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Future business stars rewarded by OU

The winning businesses in this year’s Open University Student Entrepreneurship Competition range from a social enterprise focussed on helping former military personnel transition back to civilian life and work, to a web platform which helps nervous drivers cope with stressors.

Now in its fifth year, the competition attracted the interest of over 100 students, spread across each of the university’s disciplines of study.

Funded by Santander Universities, the Student Entrepreneurship Competition has two categories, with the winners receiving up to £6,000 to grow their business idea. The New Business Challenge supports OU students who have a start-up ready to launch, or an existing business they wish to develop further. The Innovation Award supports students who have an innovative idea with serious potential. 

Shortlisted entrants were invited to pitch their idea to a panel of judges including Santander Relationship Director, Nicholas Davies; Johnny Englishby of Milton Keynes Business Improvement District; Carolin Decker-Lange and Henry Lahr of The Open University Faculty of Business and Law; and Suzanne King from The Open University Finance Department. Winners were presented with their awards at a recent ceremony, held in the OU Business School.

Robert Wilson, Chair of the Judging Panel said:

“There is clearly an entrepreneurial spirit running through the OU student body. These projects have been very rewarding to work on and I look forward to continuing to realise the impact they have on our students. I look forward to seeing their businesses develop in the future.”

Innovation Award


First place in the Innovation Award, with an excellent demonstration of an innovative product, goes to Alan Bellis with his cable tie saver. Alan used an old Dragon’s den clip in his video pitch which was an integral part of explaining his innovation. Alan’s cable tie saver reduces up to 80% of the plastic waste from cable ties by making the offcut reusable. Alan is currently working on protecting his intellectual property for the idea and identifying the best route to market. He receives £3000 to help develop his ideas.

Second Place

Andy Warin, a maths teacher, received £2000 and second place in the Innovation Award.

Andy has created the “Trig Triangle”, a product which aims to teach formulas and equations using “cognitive load theory”.  Andy’s idea has multiple applications as a teaching tool. The judges were impressed by his market research and the excellent product demonstration.

Third Place

The 3rd place winner of the Innovation Award was Esther Ng, a medical doctor from Singapore working in Oxford, who received £1000. Esther is studying Engineering with a particular interest in Artificial Intelligence. She is developing a programme which will aid the diagnosis of common to more severe illnesses, with the aim being to relieve pressures on the NHS 111 line.

Entrepreneurship Award Winners with their certificates
Student Entrepreneurship Competition Winners, pictured with members of the judging panel
L-R: Nicholas Davies, Laurence Moore, Robert Wilson, Tracey Field, Susie Boutal, Alan Bellis, Suzanne King, Carolin Decker-Lange

New Business Challenge


The First Place prize for the New Business Challenge went to Laurence Moore of Project RECCE, who receives £6000.

This social enterprise enables veterans to offer peer-support through transition to civilian life, qualify for a new career and at the same time supports the reduction of the national construction skills shortage and helps alleviate the housing crisis. Initially supported via grant-funding and crowd-funding, Project RECCE intends to become self-sufficient beyond year 3 through strategic partnerships with national employers.

On top of winning the OU Student Entrepreneurship competition, Project RECCE has also been awarded significant funding from the CITB (Construction Industry Training Board).

Robert Wilson said:

“Laurence’s pitch of his business model and personal story of his own transition after military life really won over the panel. We believe that he has the drive to make this worthy cause a sustainable enterprise and look forward to supporting him and Project RECCE as they grow. We’ve also supported Laurence in submitting to the Santander National Entrepreneurship Awards and wish him all the best.”

Second Place

Tracey Field received £4000 for her business, Confident Drivers, a self-help and information website for nervous drivers.  

Based on eight techniques commonly used in the management of stress and nerves Tracey has created audios, videos, exercises, theory and tips specifically for nervous drivers.

The judging panel was impressed by the market research that Tracey carried out and also the attention to detail that she gave to the needs of her customer segments, which included individual drivers as well as driving instructors. Tracey’s business aims to have a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of drivers but her business model could also be adapted to suit other scenarios where people feel stressed.

Third Place

Susie Boutal received £2000 for her business model, A Space for Living.

Susie has built her business to fit around her home life and wants to help others do the same via her “business in a box”. Susie offers a personal coaching and decluttering service while maintaining a network of individuals selling secondhand items on behalf of her clients.

Additional funding from Santander has allowed the OU to set up an Accelerator programme for students, giving them training and networking opportunities to develop their business ideas, and an Open Educational Resource will be launched at the end of May.

The OU Accelerate programme

About Author

Liz works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She has over 15 years' marketing experience working across a range of sectors, from diamonds to shampoo. She has a BSc (Hons) in Management from UMIST. In her spare time, Liz is usually found on roller skates or off travelling, having adventures.

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