Tag Archives: business innovation

Personalised, Digitally-enhanced Student Experiences at Imperial College Business School

Joёl McConnell, Executive Director of Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions at Imperial College Business School explains how they are enhancing student learning
Joёl McConnell, Executive Director, Imperial College Business School

Engineers in Business Fellowship has been awarding Sainsbury Management Fellows MBA scholarships to talented engineers with leadership potential for more than 35 years.  Our awardees attend the top international business schools in the world where they acquire a first-class business education.  Fourteen business schools are partners of the Sainsbury Management Fellows (SMF) scholarship scheme and we are delighted to be starting a series of articles contributed by these schools.  We are commencing with Imperial College Business School in London, the most recent to join the SMF scheme.  Joel McConnell, Executive Director at Imperial explains how the school is using digital technology to enhance student experiences.

What an unusual year it has been for students, staff and faculty at Imperial College Business School! Resilience has been key, but Imperial College Business School has made important investments under the broader context of COVID-19 that will benefit MBA students for years to come, and particularly in the area of digitally-enhanced student experiences that align with the broader benefit of studying at the business school of leading STEM-focused university, based here, in London.

Imperial College Business School aims to be at the forefront of personalised, digitally-enhanced student experiences
Today Imperial College Business School is firmly focused on the broader disruption happening in the graduate management education (GME) landscape and the various sectors where our graduates go on to work after they complete their degree with us.  We know that recruiters are demanding new and different leadership skills, which has only been accelerated by a change in processes and how people and organisations interact – especially under the extreme circumstances of a global pandemic.  Finally, we aim to amplify the student transformation and leadership journey as well as capitalise on digital innovations led by the Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions teams, our Careers and Student Life teams, and our award-winning Educational Technology (EdTech) teams as well.

Imperial College: An End-to-End Candidate Experience from Day One
The Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions (MRA) teams at Imperial College Business School provide an integrated candidate experience, from the moment a potential applicant registers their interest with the school, right through to when they step into our classrooms. Once a candidate has decided they want to study on one of the school’s programmes, they will have a highly interactive experience as they work to complete their application, the admissions process, and then enrol with us as well.  Under the pandemic, the MRA teams have made big investments in marketing automation platforms and CRM systems, with leading technology partners, that allow the teams to provide more personalised support, and we’re actively piloting new tools that will allow these teams to have the most effective technology stack in place so that candidates can complete their onboarding process as seamlessly as possible. 

A Full Support Package to Complement MBA Programme Delivery
For those candidates who obtain an offer to study the MBA programme at Imperial College Business School, joining the programme is just the first step.  This past year our Careers and Student Life teams have focused increasingly on integrating Digital and smart tools, virtual experiences, and technology that directly supports candidates as they prepare to return to the workplace upon graduation. We now make LinkedIn Learning available to all MBA students, so our students can top up their programme content with additional training in more technological skills such as C++ or Python for example.  Another great example is how we work with a company that leverages AI and Machine Learning to help candidates evaluate how their career profile matches their target job characteristics, and understand the strengths and weaknesses of their profile, and then we complement this tool with 1-1 appointments with dedicated career consultants to ensure our MBA students develop an action plan to reinforcing their profile and better meet their expected career outcomes.

EdTech and Learning Analytics for Optimal Student Outcomes and Programme Delivery
Imperial College Business School is working to better understand how MBA students are learning, and how the institution can make continued, neuroscience-based investments in the most impactful EdTech possible, which will help the programme delivery teams deliver optimal outcomes for our students. Under COVID-19, our EdTech teams have led key investment programmes that have seen our lecture theatres become more interactive, in a way that has allowed for the delivery of the MBA programme in multi-modal format – something that has been crucial to manage the uncertain environment this past year, but that will also allow for a more dynamic student experience in the future, that allows students to pursue multiple interests at once.  Finally, the EdTech Lab at Imperial College Business School works closely with our parent university infrastructure dedicated to instructional design and delivery, and other areas of the college such as the Department of Mathematics on a pilot project related to unsupervised machine learning to learning data.  Imperial College takes a research-based approach to EdTech, and MBA students benefit directly from this.

