of Nottingham. In 2019, it expanded into the wider university community, working externally across the Midlands, Malaysia and China, and were joined by the first university partner, the University of Warwick. Today, the Ingenuity Programme works with 30 university partners across the UK and focuses solely on creating businesses with impact. It has supported some fantastic purpose-driven individuals and start-ups over the last five years and you can find out more about the alumni here. Ingenuity is committed to creating diverse networks across the UK, bringing expertise from industry and academia together with lived experience from local communities, in order to find solutions that deliver real change.

Important Links

Watch the Eco-Composite Boards video