Competition aims to develop more business-minded engineers

Engineering and business students at the Nottingham University Business School (NUBS) have the opportunity take part in a competition designed to nurture entrepreneurship.

Returning for its third year, the Engineers in Business competition, developed and sponsored by Sainsbury Management Fellows (SMF), is aimed at engineering undergraduates wanting to learn about entrepreneurship. By encouraging more commercial education for undergraduate engineers, the organisations are enhancing students multidisciplinary abilities, increasing their employability and inspiring them to use their engineering skills in business innovation when they graduate.

"Engineering graduate employers have stated that they particularly value skills that are not necessarily widely regarded as a standard part of typical undergraduate engineering curriculum. This includes softer skills such as teamwork, communication skills, prioritisation and commercial thinking. These skills help graduate engineers better compete in the workplace and arguably become better engineers, as well as pursue more successful careers," notes SMF president David Falzani.

"I believe that we need to give young engineers a much greater understanding of the scope and diversity of careers in which they can use their engineering skills," he continues. "Furthermore, the predicted shortfall of engineers for the UK economy highlights that we need to inspire engineering graduates to pursue careers that allow them to use their engineering skills and talent rather than lose them to unrelated industries. Competitions like Engineers in Business develop a real passion for innovation and entrepreneurship."

To enter the competition, students must sign up for the business school’s entrepreneur and business module. Unlike other business competitions that focus on the development of traditional business plans, Engineers in Business challenges undergraduates to create a novel product concept that meets a need in society and demonstrates the use of engineering skills in the creative process.

The competing teams must convince the SMF judges of the viability of their idea by explaining the rationale for the product, their R&D process, understanding of customer needs, as well as their thoughts on finance and marketing.

"Some of the most important global challenges we face today are not just technical challenges, but require the ability to link technologies to an understanding of the market mechanism, business skills and entrepreneurial commercial thinking," highlights Falzani. "Some of the problems can be alleviated by injecting the creativity and excitement of commercial education and opportunity into undergraduate degrees," he notes.

Past winning ideas have included a prototype polo mallet head designed to make it easier to wield by people of smaller physical stature, an eco-friendly solar powered bin containing an inbuilt compressor, a mobile app designed to help walkers feel safer when travelling unfamiliar streets and a sensory glove that emitted an audio alert indicating the proximity of objects, allowing blind people to navigate safely through everyday life.

First, second and third place winners receive £1,500, £1,000 and £500 respectively, with the overall winners given the ability to request an SMF mentor at any stage of their career. One past winner was able to secure his first job post-graduation through his networking connections with the organisation.

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