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Turn your wheezes into real winners.

Byline: By Iain Laing

A pounds 50,000 contest, which turns paper ideas into real-life businesses, has launched for the third year and is on the look-out for budding entrepreneurs in the region's universities.

And the would-be entrepreneurs with the two best business ideas will each walk away with pounds 10,000 in cash, as well as thousands of pounds worth of other prizes.

Blueprint, the North-East Universities Business Planning Competition, aims to promote enterprise and entrepreneurship in the North-East's five universities, to encourage graduates to set up their own businesses and to stay in the region.

The competition, which is backed by The Journal, will build on the success of last year's competition, which saw nearly 500 students take part, writing 144 business plans, which resulted in the creation of 43 businesses and 84 jobs.

Each of the North-East's five universities hold their own business planning competition and the winners of these go forward to enter the Blueprint region-wide final, vying for total prizes up to a value of pounds 50,000.

For this final stage, the entrants present their business plans in two separate awards: the Blueprint Business Award and the Blueprint Science and Technology Award. Academic staff teams can also enter the Science and Technology awards.

All the entrants benefit from expert business advice to help them turn their ideas into well researched, practical business plans.

The Blueprint Business Planning Competition was the brainchild of Professor Max Robinson of the North- East Centre for Scientific Enterprise (NECSE), co-founder and director of award-winning company Durham Scientific Crystals.

"This competition has proved to be a runaway success. There is such an enormous wealth of entrepreneurial talent in the North-East's universities which we must identify and harness for the benefit of the region's economy ( Blueprint does that," he said.

"This is also the only competition which pulls our five universities together in this way to prompt students and academics to set up real businesses which make real money and create real jobs.

"I urge North-East business people to support it as strongly as they can, as it can only be good for the region's business."

One businessman who needs no prompting to support Blueprint is Ben Webster, managing director of IntelliStab, a marine consultancy which came out of the University of Newcastle, specialising in a system to stabilise ships and last year's winner of the Science and Technology Award.

He said: "Blueprint was extremely good for us. We raised some investment capital, we are now at the end of our product development and we will be ready to launch our product in a few months' time.

"The competition was really useful to us to put us through the process of business planning, pitching and honing our ideas. It was also useful in getting us networking and making good contacts. Winning the money was, of course, important and that helped us to get more money to grow the business.

"I would recommend anybody to go in for Blueprint. If you are serious about your business idea you will have to draw up a business plan, and it is an excellent discipline to have to pitch that to other people and convince them."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 19, 2006
Words:531
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