Hothouse Youth Challenge 2007
The search continues to find the Highlands and Islands' answer to Richard Branson as the ICT Hothouse Youth Challenge 2007 enters its final month for entries.
The challenge is looking for young entrepreneurs with bright ideas to submit their ideas for information technology and communications of the future.
The most promising ideas are then selected and teams invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of experts in Inverness next month. After a number of rounds, the competition culminates with six teams being chosen to go forward to the Hothouse - an intensive week of team work and expert advice focusing on turning ideas into a reality and producing working prototypes of the ICT gadgets of the future.
Those who applied before November were entered into a prize draw and winners were announced last week, from Speyside High School (Team "Hillbillies"), Dornoch Academy (Team "MBA") and Mallaig High School (Team "now for something completely different").
The application deadline is 20 December and organisers are currently visiting schools, from Caithness to Argyll on the mainland, and on some of the major islands.
Now in its fourth year, the challenge is expanding into England and a dedicated website for young people interested in business is being launched next week. The website is being developed by Andrew Fraser, a former winner of the competition who has gone into business at the tender age of 16.
Andrew is in fifth year at Charleston Academy in Inverness - but this has not prevented him and fellow schoolmate Ewan Hemingway starting a website design company.
Andrew confesses that Youth Challenge, which is supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), BT Scotland, Microsoft and UHI, was the inspiration for nurturing his entrepreneurial spirit and that it has set him on the road to a successful future.
Andrew said: "The Youth Challenge played a huge part in getting me on my feet and starting a company. My two friends and I entered the competition in 2004 and eventually went on to win it in 2005. The main reason we entered was because of the prizes. The prospect of developing our idea properly didn't hit us until the third round or so. After the challenge, Ewan and I thought it would be a good idea to go into business doing website creation and formed Highland Web Services Ltd in July 2006."
The company is currently developing a new product line up and has created a further job for another keen young software developer - Steven Ross, also of Charleston Academy.
Alistair Murray, Youth Challenge project manager, said: "Despite their youth, Andrew and his team have overcome an age barrier, convincing more mature clients that they get a quality, value for money product. After a period of mentoring by ITP Solutions, who run Youth Challenge operations, we are delighted with their website work on Youth Challenge."
Andrew says that although they didn't realise it at first, the challenge taught them vital business skills that can't be learned at school. Regarding the new website for young people interested in business, he said: "There are plenty of websites around that provide young people with support and funding for their business but they're hard to find. So the main aim at the moment is to have links to specific sites that help young people
starting up businesses in the Highlands and Islands. It also has a forum so that companies can leave job vacancies and people can discuss business things with each other."
Brian Weaver, Highlands and Islands Enterprise development manager, added: "The challenge encourages young people to think out of the box and come up with revolutionary new concepts. Youngsters then work together to develop their team working skills and are provided with support and technical advice from experts that allow them to turn their brainwaves into viable proposals."
The Youth Challenge website for young people interested in business will go live next week on www.youth-challenge.co.uk or telephone 08700 636333
The photos shows
Alan Hercher, Andrew Fraser, Tom Gallacher from the 2005 ICT YC winning