Twenty students from the University of Southampton visited the Science Park to take part in the prestigious annual Catalyst Challenge. They were tasked to work as the leadership team of a start-up business to complete a value proposition and prepare a presentation to a judging panel who posed as potential investors and corporate customers.
The judging panel comprised the Science Park’s Peter Birkett, SETsquared’s David Bream, Catalyst business mentor Phil Sharpe and entrepreneur Ruby Lee. In choosing a winner the panel was looking for balanced, credible presentations, evidence of real market research, effective teamwork and the ability to see below the surface of the questions they were asked.
Alongside an introduction to entrepreneurship and a rare opportunity to garner commercial awareness, participants use this opportunity to develop core enterprise skills including team-working, coping with time pressures, resilience, presenting and negotiating.
Sarah Rogers, Head of Student Enterprise at the University who organised the day, said: “I cannot commend these students enough for applying to take part in the Catalyst Challenge. It’s a unique, immersive learning experience because they’re here at the Science Park surrounded by people who have themselves taken an entrepreneurial journey. The task that the students are set and the presentations they enjoy enable them to look at key aspects of operating within a commercial setting with a different lens – it turns the academic theory into real-world practice.”
All the student participants were highly engaged and used the opportunity well. Their enthusiasm was infectious, as indicated by some of their feedback:
“The day was amazing and has taught me a lot about the entrepreneurial world and how to make my first steps in it,” commented one.
“I gained insights into the core workings of planning a business and tested many of my own skills in the process. It was fast but rich in knowledge and experience,” said another.
Another reflected: “You can never get enough practice when it comes to interpersonal skills like teamwork and pitching and today has offered that. I had high expectations and the day delivered, for sure. The environment we’re in, the mentors we worked with and my fellow team mates were all fantastic!”
“One event, a hundred takeaways!” concluded one more.
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