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Issue 473, 19 November 2001

Letter from the Vice-Chancellor

Dear Colleagues

Business Plan Competition sponsored by Forward Group

I am writing to let you know about our exciting new Business Plan Competition, sponsored by Forward Group. You will already know that we have a strategic alliance with Forward Group to promote the effective exploitation of our knowledge base. Through this, we have identified and provided support for important new ventures led by University staff. This Business Plan Competition will increase awareness of such commercial opportunities and stimulate people to think about how they might develop a business around their research. It will also help the University to disseminate the benefits of our research base into the wider economy and community generally.

There are two prizes within the competition. One prize is aimed at our students. Many of our undergraduates are bright people with good ideas that deserve our support. We want to encourage them to start thinking about ways of developing those ideas at an early stage and this competition will help them in that direction. It will also encourage more students to think about their studies in the context of application. Even for those who do not take part, the competition will increase student awareness and hence employability, because companies increasingly look for enterprising recruits.

The other part of the competition is aimed at research and academic staff. The initial business plans we expect to see in these cases could involve well developed ideas, perhaps based around significant bodies of existing research within the University. Not all the business plans will emerge from research, however, and plans that focus on any area of entrepreneurial activity are equally welcome.

In addition to the substantial financial prizes, Forward Group has agreed to underpin the competition — and particularly the final prize winners — with a generous package of assistance and advice. The key value of this is the greater assurance that the best and most competitive ideas will receive support to help the new business through its difficult early stages. Increasingly, entrepreneurs recognise that it is key advice at this stage rather than cash alone that can make the difference between success and failure. Venture capital is likely to be available for the winners of this competition and the University already has mechanisms to assess opportunities for our investment funds.

Having a competition that lines up the best business advice for the winners makes this competition one of the most valuable that we are likely to run this year. I am grateful to Forward Group for its support. I thank you in advance for your co-operation and I look forward with some anticipation to the ideas that will emerge over the next few months.

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