Students Progress to the UK Final of Environmental Young Entrepreneurs Competition

Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular Disease (IICD) department PhD students Ben Ward (Ridger Group) and Giannis Xanthis (Evans Group) along with Animal and Plant Sciences students Hannah Sewell and James Lambert progressed to the final 4 teams in the UK of the Environmental Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) competition.

Ben Ward and Giannis XanthisThe students recently returned from the heat stages of the competition Environmental YES competition held at the Boots innovation centre at MediCity Nottingham. The competition is designed to develop the postgraduate students business and enterprise skills through the preparation of a business plan for a hypothetical company. The competition run over three days saw the students participate in a series of workshops and mentoring sessions, with the aim of improving their understanding of intellectual property, raising and managing finances, commercial strategy and regulatory affairs. It was the knowledge gained during these sessions that formed the basis for the preparation of their business plan, culminating in the students pitching to a panel of venture capitalist and biotech innovation experts for investment.

The students company, Phyto-Switch, proposed a system for selectively inducing drought resistance in corn using RNAi technology. The scientific premise, the company’s finances and the proposed route to market were all met with very positive feedback, and despite tough questioning from the panel the team were able to defend their business plan. The team saw off competition from Universities such as Oxford, UCL and Nottingham, amongst others to be selected as winners of their heat. The four heat winners must pitch again in London on the 10th December, the winners of this stage collecting a cash prize and the opportunity to pitch their idea at the RICE business plan completion in Texas. With a couple of months to strengthen their plan, the team hope that with the help of Sheffield University’s Science Gateway and Innovations Centre they will be more than prepared to again be successful in the final.

Professor Sheila Francis (HoD) commented “Ben and Giannis are two characterful PhD students in pour Department and I am not surprised that they have been so successful in this competition. We wish them all the best for the December 10th final.”