Inflatable concrete shelter wins Entrepreneurs’ Challenge

Concrete Canvas, developed by Royal College of Art-Imperial College Masters students Peter Brewin and William Crawford, has already attracted lots of attention with its wide range of international applications in disaster recovery zones, military operations and aid agency activities. Peter and William took away the first prize of £25,000, made up of £10,000 in cash and £15,000 in legal, accounting and other business support services.

The runners up, each winning £5,000 (including £3,000 on services), were Orbel, a personal alcohol gel dispenser for healthcare workers to aid in the fight against MRSA, developed by Katie Goodwin, Adam Sutcliffe, Robin Chilton and Graeme Davies from the Royal College of Art; and Vizero, an e-commerce solution allowing easy, convenient real-time transactions between photographic sellers and purchasers, developed by Duane Bong, John Claeys and Emil Jersling from Imperial’s Mechanical Engineering Department. The Shell Prize of £1,000 for the best energy plan went to DIY Kyoto, products designed to tackle environmental issues, starting with a product that saves energy in the home, developed by Daniel Siden and Richard Woods.

Dr Simon Barnes, Head of Tanaka Business School’s Entrepreneurship Centre, said the 42 entries from 120 Imperial College and affiliated students were the highest standard seen in the competition’s five year history: “The competition is about putting our money into ideas that will be commercially successful. Each business team we saw had very well developed ideas, but Concrete Canvas stood out as being a highly innovative product that also had a compelling market need. The business team was committed, they had a sustainable business model in place, and they are supported by commercial partnerships.”

Half of the winning team, Peter Brewin said he and William had approached the challenge in an unorthodox way: “Entrepreneurs often come up with an idea or product and work out how best to produce it. William and I reversed this process, deciding that we really liked concrete as a medium, then researched into how we could best utilise it. Experimenting with Modrock and playing around with compression led to the concrete inflatable shelter.

“Getting the weight down was a major challenge, but our final product weighs only 230kg, can be put up by one person and provides 16m2 of sterilisable space, so the application for field hospitals and so on are immense.”

Designed to support Imperial entrepreneurs, the New Business Competition is part of a two stage business plan competition, with the Ideas Challenge held in the autumn term. The 120 students were supported this year by 64 mentors and external business team members.

From Imperial College

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