£25,000 prize to lure entrepreneurs

HI-TECH innovators are being offered £25,000 in prizes to set up in Kent.

Alarmed by the shortage of entrepreneurs in the county, bosses of the enterprise hub at Sittingbourne Research Centre have decided to dangle what they hope will be attractive carrots in cash and kind.

Sittingbourne Enterprise Hub, recently approved by the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), is offering two prizes worth more than £25,000 to any start-up company with an imaginative idea for creating a new technology business.

Experts will help the winners set up and grow their business at SRC.

The hub's Start-Up Challenge is open to entrepreneurs who have recently started trading or who are in the process of setting up a business venture that uses any type of technology or science.

Hub business champion Robert de Fougerolles said the site had plenty of space but its greatest challenge was to find entrepreneurs.

He hoped the prizes would "give them that little push that will get them to do the leap".

"A lot of people have had this dream and who just through lack of focus have never considered it," he said. "We're hoping this will encourage them."

Hub director John Dodd said: "How do we create a stream of entrepreneurs that doesn't exist in Kent? Let's face it, Kent is not a big provider of major technology entrepreneurs."

Entries are invited from teams or individuals. All entrants will have their plans reviewed by a panel of judges ranging from venture capitalists, bank managers and members of the hub's advisory board.

Mr de Fougerolles, who is also chairman of the hub advisory board, said: "Be it two students getting together from a business school and science faculty or a housewife with a great idea she wants to exploit, the challenge is there."

Sponsors include Business Link Kent, Cripps Harries Hall, EMC Corporate Finance, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays Bank, Lloyds TSB and the Davies Lavery law firm.

The competition will be launched on October 1 and run until March 10 next year.

Entrants will need to submit a completed entry form together with a confidential executive summary of their business plan (www.seedaenterprisehub.com).

Winners will be announced at the formal SEEDA launch of the hub in May 2003.

For more information please e-mail Emily Gemelli, innovation centre manager, on enterprisehub@src-uk.com

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