University students’ entrepreneurial skills

Qingqing Ma
Qingqing Ma
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Two Sheffield students have won top awards for their entrepreneurial skills in a competition run by UK Trade and Investment.

Jorge Valencia, who is studying for a PhD in Chemistry, was part of a team made up of students from various universities that won the prize for the most innovative project at UKTI’s Entrepreneurs’ Festival.

Meanwhile, Qingqing Ma, who is studying for an Mphil in Chemistry and Polymer Science, was a member of the team that won the award for making the best pitch.

Jorge’s ‘3D Life’ team, whose members came from seven countries and four continents, came up with the idea for a sustainable and cost-effective water filtration system for developing countries.

Qingqing Ma’s team, FiTogether, had the idea for an interactive app which instantly connects like-minded fitness enthusiasts to make fitness more fun, social and effective.

The competition was part of the Sirius Programme, a pioneering scheme to bring the world’s best entrepreneurial talent to the UK.

The programme includes a 12-month start-up support and acceleration package and is open to students and recent graduates with an early-stage business idea or business plan.

Successful applicants receive a full range of support including investment, a place in one of the world’s best business accelerator programmes, mentoring and logistical help with relocating to the UK.

Jorge Valencia said: “Winning this award has given us all great confidence in our entrepreneurial ability.

“Not only was this competition a great opportunity to work as a team with people from all over the world, it allowed us to each develop our business acumen too. We can’t wait to apply for The Sirius Programme with the hope of being one step closer to transforming our business ideas into a reality within the UK.”

By winning the prize for the most innovative idea, each member of Jorge’s team will now be able to take part in a two hour mentoring session with Barclays to help them develop their own ideas.

Nick Baird, chief executive of UKTI, praised Jorge on his achievement, saying: “The calibre of all the entrants from the Festival was superb, but Jorge and his team had the edge across the board.”