Blueprint Business Plan competition gives step up to new spin out company
(24 June 2004)
The idea to produce superior lightweight mirrors for gamma-ray telescopes has won first prize in the Blueprint Durham University Business Plan Competition. The team from Durham’s Physics Department beat off competition from 58 other entries and has now earned a place in the regional final along with the second placed team where they will go up against business projects from the other North East universities.
The winning team is looking to spin out a company in the region called MirraTech to design, manufacture and market lightweight aluminium mirrors for use on ground-based gamma-ray telescopes, hybrid lighting systems and other outdoor applications.
The team, consisting of a PhD student, a research fellow and a lecturer from the Physics Department, has developed a vacuum forming technique which leads to a more cost effective way of producing the mirrors without compromising on reflectivity. This technique was originally based on previously known aerospace technologies for creating lightweight but rigid structures.
Joy McKenny from the MirraTech team said: “We are very excited about the technique we have developed and believe it could be a very viable, cost-effective way of producing mirrors for a range of applications. We are working towards setting up MirraTech as a long-term sustainable business in the North East and this competition has given us a step in the right direction.”
The Durham contest is one of five heats in the region-wide competition. It was arranged by the universities in association with other organisations and with the support of businesses, to showcase the ideas and spirit of entrepreneurship in the region’s academic sector.
Finishing first in the Durham University final has already won the team £2,000 in cash along with 6 months start up business space in the Incubator at NetPark, the science and technology park in Sedgefield, as well as £8,000 worth of business support services from local companies Durham Associates, Dickinson Dees and Prontaprint Durham.
The Durham winners received their prizes from Durham graduate Roger McKechnie who built up the Phileas Fogg snack foods company. He told them: “Stand out from the crowd. When the world zigs, you have got to zag. Success comes to people who rock the boat. Be different and you will be on the road to being a good business.”
MirraTech are now working towards the large-scale manufacturing of mirrors for an international collaboration as well as exploring alternative markets, such as renewable energy.
The second-placed team, which has also gained a place in the regional final, is developing multi-player online games for mobile phones.
Rachel Orange, the competition organiser said: “This is our very first business planning competition at Durham, and we will be building on this year’s success in the future. It was a hugely enjoyable event, and fantastic to work with and support all the participants. I’m really looking forward to next year’s competition.”
Notes to Editors
- The MirraTech team consists of:
>Joy McKenny from the Republic of Ireland. She has an MSci in Physics with Astrophysics from Queen's University Belfast. She completed her PhD in the Gamma Ray Astronomy Group in Durham.
>Ian Latham originally from Yorkshire but spent most of life in the North East. He has an MPhys in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He began his PhD in the Gamma Ray Astronomy Group in Durham in 2001 and is due to finish this autumn.
>Paula Chadwick originally from Birkenhead. She has a degree in Physics and Astrophysics from Queen Mary College, University of London. She came to Durham in 1984 to do a PhD in the Gamma Ray Astronomy Group in Durham and now heads the Group.
- The competition attracted 58 entries from all degree disciplines from the University’s two campuses in Durham and Stockton, involving 93 students and graduates.
- The competition is sponsored by County Durham Development Company, Dickinson Dees, Durham Associates, Prontaprint Durham, Codeworks, Chester-le-Street and Durham Enterprise Agency, and the North East Centre for Scientific Enterprise.
Dionne Hamil, Public Relations Officer, University of Durham on 0191 334 6074 or by email at email@example.com
Joy McKenny, MirraTech on 0191 334 3781 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel Orange, Project Manager, University of Durham Business School on 0191 334 5130 or by email at email@example.com
25 June 2004