Want to start up? You have no idea; Prize available

In my professional and private life I meet many people (me included btw) who would love to start their own business.  All they are missing is that killer idea. Well look no further.  A little reported event this week may just be what you have been looking for.

Spark your entrepreneurial spirit

No idea

The current downturn has had the effect of leaving a heck of a lot of very bright people either out of work or underemployed just to pay the bills.  My hunch is that the tough times are here for a while yet.  A fair few of these people think so too and are putting their minds towards creating their own employment.  If they are successful they’ll create employment for others and we will start to grind our way out of the age of austerity.

What is a person to do if they are oozing with energy but just can’t think of a viable business to ‘keep the rust off the pan’?  Do excuse the shameless plug for the 9-5 but they could do worse than look in the Business idea profiles tool on nibusinessinfo.co.uk.  Its got some great ideas from Alpaca wool producer to Water buffalo milk producer and quite a few in between.  That’s the infomercial out of the way, no lets get to the beef.

The little reported event I referred to in my intro was the launch of the new Ulster Institutional Repository on the 3rd August by my alma mater, the University of Ulster.

The idea factory

The press release heralds access to almost 8,000 published pieces of research available in the archive.  This goldmine of information published by the idea factory that is the largest university on the island of Ireland has to have a panoply of uncommercialised gems just waiting to be exploited.

The repository dates back to 1960 with the years 2008 and 2009 having over one thousand items of research published in each year alone.  This isn’t some fusty, stale old research here hogging space on a library shelf.  Its bang up to date and has the relevancy and currency required to make an impact on the world stage.

Fag packet calculations

So just how much of this research is primed for the average Jonny Entrepreneur to capitalise on?  I have had a really quick trawl through the repository and have come up with the following figures on the back of a fag packet so please no trolling or challenging the academic rigour of my research methodology.

Out of the 8,000 items let’s assume that about half are completely out of date or have been superseded by more up to date research.  That’s not a criticism.  The newer stuff is standing on the shoulders of giants.

That leaves 4,000.  Now lets also assume that half of that again is either so theoretical or way out there to you and me that it currently has no application in the real world.  Again, not a criticism its just ahead of its time.

Now we are down to 2,000.  They don’t hand out academic qualifications like sweeties so lets assume again that those bright people at the university have already commercialised some of that research either through spin outs, KTPs or consultancy etc.

Now we are down to 1,000 ideas.  Still a fair amount.  Whilst trawling through the research a lot of the more recent stuff is hidden behind paywalls of some shape or form and is not actually freely available yet.  I stand to be corrected on that and its probably not to hard to get access to an Athens account to gain access.  Still that rules out another half, especially some of the more recent papers.

So that leaves us with 500 to work with.  If a group of people with commercialisation experience reviewed those they might see potential in 250 of them.

250 potential businesses.  That probably sounds a bit high.  But with a bit of hard graft there are real business opportunities.  Business opportunities that might just attract a bit of angel investment.  The oft mooted success rate of angel investments is some 10%.

25 rock star businesses

10% of 250 gives us 25 successful businesses.  Those have the potential to be superstar businesses started in our own back yard.  They have the potential to generate jobs and wealth for our wee country so what are you waiting for?  Get trawling through those archives.


For a bit of fun I’m offering a prize of a used copy of The Long Tail by Chris Anderson bought using my own hard earned to the best business idea based on a piece of research published in this repository.  Outline a quick overview of your idea and provide a link to the relevant piece of research in the comments section below.  I’ll see how things go and I’ll pull together a poll in the coming weeks for people to vote on if I get any interest.  Please share, retweet, whatever with your friends.  The more the merrier.

The research must not be currently commercialised in a similar way or be currently in pre-production.  I’ll pay postage and packaging within the UK and Ireland.