UC buzzes with innovation over summer

21 December 2015

The University of Canterbury is buzzing with entrepreneurial ideas over summer as teams of innovative students get down to business.

UC buzzes with innovation over summer

Little Yellow Bird founder Samantha Jones (centre) in Bangalore (Bengaluru), India, on the roof of the factory where her socially-conscious enterprise's shirts are made by women such as Kalaivani (left) and Kamakshi, helping their community.

While the traditional view is that students take a long summer break from studying, the University of Canterbury is buzzing with entrepreneurial ideas as teams of innovative students get down to business.

UC Innovators is a fresh initiative dedicated to helping students from across the university fuel their inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit. Headed by the Operations Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Dr Rachel Wright, the Summer Start-Up Programme for 2015/2016 is under way, with ideas for profit and non-profit ventures incubating in the Centre for Entrepreneurship.

This new programme gives students the essential framework to fast-track their ventures to the next stage. Students use the Lean Business Model methodology and gain plenty of supportive mentoring to experience what is involved in starting up a new venture over the 10-week programme.

This summer's programme has 33 students from all across the UC campus working on ventures that include a number of socially responsible non-profit organisations such as The Global Foodie Project, which aims to support food start-ups in developing communities through a microfinance scheme managed by World Vision.

Global Foodie Project team lead Katie Talbot describes the venture as literally a piece of cake. “Our initiative uses food as the game changer, foodies supporting foodies,” Katie says.

Similarly, Little Yellow Bird, an ethical corporate shirt-making company, intends to help impoverished, low-caste women in India. UC student Samantha Jones describes her team’s venture as connecting corporates with community development projects.

“We provide customised apparel to businesses and connect them with a project they care about. It’s a socially-conscious enterprise which connects people by providing simple organic sustainable garments that look great and feel good while giving back and uniting communities”, Samantha says. 

The students’ ideas range from a sports psychology app to book publishing to a furniture manufacturer, each with their own unique twist.

Dr Wright, who has a PhD in biochemistry and worked in biotechnology in the United States for several years before returning to New Zealand, says that UC Innovators is so successful that other universities are trying to copy the programme.

“There’s a shortage of people who can think innovatively and apply their ideas in the real world. And New Zealand desperately needs more entrepreneurs. We’re here to support students and provide the best environment for them to grow their ideas, whether they’re social enterprises, for-profit or charitable ventures. Even our for-profit start-ups have ethical or sustainable elements to them, which shows how our students at UC are applying global thinking to their business ideas.”

Dr Wright says the UC Innovators programme has been well supported by local entrepreneurs and the business community. The start-up incubator has entrepreneurs, business leaders, academics and other experts coming to the building on Ilam campus to speak to students on a variety of topics, with two speakers per day. They also offer coaching, mentoring and internship opportunities.

A professor from top-ranked Austrian business school WU Vienna, Dr Rudolf Domotor, who is the Director of the Entrepreneurship Centre Network at the Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (a joint initiative with six Viennese universities), will visit UC early next year. Formerly a self-employed start-up and innovation consultant, Dr Domotor will give seminars and work with UC academics and students studying entrepreneurship and innovation.

Students are encouraged to work full-time on their ventures during the UC Innovators programme, with all teams preparing to present at demo day in early February 2016.


For more information contact:

Dr Rachel Wright, UC Operations Director Centre for Entrepreneurship

Phone: (03) 364 2981 Ext. 6062  Email: rachel.wright@canterbury.ac.nz


Margaret Agnew, UC Senior External Relations Advisor

Phone: (03) 364 2775 or 027 5030 168  Email: margaret.agnew@canterbury.ac.nz