As part of its mandate, the AGEA network collaborates with dedicated academic and business partners in Africa and Germany to promote practice-oriented entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurship promotion and developing business start-ups for Africa. One of the flagship products that AGEA delivers is its annual AGEA Business Idea Competition (ABIC). ABIC is organised to reach out, identify and support innovative entrepreneurial solutions to African challenges by African students, entrepreneurs, academics and researchers within the AGEA network and beyond. This year, the idea competition focuses on generating entrepreneurial and commercially viable solutions from research that can become spin-off start-ups or companies.
Universities (and other HEIs) worldwide generate new knowledge through diverse research activities. Technological inventions are also key outcomes of research at universities and HEIs. However, in most universities, research only contributes to advancing the scientific knowledge frontier. Much of the new knowledge and technologies generated through research at universities remain shelved, unexploited and rarely commercialised into products and/or services for the market that benefit society at large. As a result, a knowledge and technology transfer gap exists in many fields. While this is a global challenge, the gap is considered wider in developing contexts like Africa.
As demonstrated by few universities that have been structured to convert new knowledge into products and services through spin-offs companies, the basis for the university’s growth and spin-off or research-based start-up collaboration is reciprocal. The impact of firms originating from research-based solutions is evident in the resulting returns (economic, social, technological and/or environmental) from commercialising for the universities, the researchers, entrepreneurs, and the larger society. These spin-off or start-up firms, in exchange, provide funds and job opportunities to the university to generate more knowledge through further research activities.
To promote research-based spin-off entrepreneurship, researchers, academic staff and students at HEIs need to develop their science in a way that can lead to real-world impact and be able to adapt the outcomes of their research into viable commercial enterprises. ABIC 2021 thus offers students, researchers, academics at African universities as well as early-stage entrepreneurs (alumni) the opportunity to initiate their entrepreneurial journeys leading to the establishment of research spin-off start-ups.
Objectives and Scope
The overarching aim of ABIC 2021 is to provide the opportunity for graduate and postgraduate (masters and doctoral) students and researchers at African universities to unearth their entrepreneurial abilities by generating relevant and viable business solutions through their scientific research endeavours. It is expected that the business idea competition will foster skill development in business ideation, design thinking and encourage entrepreneurial activity within the scientific research community at African universities as it offers young African researchers a platform to share their innovative entrepreneurial solutions originating from scientific research.
ABIC 2021 is open to submissions with innovative ideas and solutions from all fields of scientific research, sectors and industries. These include but are not limited to sectors such as health, education, agriculture, information technology, finance and commerce, enterprise development and trade, transport, water and sanitation, among others. It is important that the solution or product emanates from ongoing or completed scientific research undertaken by students or research and academic staff at an African University. The submitted ideas should thus offer sustainable solutions to real-work challenges which satisfying a market need, especially but not limited to Africa. Early-stage entrepreneurs who are university alumni can also participate in the competition as team members with students or researchers.
Who can participate?
Interested persons from universities, research institutions and other HEIs in Africa can participate in the competition. Eligible participants must be:
- Students (Masters and PhD)
- Academic staff (lecturers, professors) and researchers
- Early-stage entrepreneurs (university alumni – Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate)
How to participate
Participation can be in one of two (2) forms:
- An individual student, researcher, academic staff; or
- A team consisting of students, researchers, and entrepreneurs. At least one team member should be a student, academic staff or researcher.
Female participation: The participation of women is highly encouraged in this competition. Teams are encouraged to consider involving women as team members where possible.
Please note the following:
- Each person can participate only once in the competition, either as an individual or a team member. This implies that a participating individual can only be a member of one team for this competition.
- A participating individual or team can submit only one entry into the competition. Multiple submissions from the same individual or team is unacceptable.
- The business idea you intend to submit should be based on academic/scientific research conducted by or had at least one of the team members involved.
The following are the stages for the competition:
Stage 1: Registration and Submission of Idea
Stage 2: Evaluation and Selection of Top 6
Stage 3: Pitch Training and Development of Pitch Video for Top 6
Stage 4: Online Final Event and Selection of Top 3 Winners
To join the competition, eligible individuals and teams are required to register their participation as an individual or team: You will be required to provide brief information about the participants in a short online form. Click on the Registration Link below.
