UL Student Entrepreneur of the Year Competition 2023 – Supporting & Championing Student Entrepreneurs

This year saw the launch of the UL Student Entrepreneur of the Year Competition to motivate and support students to discover their entrepreneurial spirit and turn ideas into business opportunities with commercial and or social potential.  The competition is sponsored by the University of Limerick Foundation through the generosity of Platt & Reilly and Ingenium Training & Consulting and supported by the Kemmy Business School. 

The UL Student Entrepreneur of the Year Competition sets out to deepen the enterprise culture across the student and researcher population and build a diverse pipeline of young entrepreneurs and innovators.  Students who entered the competition were supported through a series of workshops on topics such as idea generation, market validation, sourcing finance, pitching, effective showcasing of new business opportunities, and were also provided with mentoring for personal and idea validation.

The projects submitted emerged from across a range of disciplines and from students in first year to postgraduate level. It was positive to see the focus on manufacturing and food/drinks sector in addition to the increasing focus on the role of AI and digitalisation.

The UL Student Entrepreneur of the Year was judged across two stages applying several criteria to include innovativeness of the idea, problem solution fit, market validation, professionalism/ investability, and competitive advantage.  In the first stage Students showcased their ideas in a “trade show” setting and the panel of judges interviewed the entrants about their idea and then going head-to-head with other student entrepreneurs’ participants pitched their ideas to the judges and their peers and other entrants.

The winner of the competition was Dara Newsome who created Second Chapter- Second Chapter is a circular economy application designed to democratise the second-hand schoolbook market.  

Keith Crehan, of DEAS a low calorie, low alcohol Irish beer secured second place. Keith’s vision is to integrate the Irish language into a product that caters for a variety of interests, dietary requirements, and in a market that is proven to be in high demand.  

The third place went to Somil Khicha for Hover AI. Hover AI is, as Somil noted, “We are to administration what ATMs are to banks”, a novel way of integrating open-source artificial intelligence into streamlining Customer Relationships and creating rich outputs that are company-centric.

Counterbalance a wellbeing and time management app developed by Cillian Fahy won the fourth prize. Counterbalance is designed to reward productivity and overcome time lag, both of which were highly validated by core student-user groups within the University of Limerick.  

The judging panel consisted of Derek Platt (Platt-Reilly), Ben Fitzgerald Kiely (ULCES) and Briga Hynes (KBS).  Derek Platt from Platt & Reilly said: “We are delighted to be supporting young entrepreneurs by judging and sponsoring the competition. Thank you to all the entrants for their efforts in preparing and presenting their ideas. The standard was extremely high as always. It’s a fantastic opportunity for budding entrepreneurs and I would encourage all students to explore any ideas they have by entering next year”.

Dr James Ring, CEO of Ingenium, said: “Once again, Ingenium is delighted to sponsor and be involved in this fantastic event. Watching the next generation of young entrepreneurs emerge, and being able to support them on their growth journey, completely aligns with Ingenium’s mission and we wish all the participants the very best of luck in their budding careers.”

Briga Hynes, KBS commenting on the day, stated that ‘this more than a competition as it mirrors the real-life investment process immersing students in a personalised authentic start up experience.  The very high quality of the applicants demonstrates the commitment and passion students have for innovation and actively taking the next step towards turning ideas into commercially and socially viable businesses’.

Ben Fitzgerald Kiely, Advisory Member for ULCES indicated that it is refreshing to see new ideas and ways of thinking that not only meet the challenges of today but are sustainable to meet future needs. The range of disciplines represented is a great presentation of the fact that ‘entrepreneurialism’ is not a business-orientated term, and it is uniquely positioned to span across faculties, domains, and backgrounds.

Further information on the Foundation Awards can be obtained from Briga Hynes (Briga.Hynes@ul.ie) or Ben Fitzgerald Kiely (entrepreneurship@ulces.ie).  

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