Business Times

Young people create innovative products but marketing, seed capital the issue

By Quintus Perera

Innovation and economic development go hand in hand but innovations by young entrepreneurs, specially from the university sector has to be funded to turn these innovations into marketable products.
Chandra Embuldeniya, Vice Chancellor, Uva Wellassa University who steers this university in procuring and propagating the innovativeness of the students has often expressed concern that though so many students come up with innovations, they find difficulty to turn them into marketable products purely due to lack of funds to proceed further.

Thus, Mr Embuldeniya speaking at the press conference held last week in Colombo to announce a ‘Business Plan Contest organized by the British Council in Partnership with Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd (HSBC), said he highly appreciated the programme as the winners of this contest would be provided with the initial capital to take-off their enterprises.

He said that he recognized the need for funds to mobilize the innovations to commercial level. Students innovate, but they stop at that and could not move further as they do not have capital. In that background he said that these two organizations HSBC and British Council coming together is highly commendable.
He said that the HSBC would provide funds, while the British Council would provide the platform to make things happen. HSBC Youth Enterprise Awards (YEA) is a Business Plan Contest and aims to recognize young entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka and support them to start their own businesses. The contest is open to Sri Lankan postgraduates, undergraduates and students aged 18 to 30 years representing universities, private higher education institutions, technical and vocational institutions and professional training bodies in Sri Lanka.

The categories are: Creative Industries including Fashion Design, Architecture, Crafts; Tourism, Hospitality, Leisure and Travel; Information Technology and Telecommunications; Medical, Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology; Engineering; Agriculture; Renewable Energy and Sustainable Industries and Open Category.

The Business Plans submitted under these categories would be judged and each category winner will be awarded with seed capital of Rs 100,000 to establish their own enterprises. In addition the winners will be mentored by professionals for a period of six months for guidance and effective utilization of resources.

British Council has pioneered several initiatives to promote graduate entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka through the expertise of UK entrepreneurial universities. British Council works with the Higher Education Ministry, University Grants Commission, vice chancellors and lecturers in developing entrepreneurship education within universities. Nick Nicolaou, CEO, HSBC Sri Lanka and Maldives, said that the current programme is the second of its kind and earlier supported the ‘Ten Outstanding Young Persons for six years to identify and recognize young aspiring entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka. He said that they would encourage young people to make the most of this opportunity by participating and unlocking their potential to reach the pinnacle of success.

Tony Reilly, Country Director, British Council in Sri Lanka said that young bright innovative individuals can now start-up their own enterprises and instead of becoming job seekers, they have the opportunity to become job creators. But for them to be job creators they have to be supported.

He said that they need a foothold in the world of business and entrepreneurship and there is a need to have a clear path for them to obtain sound business advice and mentoring. Mr Reilly said that he believes that the HSBC Youth Enterprise Awards would address some of these issues and provide necessary support and encouragement to stimulate a new generation of Sri Lankan entrepreneurs.
He said that Chandra Embuldeniya, Vice Chancellor Uva Wellassa University has pioneered an innovative new university model that has embedded entrepreneurship as a core institutional value.

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