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Engineering postgraduate’s cycling sensor shortlisted for entrepreneurship award

A former engineering postgraduate could win £20,000 after his business plan - to develop an aerodynamic drag measurement system for professional cyclists and enthusiasts - was shortlisted for a national entrepreneurship award. 

Thomas Irps, who completed his MSc in Advanced Mechanical Engineering at Sussex in September 2012, is one of five postgraduate students in the UK in the running to win a Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award later this month.

Thomas put the Vortex Sports Design project forward for the award after winning a £2,000 bursary while at Sussex, as part of a scheme funded by the global bank Santander.

The Santander postgraduate entrepreneurship scheme offers five awards each year to Sussex Masters and doctoral students who show promising entrepreneurial talent.

As a 2012 winner, Thomas received support from the Careers and Employability Centre and the Doctoral School, who administer the scheme. He also benefitted from business mentoring with experts at the Sussex Innovation Centre on campus, who advised him on how best to trademark his intellectual property, as well as making introductions to important local industry partners.  

He has partnered with former elite cyclist Eric DeGolier to commercialise Vortex’s Bodyrocket system, which aims to provide aerodynamic drag feedback to cyclists during competitive sporting activities. Through the Aerodynamic Drag Sensor, the enterprise aims to provide the benefits of wind-tunnel testing to athletes on a standard bicycle on any road.

“It’s a very exciting time for us,” said Thomas. “We’re just getting to the point where our hard work is beginning to pay off – our prototype has really come together and we’ve proven the value of the design. The next step is to ready the system to put it in the hands of professional cyclists and hopefully this prize money will arrive at just the right time.”

Thomas and the other shortlisted candidates will present their ideas to a panel of judges in London on 25 June, when the winners the will be announced. Prizes range from £5,000 for third place, to the top prize of £20,000.

The awards and bursaries are both part of an agreement, signed in 2011, between the University and Santander, through its Santander Universities Global Division. Since 1996 the bank has signed 979 agreements in 15 countries, including China, Brazil, Mexico, and the USA. In the UK the network began its activity in 2007 and more than 50 universities are now members.

Stephen Brooks, Santander’s Head of Public Finance and Infrastructure, said: “The quality of the business cases submitted is outstanding and the students have impressed us all in the judging panel with their innovative ideas full of market potential. This is testament to the excellent work done by many UK universities encouraging their students to become entrepreneurs.”

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Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Monday, 17 June 2013

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