CREATE, the University of Highlands and Islands’ (UHI) Centre for Enterprise and Innovation

University Logo  

The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Business Competition is a well-established and high-profile competition open to all students across 13 UHI sites. The competition reaches out through a broad regional marketing campaign to approximately 40,000 FE, HE and Postgraduate students and researchers based in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, with a strong focus on supporting students both at the application, shortlisting and post-competition stage. Although open to the wider community, the competition regularly attracts 70% of its entries from the UHI student population.

The aim of the competition is to inspire, encourage and support participants to develop enterprising and entrepreneurial behaviours and skills, as well as encourage them to consider their role in solving societal problems through innovation. It regularly attracts entries from a range of subject areas including engineering. UHI is keen to find initiatives that increase the numbers of engineers who participate and Engineers in Business helps to achieve this aim.
Winner: Best Engineering Award: Neil Pirritt, HNC Engineering Systems, Inverness College UHI - £600 Engineers in Business Prize (Neil is first on the left, holding his certificate)

Neil Pirritt (first on the left), who is studying HNC Engineering Systems at Inverness College UHI, came up with the idea, Bow Buddy, a free-standing, self-supported disabled bow-stand, which would allow people with a physical disability to enjoy the sport of archery. The stand would be mobile and height adjustable to accommodate wheelchairs. The idea came from a class project he led on.

"People with physical disabilities and impairments, deserve the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities and sports. I would be delighted if Bow Buddy opened up the world of archery, to those who have previously been excluded, due to their disability,” he said.

Neil runs his own landscape business before deciding to change his career path and study engineering.
Winner: Youth Entrepreneurship Award - Noah Stubbings (right), Performing Engineering Operations, Lews Castle College - £600 Engineers in Business Prize with the winner of another category of the competition

Noah's business idea is to re-use scrap metal to fabricate sculptures with the theme of the Outer Hebrides. He wants to create attractive and affordable art sculptures using recycled material for the garden or home.

Noah said, “I think it fills a niche in the market previously unexplored locally and will bring in a new type of revenue, as I will be sourcing material from scrap locally and exporting”
Winner: Best Researched Award - Charlotte Smith, Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair, Moray College UHI - £600 Engineers in Business Prize

Charlotte wants to set up her own business as a mobile mechanic in Moray, providing basic repair, servicing and pre-MOT checks at a location of the customer’s convenience. She would add value to the business by providing basic car maintenance classes (changing wheels/checking oil) for new drivers to give them confidence and knowledge when dealing with garages.

Charlotte said, "Over the past year, I’ve spoken to a lot of people, particularly women, who have had difficult encounters with garages and who would be keen to try a female mechanic,” she said. “The classes would empower car users when dealing with mechanics and their own car."
Winner: Most Enterprising Award, Kirsty Adam, Aero Mechanical Engineering, Strathclyde University - £600 Engineers in Business Prize (Kirsty is not featured in the photo)

Kirsty's idea, "Pick & Play", is for a box full of fun, which people holidaying in the Cairngorm National Park could hire. It would contain a range of toys and games. By hiring the box, families don’t need to buy items they might only use once a year on holiday. It also provides an alternative to expensive activities. It encourages families to get outside and the opportunity to try new activities, get competitive and discover hidden talents.
Winner: Best Culture and Environment Business, Colin Cannon (third from left), HNC Engineering Systems at Inverness College UHI - £600 Engineers in Business Prize and a Johnston Carmichael accountancy package)

Colin's business idea is for a food and drink walking tour in Inverness. It would include local history, inspiring views and folklore, as well as local produce. Colin loves travelling and learning about different cultures and believes his tour idea would fill a gap in the market, but also provide the kind of experience people are looking for when they visit Inverness.

Colin explained, “I’ve been to Venice, Italy, a few times and had my first experience of a food and wine tour there. I learned more in a few hours with a local guide about the food, wine, culture, history and social etiquette than I could imagine. Tourists are always on the lookout for something intimate and memorable.”

Positive Feedback

Entrepreneurs and start-up innovation is critical to economic growth and job creation. Universities and colleges have a significant role to play in encouraging innovation and creativity within young people and at Inverness College UHI we try to embed the importance of these skills in their thinking so they move on and achieve their full potential. It was wonderful to see such a range of exciting business ideas and I would like to personally wish every single finalist success in their future endeavours.

Professor Chris O’Neil, Principal of Inverness College UHI