The Sainsbury Management Fellows Opportunity
Imperial College Business School is one of the newest partners to the Sainsbury Management Fellows programme, which is managed by the Engineers in Business Fellowship (EIBF).  As the business school of Imperial College London – a leading STEM university in the UK and top-ranked internationally as well, we actively welcome engineering graduates who wish to complement their previous studies and professional experience with an MBA from Imperial.  The fellowship is a unique opportunity as graduates not only become part of a national network aimed at connecting top engineers in the United Kingdom – which includes career and entrepreneur mentoring, but by completing the MBA degree at Imperial College Business School, you also become part of the business school’s alumni network of some 19,500 professionals, but also of the broader university that has 200,000 graduates located in some 190 countries. So, if you think you might qualify for a Sainsbury Management Fellowship, don’t wait, and apply for one of the fellowships, and the MBA degree at Imperial College Business School. 

Joël McConnell leads the Programme Marketing, Student Recruitment, Admissions as well as CRM, Data, and Insights teams at Imperial College Business School.  A graduate of the MBA and several other postgraduate degrees and certifications from leading business schools such as Saïd Business School (University of Oxford), IE Business School, IMD, and the Booth School of Business (University of Chicago), today Joël is also actively engaged in cross-college initiatives related to technology programmes and equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).  He has also been an active participant and leader in IEEE events and activities across Europe as well.

The SMF MBA Scholarship
If you are a professional engineer considering an MBA as a stepping-stone towards a business leadership career, visit our MBA scholarship application page, you could be awarded a £50,000 scholarship. 

Coping through COVID: Less Obvious Strategies for Growth Businesses to Survive the Pandemic – SMF Chirag Shah, Executive Chairman, Simfoni

To say the COVID-19 pandemic has been a test for businesses would be an understatement. Throughout the course of the past 12 months, businesses have been forced to make serious adjustments to their day-to-day operations.  Digital-savvy companies might have found this easier than most, but even those at the cutting edge will have found themselves scrambling to re-assess their expectations just to stay in business. There will no doubt be start-ups out there that have actually benefited from the crisis, but for every success story there will be countless start-ups and young businesses still struggling to adapt to the so-called ‘new normal’ in which we find ourselves.

However, despite all of the uncertainty, there are several things that young, innovative businesses can do to increase their resilience and weather the COVID storm.  Some of these ‘coping’ strategies are fairly obvious, such as securing financial support packages such as bounce back loans, future funds and innovation grants. Staffing policies such as hiring freezes and the furloughing of surplus staff will also have been a necessary measure taken by many businesses. Some may have even introduced pay cuts which, so long as they’re top-down and impact managers as much as – if not more than – those lower down the ranks, is a sensible but hopefully temporary move. The last tool in the arsenal of most young businesses will be the slashing of overheads to reduce costs – the elephant in the room during the pandemic being unused office space which can save significantly in rental fees.

Less obvious strategies for ensuring growth
The above techniques are  a good start, but what about less obvious strategies for navigating through the pandemic?  Faced with a downturn in business, the above ideas may not be sufficient to ensure business survival. And many business leaders won’t just be looking to survive but continue their growth throughout the crisis.  Forward looking business leaders should be looking at adopting a combination of light-handed and more aggressive tactics, in the right place and at the right time, to ensure their survival. These tactics fall into two categories – cost and revenue – which we look at in more detail below.

Tactics to ensure revenue growth
Revenue is like oxygen for businesses. Go too long without it, and your business will become weak and eventually fade away. Your first move as a business owner during a time of crisis should therefore be securing revenue and cashflow.  Start by removing all friction, making it easier for your customers and clients to engage with you however they wish.  For example, remove upfront fees or setup fees where possible to simplify customer acquisition, and curtail long-term commitments that might delay sign-off. Remember that your customers are most likely in the same boat you are and looking to make cost reductions, so treat them with care and double down on customer service offering whatever help you can to make their lives easier and make your services indispensable.  Finally, while trying to get money into the business might be your number one objective, the best way of achieving this might be to offer some flexibility to your customers – far better to wait for a late payment than lose the business altogether.

