A brother and sister Heriot-Watt student team has been announced as one of three winners of ‘Sports Innovation Challenge’, an entrepreneurial competition for students and recent graduates to develop an innovative idea into a sports business.
Twenty two year old Michael Harkins, a fourth year Heriot-Watt pharmaceutical chemistry student, and his eighteen year old sister Lisa, in the first year of the same course, are developing an idea for the next generation of swimming aids, which will revolutionise the Learn to Swim market. Michael and Lisa are both swimming instructors at Livingston and District Dolphins and have both been competitive swimmers.
The Sports Innovation Challenge supported by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), Stirling University Innovation Park, Stirling University, and the Scottish Institute for Enterprise, it was launched to students around Scotland at the beginning of the academic year and is a business development programme and competition run by the University of Stirling’s Sporting Chance Initiative for entrepreneurial students and recent graduates across Scotland.
Support for entrants and winners
The three winning teams share in a £15,000 cash prize, free incubator space in Stirling University Innovation Park, and mentoring from a dedicated business advisor.
Ryan Carenduff, Innovation Accelerator at Sporting Chance Initiative, said, “ In this, our first year, we have engaged with 11 Universities and over 200 students, helping them to develop sports related ideas and turn them into future business opportunities. Entrepreneurship and innovation are so fundamental to Scotland’s future economic growth that this type of support is vital for students to develop confidence and new skills.
“We were delighted with the response from students around Scotland to this competition. There was a very wide range of new ideas pitched to us by the applicants. And those who took part in the challenge enjoyed taking part in our series of Ideas Labs, seminars and workshops. Ideas are valuable. Our role was to teach ambitious potential entrepreneurs how to protect them with the support of the IPO and offer support from experts to help encourage new businesses. ”
Michael Harkins, who developed the new swimming aid, said, “We are delighted to have been awarded this prize, and the experience of the competition and workshops as well as the support and mentoring offered to the winning teams are a terrific benefit as we work to get our business off the ground.
“We believe that our product provides freedom of movement in combination with streamlined support, providing novice swimmers with the level of support they need as their swimming skills develop.”