A household concept of opening doors with just a button; a wireless button that can be programmed to perform any computer keyboard command, a set of table legs that can be applied to any flat surface to make a table, and wireless turning indicators for bicycles, mobility scooters and pedal-powered rickshaws to improve the relationship with road users are the winners and runners-up in the Engineers in Business category of Bright Ideas – a Dragons Den-style competition run by Kingston University.
This year, 650 participants applied and 120 students were selected to go forward to the grand final including the competitors for the Engineers in Business prize. Forty-three judges and business experts heard a wide variety of creative pitches from students as they competed for up to £1,000 each to help them turn their innovative concepts into a business reality.
The Engineers in Business prizes, sponsored by Sainsbury Management Fellows, included a prize of £1,000 towards developing an idea as well as additional training, networking and prototyping for the winner, with runners-up receiving £250.
Engineers in Business First Prize Winners
The Future is an Open Door
Bettina Gardasz, a second year BSc Business Management, presented the Future is an open door – a unique idea for opening doors with only one button, a concept aimed at people with disabilities.
During her research, Bettina learned that there are over 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK and this number is rising every year.Wheelchair users face great challenges with mobility within their homes because the widths of wheelchairs tend to be wider than standard doorways. Because of this, people have to make adaptations to their homes to facilitate a wider passage. As a result, many households do not have physical interior doors. It is difficult for a disabled person to open and close a standard manual door. The lack of privacy can be emotionally daunting, especially if more than one person lives in the same property.
Bettina’s solution to this problem is a sliding interior electronic door and can be operated with only a button (sketch 1). The sliding door would be installed with special mechanics which can be easily controlled remotely. The door would automatically open and close with one click.
There are a few remote control concepts (see sketch 2) that would help users to easily operate doors. A simple remote control, a bracelet remote control, a device which can be embedded into the wheelchair and a wall mounted button similar to a light switch. In addition, the door could also be equipped with a motion sensor for much easier entry.
Bettina takes up her story, “During the competition, I received valuable feedback from the mentors and the judges. I learnt how to clearly identify the main beneficiaries of the product and develop my business model using the Business Model Canvas.
“The judges suggested building a prototype of the product. I would like to build my team with dedicated, bright people and find professionals who can help me with this project. My mentors also advised me to build a brand and image which represents the business and its value proposition. I will be working on both these recommendations over the next few months.
“My aim is to commercialise the sliding door, as I strongly believe that it would help thousands of people with disabilities that are challenged by building structures on a daily basis. Although the start-up costs for these kinds of projects can be high, I am looking for opportunities which will help me fund my business idea and turn it into a real enterprise. I believe in corporate social responsibility and I see it as a great opportunity for my business to put this into practice. I believe that the “Future is an open door” and we can all enter in with a little faith and courage!”
The StiKEY Solution
Another first prize winner was the StiKEY team. Aerospace engineering students Gabriel Dransfield, Sam Eady, James Richardson and Joe Doyle created StiKEY – a small wireless button that can be programmed to perform any computer keyboard command and can stick to any surface. Gabriel, a third-year aerospace engineering, astronautics and space technology student, explained how the whole experience of Bright Ideas has improved their entrepreneurial skills and understanding of business.
“I had the idea for StiKEY when I realised how inconvenient it was to pause Netflix,” he said. “The University, through its Enterprise team, has offered us great opportunities to refine presentation techniques, improve our understanding of business planning and network with successful entrepreneurs to gain further contacts and guidance.
“We would like to use the prize to develop our business plan further and continue using the expert knowledge that Enterprise provides us with to move forward and get the business off the ground.”
The Bright Ideas Runners-up of the Engineering in Business Prize:
Enterprising Kingston University
Kingston University applied to run the Engineers in Business Competition in 2017, allowing the Enterprise Education team to broaden the Bright Ideas competition and devote prizes to engineering students and engineer-led ideas.
Head of Enterprise Education at Kingston University Dr Martha Mador, “Our students never fail to exceed expectations with their entrepreneurial spirit and desire to create and innovate.
“Everybody who entered this year should be really proud of their efforts and we hope they will continue to develop their ideas and dreams and see where it can take them. Here at Kingston University, we support all our students who want to create or develop a business model around an idea through mentoring, coaching, and creating networking and funding opportunities. Bright Ideas is a fantastic competition that incorporates all of these aspects of our work.”
Engineers in Business – Open to Universities and Further Education Institutions.
The Engineers in Business competition was created to increase the level of participation in business courses and business competitions by engineering undergraduates and graduates, giving them the opportunity gain more commercial education.
The Engineers in Business competition focuses on business innovation and works with universities and FE institutions that have existing competitions or elective modules for engineering students. The competition offers each HEI/FEI a £3,000 prize fund, mentoring and promotional support. Visit this page for further information on Engineers in Business.
SMF would like to thank Kingston University for original text featured in this article.