There are things outside of the day to day that could help businesses maintain or build revenue too. Consider diversifying your business and embracing new channels for marketing and distribution. Offer a unique service that responds directly to the events of the pandemic, such as additional customer support. Your messaging should also adapt to fit this new narrative, reminding customers and prospects that you’re very much open for business and willing to help and flex to help keep them on track too.

Tactics to effectively reduce costs
Top line revenue isn’t the only factor when it comes to business sustainability.  Businesses that don’t keep a close eye on their expenses and take advantage of every possible reduction are both increasing their viability risk as well as limiting their potential to re-invest in growth. Your first course of action should be to start the clock on all notice periods for any suppliers or facilities irrespective of whether you know you’re going to need the service or not during the pandemic period. These contracts can have 3-6 months’ notice periods, so starting the clock should be number one on your list of priorities.   Of course, if things shift positively and you want to re-engage these firms, it only takes a minute to reverse the decision.

For any suppliers or facilities that you know you’re going to need, take the opportunity to renegotiate terms, particularly if the contract period is nearly up.  Remember, commercial landlords and countless suppliers are going to be worried about their revenue too and will want to gain some security about your future business.  For instance, if you know you’re going to be using a particular service in the long term, offer a contract extension in lieu of a reduction in current pricing. Far better for a service provider to keep you at a reduced rate than to try and attract a new customer in the current economic environment.

Staffing is another area where cost reductions can be made. It’s never easy, but with the changing work environment and rapid fluctuations in customer demand for services, you may find that you have to let some non-core staff go. The job market has also been flooded with candidates, particularly those with digital skills so if you are hiring staffyou may be able to enlist the help of interns and remote workers at a reduced rate.

Risk management
As well as controlling revenue and costs, now is a very pertinent time for businesses to review their risk management strategy. With the working landscaping changing so rapidly, businesses are vulnerable to all manner of threats, from cyberattacks and supply-chain disruption, to force majeure clauses or flaky contracts that could leave your business exposed.  Carry out thorough risk assessments and learn your business’ vulnerabilities inside out so you can start building toward a stronger, more resilient future.

With vaccines now being rolled out at a rapid rate, the COVID-19 pandemic will hopefully soon be behind us.  By taking some of the steps outlined above, businesses can not only ensure their survival throughout the crisis but build for a more profitable future.  One thing’s for sure, businesses that make it through the pandemic will be stronger and wiser as a result – make sure you’re one of them.

Chirag is the Founder and Chairman of Simfoni a leader in spend management. The global company has offices in USA, Europe, Australia and Middle East. Its AI-powered intelligence solution and on-demand platform empowers procurement and finance teams to achieve rapid savings and support supply-chain sustainability with automated procurement.

Do you need an MBA to be an Entrepreneur?

Do I need an MBA to be an entrepreneur

By EIBF President, David Falzani MBE

Since the MBA first materialised more than a century ago it’s been intrinsically linked to business career success.  After all, the programme is designed to prepare professionals for senior management positions within business, so it’s little wonder that many of those with MBAs have gone on to have wonderful business careers. You would therefore be forgiven for thinking that an MBA would be an invaluable – and even necessary – tool for launching your own business.  However, the answer to the questions ‘do you need an MBA to be an entrepreneur’ is a little more nuanced than you might initially think.

In today’s fast-paced digital business landscape, starting a business is easier than it’s ever been.  Start-ups are everywhere, and guess what? The vast majority are not led by people with MBAs.  Most people with that entrepreneurial fire tend to ‘learn by doing’, usually picking up useful advice from mentors and role models along the way.  Depending on their type of business, some of them may even enrol in educational accelerator programmes such as the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub which is aimed at engineers.  If these entrepreneurs do take on an MBA, it’s usually after they’ve completed their first foray into the world of business. That’s not to say an MBA can’t be hugely advantageous, but it certainly isn’t a requirement.

