April 2014 | europe.tata.com

Entrepreneurs of the future shine at Tata Idea Idol 2014

Vaxxamine wins the first prize at Tata Idea Idol, an event organised annually by Tata and Oxford Entrepreneurs

For the fourth year running, Tata was proud to partner with Oxford Entrepreneurs, the world’s largest student entrepreneurial society, as the headline sponsor of the Tata Idea Idol, an important feature on the entrepreneurial calendar in Great Britain.

Now into its twelfth year, the Idea Idol seeks to find the most promising entrepreneurs and innovators amongst the students of Oxford University, one of the oldest and most respected academic institutions in the world, and reward them with a £10,000 prize to help further their business ideas towards fruition.

Six carefully selected teams presented their start-up ideas to four judges, including Will Chadwick, vice-president at Tata Interactive, and Jordan Poulter, ex-president of Oxford Entrepreneurs and former contestant on the hit TV show, The Apprentice, in front of around 200 students at the Said Business School on February 24.

The six participant teams at Tata Idea Idol 2014
The six teams had six equally diverse ideas: from a consumer product, Dexty (the ’gloveless glove’, a wearable electronic device on the wrist designed to keep hands warm) to internet platform, MeVitae, providing innovative recruitment methods, and from a philanthropic social venture that partners with companies to fund charitable endeavours and reduce their carbon footprint (jgnu), to optimised components for use in animal surgery (Biodea) and unique materials for 3D printers (Matter-Fusion Lab). The teams’ enthusiasm for their ideas was palpable.

The judges ultimately awarded the £10,000 prize, donated by Tata, to Vaxxamine, a company developing an oral drug that effectively improves the immune systems of the elderly. In an excellent pitch, delivered by founders Dan Puleston and Ben Owens, the pair demonstrated that they had more than enough passion, knowledge, and backing to make the idea commercially viable, especially important as the global population over 65 is growing rapidly.

Speaking to europe.tata.com, Mr Puleston and Mr Owens said they nearly didn’t apply to the competition. The strength of the two post-graduate immunologists’ idea, discovered by Mr Puleston in the course of his PhD research, convinced them otherwise. “Most vaccines don’t work on the elderly, and there is a definite gap in the market for a novel solution like ours,” they explained.

The winners of the first prize with the cheque of £10,000 at Tata Idea Idol 2014
As active academics at the early stages of their careers, they value the support of Tata. “Tata’s prize money is invaluable,” they said. “Practically, it allows us to complete our seed funding, and will enable us to build the data we need to support our research, shore up the patent, and embark on the next stage of development, with a global website and formalised business structure. The external validation of our business model from a giant of industry like Tata is also fundamental to our future success. We are able to access business experience and acumen we simply wouldn’t get in an academic environment, at the same time as independently driving innovation alongside our academic work.”

Vaxxamine also won the People’s Choice Award, the result of a popular audience vote, whilst Dexty was awarded the runner-up prize.

Attending his third Idea Idol and representing Tata, Mr Chadwick said: “It’s so important that young entrepreneurs have the opportunity to put their heads above the parapet, and try to innovate for a better experience for the consumer and the community. Large businesses, like Tata, want to work with organisations like Oxford Entrepreneurs to ensure that we keep innovation alive.”

Watch an interview with Will Chadwick and Oxford Entrepreneurs by clicking here.