You will receive an email with further instructions on the next step to provide more information on your idea on the Innolytics Platform.
Submission of Idea on Innolytics
The next step involves submitting details of the business idea in the structure provided in our innovation management portal – Innolytics. The platform is set up to facilitate and guide participants to provide the jury with the needed information for evaluating the submissions. Please prepare the following information in advance for the Innolytics portal.
- An abstract of the business idea being submitted, including the research focus leading to the solution to the problem.
- Problem: What is the main problem your idea is seeking to solve? Why is the issue a problem?
- Solution (product): Based on your research results, how are you planning to solve the problem? Provide a vivid description of the ensuing product or service as much as possible. If available, include photos or videos of the product model or prototype in the submission. What makes your solution innovative and from competitors or current solutions?
- Customers and Market Opportunities: Who are the customers or beneficiaries of the solution? What is the market potential of your idea?
- Resources: What key resources would be required to implement your idea in the market?
Important: You will be required to provide evidence of the research conducted. For this, any of the following documents will suffice:
- Title and Declaration pages of Masters or PhD thesis indicating the person who conducted the research at the university.
- Research published in a journal by the researcher(s). Copyright issues must be clarified in this case.
The information provided on the research will be cross-checked and verified with the university or institution as the competition processes.
Watch: Step-by-step Video Guide on the Innolytics Platform
Each idea will be assessed by three (3) evaluators based on the following criteria:
- Relevance: How relevant is the problem being solved by the idea for the specified target group? How significant is the idea for the targeted market?
- Feasibility: Can the idea be realistically transformed into a product or service? Is the right technology available to ensure the realisation of the idea?
- Market Availability: How attractive is the solution for potential customers in comparison to existing solutions?
- Commercial Viability and Sustainability: How high is the potential for success on the market? Can the product be easily marketed to the proposed customers at a competitive price? Can the idea be implemented in a sustainable way to generate adequate revenue?
- Impact: To what extent can the solution impact society – economically, socially and/or environmentally?
Each submission will be assigned three (3) evaluators to rate each submission based on the outlined criteria. An average rating will be computed for each submission. The submissions will be ranked based on the average rating. The Top 6 ideas will progress to the final stage of the competition.
Awards and Prizes
The selected Top 6 submissions will have to produce a short pitch video (maximum 3 minutes) that will be aired in the online Final Event on 30 November 2021. Participants will have the chance to respond to questions and clarifications from the final Jury. The jury will award scores to each Top 6 submissions. The Top 3 winners for the AGEA Business Idea Competition 2021 will be determined by the total scores amassed by each idea.
Additionally, an Audience award will be presented to the submission that receives the highest number of votes from the participating audience in the Final Event. An online voting channel will be used and details will be communicated later.
The Top 3 ideas will receive the following prizes:
- First Prize – €1,000
- Second Prize – €500
- Third Prize – €300
- Audience Award – €500
The post-competition support is available to all innovative and promising ideas that enter the competition, regardless of whether end up as prize winners or not. The following support will be extended to teams or individuals that will be selected for their innovative ideas.
- Incubation Support: Innovative ideas with promise will be identified and provided with incubation support for commercialisation. This will be implemented through the network of AGEA partners in Africa and Germany. For example, the Centre for Business Development – Kumasi Business Incubator at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana, INES Incubation Centre at INES-Ruhengeri in Rwanda, and the Self-Management Initiative Leipzig (SMILE) at Leipzig University, in Germany.
- Coaching and Mentoring: Ideas will be linked to international business development experts within the AGEA Network who will serve as coaches and mentors. The coaches and mentors will work with the individuals or teams to shape the ideas into bankable business models and business plans.
- Training: Specialised knowledge and skills are required to manage start-ups successfully. Therefore, tailored training sessions will be organised for the teams to provide the knowledge, skills and tools needed to manage the start-up. This training will be delivered in collaboration with SMILE, which has over the past 15 years supported over 600 start-ups in Germany and more than €42 million in funding support for start-ups. External experts will be brought in when required to provide a comprehensive training.
- Support for funding applications: Selected ideas will have access to the vast experience and expertise available within AGEA to support their application for further funding from funding institutions in Germany and elsewhere.
- Support through Intellectual Property (IP) related issues.
Call for Submissions – AGEA Idea Competition