When MBAs were first established, they were not really geared toward entrepreneurship. They were, and still are, a primer for business. They were designed to whet the appetites of candidates and equip them with the basic tools and knowledge needed to go on and thrive in their business careers, in whatever role they chose. However, like business itself, the MBA is always evolving. The past 15 years in particular have seen the MBA change considerably, now offering lots of entrepreneurial options that could easily set somebody on the path to launch their own enterprise.

Twenty years ago when I did my MBA, which spanned Europe and the USA, things looked quite different.  The European portion of my MBA had no exposure to entrepreneurship as a subject at all, whereas the USA portion not only recognised entrepreneurship, but dedicated a separate branch of teaching to it that covered specialised techniques and approaches to business.  Of course, things have changed today.  So, if you are considering an MBA and have that entrepreneurial fire within you, know that there are MBAs out there that will fully support it and arrange their teaching around it.  In fact, most MBAs will have a leaning one way or another depending on the schools that are providing them, and the electives that are available – that’s why it’s crucial to pick the right course at the right institution, and entrepreneurship is no exception.

While it probably doesn’t hurt to have an MBA, with the wealth of knowledge it brings, don’t let the fact that you don’t have one (or don’t have the time/resources to get one) hold you back. There are countless ways to quench that entrepreneurial thirst, from entrepreneurship programmes at universities to local business groups that let you liaise with successful business leaders.  An MBA is a valuable asset, but it’s far more focused on the bigger picture.  You might even find that you learn more from an MBA once you’ve tried your hands at business. Whether you win or lose, the experience alone will be enough to prepare you for an MBA, in the same way we recommend a few years in industry first for those thinking about an MBA as part of their career development.

An MBA is a fantastic educational experience that can provide a great career boost, but if your sole objective is to start your own business there’s probably a better route you can take in 2020.  For example, I’m a trainer on the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business UK programme that runs out of Oxford University.  Each year it attracts 140 brilliant small business CEOs and very few of them have MBAs.  What they do have, however, is a huge amount of support and business advice from mentor figures and people taking part in the programme.  Similarly, there are many regional programmes specifically for start-ups, often run by local universities or business schools.

For example, at the University of Nottingham, where I’m a professor, we have a start-up Lab for new businesses, and more than 50 entrepreneurs in residence who are available to mentor, support and run workshops for young aspiring business leaders. While higher education qualifications are still very much valued, there seems to be an increasing appetite in entrepreneurial circles for raw, ‘learn by doing’ experience and the kind of knowledge that can really only be passed down from one successful business person to the next.

With this in mind, it’s safe to say that an MBA is most certainly not a requirement if you’re looking to start up your own business. By all means view it as an option, but know that there’s a wealth of support, advice and mentorship out there that could get you to where you need to be far more effectively and faster than an MBA.

If and when the time is right for you to do an MBA and you are a professional engineer considering an MBA, you can apply for a scholarship towards your study. Visit our MBA scholarship application page to learn about our £500,000 annual Sainsbury Management Fellows scholarships.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

A Decade of Achievements for EIBF

As we say goodbye to 2019 and welcome a new decade, we reflect on some of our milestones.  We would like to thank our Patron, Lord Sainsbury of Turville and his Gatsby Charitable Foundation, our Sainsbury Management Fellows, partners and associates, who have helped us achieve so much in the last 10 years.

2009/10: Published Re-engineering the Board to Manage Risk and Maximise Growth, promoting multi-skilled engineers as business leaders.

2011: The Sainsbury Management Fellowship becomes incorporated and a company limited by guarantee.  The legal name becomes Engineers in Business Fellowship.

2012: Engineers in Business Fellowship becomes a registered charity.

2013: Executive Fundraising Committee is formed and plans to raise an initial target of  £5 million.

2014: Launch of Engineers in Business Competition Prize Fund for university enterprise education.

2015:  Published Engineering New Horizons, promoting the exciting careers of 25  Sainsbury Management Fellows.

2016: EIBF and the Royal Academy of Engineering launch promotions to increase the diversity of SMF applicants.

2017: EIBF President David Falzani receives the MBE for services to the engineering industry.

