Economics students win prestigious business prize

A team of third year Economics students from the School of Management & Languages at Heriot-Watt University took first place in the inaugural Red Rose Business Weekend run by Lancaster University Management School.

It was a great opportunity to put the business theory I learnt at University into practice and use it on solving a real-life problem

Fredrik Celius, MA (Hons) Economics & Finance

In competing for the £1000 prize and the Red Rose Business Weekend trophy, Milos Bartosek, Fredrik Celius, Frikk Hoven, and Pelayo Orts beat off strong competition from nine other leading Universities to impress the judges with their outstanding team-working skills, analytical thinking, presentation skills and problem solving abilities.

The Red Rose Business Weekend

The Red Rose Business Weekend brings together the brightest, most ambitious and eager students from business schools around the UK to compete against each other in business challenges. The challenges are designed and judged by the event's sponsor companies, which include some of the most prestigious employers in the world such as IBM and Saatchi & Saatchi.

The event also provided competitors with the opportunity to hear sought-after guest speakers give motivational talks and the chance to broaden their networks and build contacts with prominent graduate employers as well as students and academics at leading business schools across the UK.

From an initial field of 45 applications, the event organisers selected 10 teams to go through to the final weekend in Lancaster.

Business challenge

This year's challenge, designed by event sponsors Saatchi & Saatchi, and IBM was influenced by the current turmoil in the Middle East. Teams were asked to come up with a strategy and five-year implementation plan for a country of their choice aimed at addressing its main problems through use of technology and culture. Teams then presented their results in front of a panel of judges, consisting of representatives from sponsors, and the audience.

The Heriot-Watt team chose Yemen and its water-shortage problem. They identified that 40 per cent of the water supply in Yemen is used to produce khat, a relaxing substance chewed widely amongst the male population for up to six hours each day. Realising that if less khat was produced then the water shortage problem could begin to be addressed the HW team looked at ways to achieve this. With khat growers also having close links to the Yemen parliament, the Heriot-Watt team realised they would have to take a more indirect approach to the problem.

They discovered that 43% of the population in Yemen is aged 13 or under and felt that by targeting this group to discourage khat use and spread the message that khat had a detrimental effect on not only their wellbeing but the country's economic wellbeing and productivity, the team chose to target the female population as the channel to spread the message. They thought the female population had the largest influence on this target group of young men, as well as also being influential on other male members of their family as well.

"Clarity & simplicity"

If I were to pitch, that is exactly how I would do it

Saatchi & Saatchi judge

In awarding first place to the Heriot-Watt University team the judging panel praised their approach noting that they had offered a real solution with real potential for implementation and to influence the masses. The team were commended on the clarity and simplicity of their solution and presentations.

A member of the judging panel from Saatchi & Saatchi said: "If I were to pitch, that is exactly how I would do it."

The team's research and analytical skills as well as their ability to work effectively as a team also stood out and were key to their success over the other teams.

Economics programme provided a strong foundation

The skills identified by the judging panel that made the Heriot-Watt University team stand out from the others - structured ways of working, analytical skills, research skills and teamwork  - are all embedded as integral in the Economics degree programmes that Milos, Fredrik, Frikk, and Pelayo are studying. Our Economics programmes focus on providing both theoretical as well as applied knowledge and skills to give our graduates a strong base from which to build their careers.

The Heriot-Watt team

The Heriot-Watt team, The Watts, comprised four students who are all currently undergraduate students in the School of Management & Languages:

  • Milos Bartosek, MA (Hons) Economics & Finance, Czech, 21 years old, said: "I really feel that the group projects we have done at Heriot-Watt helped me to enhance my communication and team-working skills needed for this type of competition."
  • Fredrik Celius, MA (Hons) Economics & Finance, Norwegian, 23 years old, said: "It was a great opportunity to network with other students and put the business theory I learnt at University into practice and use it on solving a real-life problem."
  • Frikk Hoven, MA (Hons) Economics & Finance, Norwegian, 22 years old, said: "It was exciting to see how important and effective it is with a simple solution as well as presentation."
  • Pelayo Orts, MA (Hons) Economics & Management, Spanish, 21 years old, said: "Participating in the RRBW was a great experience to implement the skills acquired as an economics student, as well as proving that a Heriot-Watt University education to be at the same level as other leading Universities."

The four students are no strangers to success or being in the winning team as back in 2009 they were members of the team that won the "Best Business Idea" prize as part of the School of Management & Languages Year 1 course 'Enterprise & Entrepreneurship'. The course sees students undertaking a business start-up exercise in teams: they have to develop a business idea and business plan and then present this to a panel of judges, which includes business and industry representatives, as well as Heriot-Watt University staff.