THE search to find the best young innovators in the Highlands and Islands takes a step closer on Tuesday March 18 when teams pitch their ideas for the future to a panel of judges.
Sixteen teams will gather at the Strathpeffer Pavilion to battle it out in the ICT Youth Challenge 2008.
Previous challenge winner, Andrew Fraser, who set up Highland Web Services, based in Kiltarlity, has been commissioned on behalf of the competition to develop a Facebook site where young people can keep up to date with news and events.
The teams competing on Tuesday are all in with a chance of winning one of three great prizes. The overall winners will win a trip to the world famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, hosted by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
Two other teams will win sponsor trips – one to BT’s European Research Labs at Adastral Park in Suffolk and the other to Microsoft’s development headquarters in Seattle.
The competition is all about growing ideas for exciting new businesses based on information and communication technology for young people up to 20 years old living in the Highlands and Islands.
Tuesday’s event follows last month’s challenge in Inverness when 100 whizzkids took part in the first round of pitches without even having to leave their home areas since they used video conference links based in 11 colleges. The teams will now need to expand on their ideas and come up with technical specification.
Five of the best teams will be chosen to go on a week-long ‘Hot House’ at the Fairburn Activity Centre in Marybank, Ross-shire in June. There, they will face specialists from a consortium of organisations including BT, Microsoft, the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UHI Millennium Institute and HIE.
Dr Kerry Godfrey, UHI dean of business and leisure will give a presentation to the teams on how to influence the consumer decision making process, build a compelling brand and ultimately convince the judges that their product is the best idea in the competition.
The 16 teams are from Dunoon, Mallaig, Lochaber, Farr, Keith, Wick, Nairn, Ullapool, Plockton, Fortrose, Charleston and Tain.
Last year, Buckie Challengers took their idea – a diabetes home testing kit right through the selection stages to overall victory, each winning a laptop computer.
John Mackenzie is the project manager for Youth Challenge at HIE.
He said: “The idea is to get young people thinking about careers, innovation and entrepreneurship in one of our fastest moving industries. Everyone uses information communication technology but not so many people get involved in these careers.
“There is always a need for trained and talented staff, especially in the Highlands and Islands, as well as the entrepreneurs who come up with new creations. Our challenge is designed for team work to be fun. Schools say they notice a real change in their students as the competition brings them out of their shells.”
Robin Mannings, research foresight manager for BT, added: “It’s very exciting to see the next generation of innovators starting work on their ideas so early in their careers. These young people are our future partners which makes the challenge good for BT and goo for the economy.
John Edwards of Microsoft said: Microsoft is delighted to be involved in this activity as the competition directly addresses the key areas of innovation and skills and it’s essential to offer support to young people with bright ideas.”
Organisers are currently planning to develop ways to track the career paths of the challenge entrants using information communication technology.
Now in its fifth year, the ICT Youth Challenge is attracting attention across the UK.
Alistair Murray, project director said: “The competition is also running in the north east of England and we’re discussing a London entry with our sponsors. So anyone looking for constructive fun can find it at the challenge.”
The Facebook site is a social networking website and it can be accessed at www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5953869203. There will also be a Bebo social networking site launched at the end of this month.
Teams interested in taking part in the challenge can find out more and submit their ideaas on the website: www.youth-challenge.co.uk
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