2017: SMF Fundraising campaign raises £2.1m to help sustain the MBA scholarship scheme.

2017: SMFs’ 30 Years Anniversary commemorated with the launch of Mentor30Engineers university competition.

 2018: Our MBA scholarship is raised from £30,000 to £50,000 and applications extended to computer sciences and tech engineers.

2018:  Engineers in Business Competition expands support for university enterprise education from four to 32 universities – £135,000 awarded already, with a £700,000 pot available.

2019: EIBF President David Falzani MBE appointed Professor of Practice in Sustainable Wealth Creation at the University Nottingham.

2019: Our Hard Hat Index reveals a dramatic 37% fall in the publication of hard hats in the engineering media.

2019: Over £9 million in Sainsbury Management Fellows MBA scholarships awarded to talented young engineers to study at the top international business schools

 2019: Our first Engineers in Business Champion of Champions Grand final sees 10 university teams compete for £10,000 in prizes with innovations in surfing, prosthetics for children, medical cell counting services and personal safety devices coming out on top.

It’s been a very fruitful and rewarding 10 years –  here’s to the next 10 years!

If you have any questions about Sainsbury Management Fellows scholarship, please get in touch.

 

Engineers in Business Prize for Imperial College London’s Pioneering Women

B

Engineers in Business Fellowship recently became a proud supporter of We Innovate, a women’s entrepreneurship programme run by Imperial Enterprise Lab which inspires and accelerates the progress of women entrepreneurs.  At the final held during Enterprise Month 2019, five finalists battled it out to win a share of a £30,000 prize pot, sponsored by BP.

For the first time, the Imperial Enterprise Lab incorporated an Engineers in Business Prize of £3,000 into We Innovate, enabling it to make additional awards.  Two prizes, funded by Engineers in Business Fellowship, were awarded to outstanding engineering projects from the WE Innovate cohort.

Sophie Paisley-Marshall (PhD Student Sustainable Civil Engineering) of Orbit Materials received £1,500 prize for the development of carbon-negative construction materials from waste residues. Orbit Materials promotes a circular economy through the development of a treatment which successfully improves the quality of a waste product so that it can be repurposed within construction applications.  Sophie said, “Our technology reduces the strain on virgin raw materials whilst capturing carbon, thus making our residues carbon negative.”

The second £1,500 prize was awarded to semi-finalist Lauren Dowling (Undergraduate Design Engineering) of Rock N Roll which is developing a collapsible log-fence to prevent rotational falls in equestrian cross-country competitions.

Professor Maggie Dallman, Vice President (International) and Associate Provost (Academic Partnerships), said: “The lack of gender equality in the startup world is well documented. In the UK, only 1% of venture capital invested goes to all women-founded teams, with 89% going to teams founded entirely by men. Clearly, we still have a big problem.

“Since 2014, WE Innovate has supported more than 250 women, equipping them with the skills and confidence they need to develop into successful entrepreneurs. It is wonderful to see this community of female student entrepreneurs grow and the fantastically diverse nature of their inventions.”

SMF James Diaz-Sokoloff, Portfolio Advisor (Intern) at BP who is pictured with Sophie and Lauren said: “It’s exciting to see the dynamism and creativity of the We Innovate competitors and it was a privilege to be at the final.  We are delighted to be part of We Innovate which is doing such an important job in encouraging women’s role in innovation.”

You can learn more about the Engineers in Business prize fund for university enterprise competitions here.

£70,000 Awarded to Universities for Enterprise Competitions  

Engineers in Business Fellowship (EIBF) inspires engineering students, graduates and postgraduates to engage with their entrepreneurial instincts.

EIBF works with universities that run enterprise competitions, providing them with a £3,000 prize fund so that they can encourage more engineers to participate in their business competitions and to reward those who develop the most imaginative and viable solutions to real problems.

The EIB prize fund was successfully piloted at the University of Nottingham and then rolled out to the University of Bristol, Kingston University and City, University of London with great success.  These early successes led to Lord Sainsbury’s charitable trust, The Gatsby Foundation, granting Engineers in Business Fellowship £700,000 to fund more HEI/FEI  competitions over a three-year period.

