Young scientists start business bootcamp at UCD

26 Mar 2012

Saoirse Nash of St Mary's College in Derry, Shay Walsh of BT Ireland, and Prof Peter Clinch, UCD vice-president for innovation at NovaUCD, at the start of the BT Young Scientist Business Bootcamp 2012

Thirty-two second-level students from the island of Ireland have started a mentoring and innovation skills camp today at University College Dublin. The aim of the bootcamp, which is being run by BT, is to equip students with the skills to take their ideas from the schoolroom to the boardroom.

The 32 students were picked for this year’s bootcamp based on their ability to understand how and why ideas can be developed into commercially viable enterprises.

The students were selected from more than 1,200 secondary school students who competed in this year’s BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition at the RDS in Dublin on 13 January. Over the next four days, the students will be working on their business plans for a realistic new business start-up scenario.

BT set up the programme itself in 2010. It’s delivered by NovaUCD and aims to bridge the gap between education and business.

Shay Walsh, managing director of business at BT Ireland, spoke today about how Ireland needs to cultivate a climate of commercialisation.

“Technology, chemistry and biochemistry are industries in need of a healthy pipeline of talent and ideas,” he said. “This BT programme is about giving these students the skills and, critically, the confidence, to create and develop the industries of the future.”

During the four-day skills programme at NovaUCD, the students will get to hear from business leaders and academics. Speakers will include Dame Ellen MacArthur, the record-breaking solo yachtswoman and founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a charity that works with business and education to inspire a ‘rethink of the future’; and James Whelton, the co-founder of the CoderDojo movement and a young innovator himself.

MacArthur will spend an afternoon with the students taking them through her vision for a ‘circular economy’.

This circular economy model encourages businesses to harness innovation and creativity to enable a positive, restorative economy that will work long term. A recent report featuring analysis by McKinsey on the circular economy estimates the savings of migrating to such an economy to be worth some US$630bn per annum for Europe alone.

“The work we do at the foundation is all about inspiring young people to rethink the future; the way we make things, the way we manage materials. In a rapidly changing world, the most important skills available to us are our creativity and imagination,” said MacArthur.

Prof Peter Clinch, UCD’s vice-president for Innovation, spoke about how the programme is critically important in embedding an ethos of entrepreneurship and innovation amongst second-level students who are inspired by science and engineering.

“It is our hope that these students will go on to use their knowledge and skills, including those learned this coming week, to find ingenious ways to combine inputs to create new and better products and services and, perhaps one day, their own companies,” said Clinch.

The week will culminate on Thursday, when the teams will present their business plans to a judging panel including academics and senior businesspeople.  

Summer placements at NUI Galway, UCD, and University of Ulster will be available for the winners. Plus, one project will be given the opportunity to present at this year’s Dublin Web Summit.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic