Business award winner is plugging the gap
(15 June 2006)
A revolutionary foam-based earplug that utilises the ear’s natural shape has won the top award at Durham University’s Blueprint business planning competition. Simon Creek, a PhD student in Mathematical Sciences, plans to apply his niche market design to many intra-auricular devices such as earphones and hearing aids. Not only will his design improve the security of the fit of the device but will maintain a stylish appearance.
Simon was inspired by the shortcomings of other earplugs and earphones in his ears. While lying in bed one night listening to the noise his housemates were making downstairs, he found that ordinary earplugs didn’t stay in his ears for very long. He added: “So I just lay there and thought about how they might be improved. After a while I realised that other similar devices could be improved too.” The idea has only taken about four months to develop. Simon had no previous business experience and entered the Blueprint competition in the hope that it might put him in contact with someone to steer him in the right direction. The mentor assigned to him during the competition, George Clouston from RTC North, gave him step-by-step guidance. Simon has now registered Auricularis as a limited company and his design has patent pending status. He hopes to launch the earplug in the near future. Second prize was awarded to Great Escape G.B. Ltd, a company set up by Durham student Kit Bennett with two other non-Durham students including his twin brother. Great Escape is a non-residential summer school camp business for 8-14 year-olds offering sport and drama activities. The ethos behind the company is to cultivate confidence and team work, irrespective of the activities in which the children are participating. Kit, who is studying for a History and Anthropology degree at Hatfield College, explained: “Being sport mad and growing up with my brother, an avid thespian, meant that my parents always had a hard time satisfying both of us when going on day camps or trips away.” He added: “We are living in a growing society of video games and fast food. Child obesity is on the rise and we want to offer a product that would move children away from these things in a friendly and fun environment.” At the Blueprint award ceremony Rachel Orange, Blueprint Durham Manager at Durham Business School said: “The competition gives entrants access to a range of people in one continuous process and a unique opportunity to develop skills and knowledge that would otherwise take much longer period. We offer access to mentors and business experts to gain understanding of business practices and processes, funding opportunities and Intellectual Property knowledge. This provides a great boost in confidence and ability to take ideas forward.” Durham University Blueprint Competition, launched three years ago, extends across the University and engages with new stakeholders/partners and strengthening existing partnerships. It is sponsored by County Durham Development Company, NStar, Ward Hadaway and Dickinson Dees. The first prize is £2000 of investment, plus free consultancy from financial and other business specialists. Both Auricularis and Great Escape will represent Durham University at the Blueprint Regional University Final in October, competing against the winners of competitions in the Universities of Newcastle, Sunderland, Northumbria and Teesside.