The expanded prize fund got off to a flying start with 23 universities awarded a £3,000 prize fund – more than £70,000 awarded and there is more to come.

“The expansion from four to 23 universities integrating EIB prizes within their enterprise competitions shows the appetite for the fund and its value to the universities.  In 2019, we want to award a further 25 universities and FE colleges a share of  £75,000,” said EIBF President, David Falzani MBE.

Paula Gouldthorpe, Entrepreneurship Manager at the University of Hull which recently received a prize fund said: “Our Global Challenge is a module dedicated to all our 2nd year engineering students. This year, 300 students, creating 50 interdisciplinary groups of engineers, will solve current real-world problems.  The Engineers in Business competition prize crucially helps highlight the importance of enterprise, entrepreneurial thinking and business acumen of our future engineers – encouraging them to look beyond their technical capabilities.  The prize fund provides students with the additional inspiration; for the University it builds upon the careers and entrepreneurship links with our Science and Engineering Faculty and I am hopeful too of some fresh, innovative solutions for social, economic and environmental change.”

Kate Beresford, Head of Membership and Operation, Enterprise Educators UK commented on the EIBF funding: “Our member universities find enterprise competitions to be a really effective way to inspire students, graduate and postgraduates to consider enterprise and entrepreneurship. But funding can be a massive challenge, so we welcome the Engineers in Business Prize Fund and look forward to seeing a wealth of innovative engineering solutions come forward.”

A TASTE OF ENGINEERING INNOVATION 

The Engineers in Business Prize Fund has already generated fascinating ideas from teams that comprise engineering students, graduates and postgraduates and here are just two:

Lancaster University – The ‘Quench Spike Free Cup’: The top team in Lancaster University’s competition created the ‘Quench Spike Free Cup’ which is designed to alert the owner if their drink has been spiked or tampered with. The plastic cup uses coloured detection strips within plastic cups to warn of this. As first prize winner the team received £1,750 and a business mentor from the Sainsbury Management Fellowship to support them as they move forward to develop the product and test prototypes.   

The remainder of Lancaster University’s £3,000 prize fund went to 2nd prize winner Buddyup; a sports app that would allow users to find sports companions at similar levels of skills and 3rd prize winner Tech Test, a  service where users can test new technology over short trial periods before committing to buy their own devices.

City, University of London: E-Mobility Bike: First prize went to a hybrid sharing bicycle system, called E-Mobility Bike, a lightweight half manual and half electric bicycle designed to make city travel easier, healthier and more accessible. Unicorn Electrics, the team behind it, has already secured pilot locations to trial the system and have used the EIB cash prize to perfect their product.

The incentive of the EIB prize fund has enabled City, University of London to increase the level of participation by engineers in its competition by 114%.

Alex Elkins, Head of Entrepreneurship at the university said: The launch of our EIB competition resulted in an impressive jump in the quality and number of business ideas entered by our engineering students. The EIB support has been instrumental in launching this dedicated award within our broader innovation competition. We are very happy to have had the opportunity to establish this partnership!”

For details on how to apply for an Engineers in Business Prize Fund visit our competitions page or contact us at EngineersinBusiness@smf.org.uk.

 

 

Government Regulation and Today’s Tech Giants: How Far Should They Go?

There have been several points in our recent history whereby a new innovation or technology has come hurtling towards us, but debate and regulation on these advances don’t come to fruition until they are engrained into our daily lives. One of the best examples of this is the motor car. By the turn of the 20th century, owning your own motor car, although a reserve of the wealthy, was not especially uncommon. It wasn’t until nearly two decades later that the first road sign came along and that serious conversations were being had about safety, necessity and regulation.

Technology is inside our lives. We depend on digital technology in virtually every arena of life, whether it be shopping, doing our jobs, navigation, entertainment, communication… technology plays a huge part. This puts a lot of power in the hands of those who own and develop the technology that is now so integral to our modern existence. Of course, regulation and debate have been part of this landscape for quite some time, so long in fact that we, the public, and the lawmakers, government organisations, are starting to fatigue.  Technology has been moving so fast for so long, and the regulatory bodies have been trying to catch up before the next advance, that tech firms are, arguably, starting to break away.

