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A NEW PRODUCT that can identify whether a drink has been spiked has enabled University of Ulster student team to lift Ireland’s prestigious ‘College Entrepreneur of the Year 2010’ award

The ‘Dipsticks’ project was awarded the prestigious top prize of €10,000 at the Enterprise Ireland Student Enterprise Awards.

The hotly contested awards are sponsored by Enterprise Ireland, Invest Northern Ireland and Cruickshank Intellectual Property Attorneys and attract submissions from over 250 students each year.

The University of Ulster team was represented by Philip Anderson, Clare McCollum, Gordon Baird, Gareth Shappard & Judith McNally, who are all students in the University's Ulster Business School.

‘Dipsticks’ is a new innovation for automating and enabling the efficient detection of whether drugs have been added to a drink, known as ‘spiking’ a drink. The new product consists of a strip of paper impregnated with chemical reagents, which give a visual indication of the presence of drugs in the liquid being tested. This provides users with a continual test that is built into the stirrer, convenient and free for consumers.

In addition, the ‘Most Technologically Innovative Idea Award’ (sponsored by Cruickshank Intellectual Property Attorneys) of €7,500 plus €20,000 worth of consultancy went to ‘Ecotent’–  also from the University of Ulster.

Ecotent – an innovation from University of Ulster students Houston Reid, Stephen Cladwell, Terri O’ Kane & Jonathan Garland  – is a two man tent constructed completely of 100% biodegradable materials which will solve the problem of clean up operations after music festivals.

The main covering is made from jute tarpaulin, a canvas made from jute. Research confirms major ecological benefits - it is 100% biodegradable, it is the fastest growing crop, with a much higher CO2 assimilation rate than trees. And when discarded, jute totally decomposes, putting valuable nutrients back into the soil.

Congratulating the award winners on their successes, Republic of Ireland Minister for Trade and Commerce Billy Kelleher said:

“These awards are a really important opportunity for third level students to test their flair for business. These young people are our successful entrepreneurs of the future. They show all the hallmarks of the innovative and resilient entrepreneurs and management teams on which the success and long term strength of Ireland’s economy depends.

“Irish companies that are export focussed, innovation-led, have excellent management teams and are lean and competitive can exploit the emerging opportunities that we are now seeing with the positive uplift in the economy. These students show every evidence of playing a part in that economic uplift.”

Professor Barry Quinn, Head of the Department of Business, Retail and Financial Services  at Ulster said:

"This is a fantastic achievement for our students and I would like to congratulate them on representing our Department and the Ulster Business School with such distinction.

"This is the second time in three years a group of students from our Department has won the competition so we are delighted.  I would also like to commend our staff members Fred Scharf and Chris McLean who mentored the students in the run up to the competition through their innovative New Venture Creation module.

" This provided the students with a great support network for the development of their business concept."

Enterprise Ireland will also provide the team with a mentor/business coach to develop the commercial viability of their overall concept.

The second prize of €6,500 went to Mobilis from Cork Institute of Technology, while a QUB team came third .

University of Ulster academic Fred Scharf also shared a prize worth €4000 in recognition of the academic institution with the highest quality projects overall.

He said: "This success at the 2010 Student Enterprise Awards is a wonderful conclusion to the current academic year and I am delighted to see our students performing so well against an impressive field of finalists from all over Ireland.

"The two student groups, DipStick and ecoTent, have not only shown tremendous creative ability in coming up with their highly innovative product concepts, but they have also put in many hours of hard work to develop their plan for commercialisation to the highest possible standard. Working with them throughout the year has been a real pleasure."

The Enterprise Ireland Student Enterprise Awards, now in their 27th year, are Ireland’s biggest and longest established third-level student enterprise competition.

Sponsored by Enterprise Ireland, Invest Northern Ireland and Cruickshank Intellectual Property Attorneys, this is an all island competition that gives third level student teams the chance to explore business ideas and their own appetite for going into business for themselves.

It offers an unrivalled prize fund totalling €50,000 in cash and mentor support for the national and category winners.The initiative has also received support from the University's Office of Innovation.