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Business Idea Competition launched in Vale of White Horse with £25,000 prize pot

Spark Vale's Business Idea Competition at Harwell Innovation Centre

Budding entrepreneurs in the Vale of White Horse have been given a fantastic opportunity to make their business dream a reality with the launch of Spark Vale’s Business Idea Competition, set to provide eventual winners with access to over £25,000 of business support services.

Launched by competition judges at Harwell Innovation Centre, where free serviced office accommodation has been donated as part of the overall prize, the Spark Vale Business Idea Competition will see the District’s entrepreneurs compete in the following three categories at a Dragons’ Den style final taking place during November:
• Best Business Growth Idea
• Best New Business Idea Under 25s
• Best New Business Idea Over 25s

To enter, entrepreneurs need to complete a simple online application form summing-up their idea by 19 October 2014. The judging panel will then create a long list of nine entrants who will benefit from individual coaching provided by Oxford Innovation to help them develop effective business plans.

A shortlist of six finalists will be announced in November and given additional individual support to build a robust financial model along with pitch training before facing the Vale’s very own Dragons later that month, who are:
• Jackie Maguire, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Coller IP
• James Dipple, Managing Director, Milton Park
• Lisa Robey, Director of Business Banking, Natwest
• Martin Dare-Edwards, Project and Start-up Director, Infineum
• Matthew Barber, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council.
• Stuart Miller, CEO of ByBox

Competition judge, Stuart Miller, CEO of ByBox, an overall sponsor of Spark Vale, said: “We are delighted to be involved in the Spark initiative that goes to extra lengths to really make a difference to the Vale’s up and coming entrepreneurs. The support offered through the workshops ByBox is funding in addition to the services offered by sponsors to the winner of each category, will provide maximum value to the entrepreneur’s business plans, whether starting-up a new company or facilitating future growth. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the entries come in.”

Rachel Panther, Business Support Director, of Oxford Innovation said: “This competition is a fitting finale to Spark and will enable us to identify the district’s most exciting and potential entrepreneurs in order to target extra support and resources to facilitate their success. We do encourage anyone thinking of starting a business, planning a growth step with an existing business or in need of some business support and advice to engage with Spark right now so we can really offer the maximum value to your business plans.”

The growing prize pot of £25,000 of business support services has been donated by respected businesses from the Vale, including specialist start-up accountancy firm, Inca, Artisan Intelligent Print Solutions, Coller IP, Focus Oxford LLP, Bluestream Recruitment, Vale4Business, ByBox and Oxford Innovation.

Spark Vale is a Vale4Business and ByBox funded business support initiative and competition, run by Oxford Innovation and has been created to support the Vale’s brightest sparks.

Cllr Matthew Barber, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: "The Vale is a real hot bed for innovation and enterprise. This competition will help to ensure that small businesses with big ideas are given the opportunity and resources to develop and thrive."

The competition is open to anyone who lives or has a business interest in the Vale, regardless of whether they are still dreaming of starting-up their own business or are already up and running. Visit and submit an application before the 19 October deadline.

There is also still chance to benefit from expert advice ahead of the entry deadline by attending one of the Spark Vale workshops. See events at for details.