Laws and regulation are key to the way society works and the tech giants that now hold so much power should be held within some kind of regulatory structure, but to what extent? How important is it to strap laws on to our technology? Should these big technology innovators be allowed to have the power that they currently seem to wield? Will over regulation stunt innovation and development? It’s a big subject, with many sides to it and many strong arguments to back them up. However, let us explore just a few of the ideas surrounding this, to help inform the arguments around this important global discussion.

GDPR and Trust
One of the largest, if not the largest concern around modern digital technology hinges around trust. Can we trust the internet and the people who hold the keys? The fear that many people have really stems from the fact that large companies are not generally perceived as entirely trustworthy. This is not surprising, as although technology is generally developed to improve our lives, the main aim of a company is to make profit.

Personal data was being mistreated in many cases, which led to the introduction of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in 2017. The main purpose of this was to, essentially, put some control back into the hands of consumers, and less so the tech companies. This legislation has been effective in making companies treat personal data more carefully, and in increasing transparency about how they use information. This accountability seems to be beneficial to all on the whole, but has it stunted innovation and company growth significantly?

Tech Company Power and Necessary Privacy Violation
This issue is littered with grey areas. Of course, we should be the owners of our own personal data and should have power over where that information goes and who uses it. However, let’s take an incident from 2016; the FBI approached Apple in 2016 to attempt to unlock a convicted terrorist’s phone. This phone had been programmed to delete all data after ten failed password attempts. Apple refused to comply due to company policy. Who was in the right in this case? Well, there are, again, strong arguments on both sides. The issue here is that neither the FBI nor Apple were legally in the wrong; which tells us that the power of tech giants is very real and not to be underestimated.

Limiting Growth
The problem that many technology companies have with regulation, and indeed the potential for ‘over-regulation’ is that it has the ability to significantly stunt growth and innovation, or even halt it altogether. The thought is that, with the altercations and debates currently flaring up between the government, the public and the companies themselves around many legal, ethical and restriction issues, overly compensatory legislation will be passed. That is, in order to ‘get ahead’ of the rapid advances happening in the industry, unnecessarily drastic and stringent laws may be passed in order to give the government time to catch up. This may help to redress the power balance, but it might also prevent new ideas and developments from breaking through.  

Intellectual Property
The once distant idea of artificial intelligence (AI) is now very much a reality. With self-learning tech and AI being a large part of our global technology platforms, the lines between who owns what are becoming increasingly blurred. This not only has potential pitfalls when it comes to legal issues but also the ability for technology to learn, independent of human input, which could lead to the acquisition of personal data on a huge scale. This may be a place where strong legislation is vital.

The essential question with all of this is: ‘is our technology safe and fair?’ This, through lawmaking and legislation, has always been the government’s aim with new, culture-shifting technology. However, the speed at which technology now advances makes this pursuit very tricky indeed. Yes, rules and regulations should be present, but to what extent? Do the cons of the current technological power balance between businesses and governing bodies outweigh the pros?

What do you think?

Concept for Lower Cost Bionic Arms Wins Edinburgh University’s Engineers in Business Prize

The LAUNCH.ed Team at Edinburgh Innovations, University of Edinburgh, launched its first dedicated Business Ideas Competition for engineering students to inspire them to develop business innovations, with cash prizes provided by Engineers in Business Fellowship.  The Engineers in Business Prize was created to encourage more engineering students, graduates and postgraduates to get involved in business innovation early in their studies/careers.

The top Engineers in Business prize was awarded to the Augment Bionics team which developed the idea of designing and manufacturing affordable and functional bionic arms for use by amputees and people born without upper limbs. The winning team comprised four students – George Dzavaryan (Mechanical Engineering with Management), Moritz Muller (Chemistry), Iman Mouloudi (Neuroscience) and Will Saputra (Sociology and Quantitive Methods).

