Young innovators in 2018

The UTC project – getting youngsters up to speed and on board with animal research and technology

The story so far….

Tony Davidge unit manager at CRUK Cambridge began the project in 2015. The aim was to invest time and effort into working with 16-17 year old students from the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology to give them a greater understanding of animal research and technology. Tony arranged talks, facility tours to places like Babraham, Genome Campus and CRUK Cambridge working alongside the college staff throughout the project. He first approached Datesand in 2016 after seeing the official Janet Wood Innovation Award competition for industry technicians to discuss potentially incorporating a junior version into the UTC project. We couldn’t have been more impressed and we are absolutely delighted to be involved again this year.

How it works

innovatorsThe JWIA Kids Challenge Project forms a key element of the wider UTC project. It puts the students in business-like scenarios helping them to understand product development, team management, strategic sales pitches and what it takes to make a good product for the market you are working with… cost, availability, efficiency etc. The competition sees students pitch their enrichment product ideas to fellow students and members of staff, with a winner and ‘wild card’ from each group. The winners then present to a group of Dragons in a Dragons’ Den scenario. The panel of Dragons is made up of colleagues from the industry, from unit managers to technicians and even sales representative with myself acting as Chief Dragon.  As reported last time, year 10 students Meriel, Ethan and Kirill came  first, second and third respectively presenting three outstanding ideas for animal enrichment. First prize was a band new iPad.

The 2018 Challenge

I gave 2018’s UTC JWIA competition introduction to 30 of the Academy’s students on Thursday 22nd. I presented our winning JWIA products as great examples of the kind of practical ideas we’re looking for and set up a mini exhibition of our main bedding, nesting and enrichment ranges to provide further inspiration.

The competition differs somewhat from last year. Instead of individual designs, this year the students are split into groups. They’re then assigned roles within that group simulating a real Dragons’ Den scenario. They take on the jobs of sales/presenter, product design/research, team manager and marketing. At the end of the competition the students will again have to present their product idea to a board of “Dragons” who will make that all-important final choice. 

The students were responsive and inquisitive on the night asking a number of questions throughout the presentation and afterwards. My next presentation will be in December where I will be talking to the participants in more detail about the business side of the competition and my expectations of them as individuals and as a team. I will also be reviewing the designs they have come up with so far to give advice wherever possible. 

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