The Augment Bionics team was presented with a £500 cash prize at the event, How to Win at Business Competitions, which was co-hosted by LAUNCH.ed and the University of Edinburgh Entrepreneurship Club.  The event was designed to help the 60 attendees learn more about strategies for winning business competitions and included a host of entrepreneurs including Denny Schenk as the Climate-KIC Entrepreneur in Residence and Lorenzo Conti, Founder of Crover and winner of last year’s Business Ideas Competition.  As part of the prize, the members of Augment Bionics can also avail themselves of a Sainsbury Management Fellow as a mentor.

George Dzavaryan, Technical Director of Augment Bionics, said: “Applying to the competition was an easy process, especially with a project that was already several months in the making. We had developed a more mature vision for the future and had some results to show for our hard work. Winning first place was a nice surprise for us, as I’m sure it will be for future contestants. The £500 cash prize has been spent well on purchasing electrical components for the first version of the bionic prosthetic and to buy a domain for our website. It definitely gave us a much-needed kick start early on in the academic year, which is important for many student-led projects since it is a period of time when they are not as busy and can dedicate more time to projects like ours.”

Arthur Chee

There were also second and third Engineers in Business prizes: Arthur Chee, a postgraduate student studying Mechanical Engineering and Dilyana Karavasileva (Informatics), were awarded £300 for their idea of developing a robotic strawberry harvesting arm that is more efficient and less bulky than existing designs in development.  The design improvements would be achieved through greater degrees of freedom and an internal conveyor belt system.

Dileep Dasari

In third place was Dileep Dasari, second year undergraduate student at the School of Engineering, who created DASSUN (patent pending), an easy and cost-effective vortex generating system which can potentially decrease fuel consumption of Turbofan engines by up to 10%.  Dileep was awarded £200 cash prize.

Teodora Handrea, Enterprise Executive, University of Edinburgh said, “The Engineers in Business prize has been a phenomenal success. Run in parallel with the university’s established Business Ideas Competition, the two competitions attracted 81 entries from teams of students and alumni, with the Engineers in Business Prize stimulating 45 entries from the College of Science and Engineering and 24 entries from the School of Engineering.  Overall, we have seen a 137% increase in the total number of entries to both competitions from the College of Science and Engineering, and over 600% increase from the School of Engineering.”

LAUNCH.ed is now working with all other competition entrants to offer further assistance to develop their ideas through workshops and one-to-one support with a business advisor.

LAUNCH.ed will be running the Engineers in Business prize alongside its general Business Competition again this year and in 2020 and is aiming to encourage even more engineering students, graduates and postgraduates to participate and develop creative solutions to real problems.   LAUNCH.ed will again be supported by an Engineers in Business Prize Fund.

 

Engineering Student wins £1,000 for Cybersecurity Business

Engineers in Business supports City, University of London’s CitySpark business ideas competition which is open to students and recent alumni.

A special category, MakerSpark, was created to recognise the innovations created by engineering students, and this element is supported by a £3,000 EIB prize fund.

The CitySpark competition focusses on finding problems, identifying real gaps in the market and building evidence-based start-ups from day one.  CitySpark places a core focus on encouraging students to ‘get out of the building’, meet target customers and develop a full understanding of the problem to be solved. This provides an excellent starting point for brilliant ideas to develop into fully-fledged business ventures.  The competition is split into two challenges taking place throughout the academic year to help students develop entrepreneurial skills and launch a business.

The MakerSpark prize covers the two challenges and we are delighted to announce that Alien Security, a new cybersecurity consultancy, has won £1,000 in the first challenge.

Alien Security, which already has clients, provides ethical hacking services for the purpose of finding security vulnerabilities that a malicious hacker could potentially exploit.

Founder and CEO, Noor Alrayes, who is studying the  MSc Cyber Security course said: “Cybersecurity is not only a technology problem but also a people problem, which is why we offer cybersecurity support to clients and tailor our services to their needs”

Working with clients, Alien Security causes ‘serious chaos’ testing IT environments and physical cybersecurity to maximise cybersecurity defence.

We will be back later in the year to update on the final winner of the MakerSpark prize in the grand final!