A BUSINESS proposal to produce innovative and therapeutic hemp products has wowed the judges to win this year’s Aberystwyth University InvEnterPrize student business ideas competition.
The business plan and pitch by Jamila La Malfa-Donaldson, a postgraduate student researching industrial hemp, won her a £10,000 business investment sponsored by alumni of the University.
Her food and cosmetics brand, ProHempOtic, will offer a range of products derived from organic hemp with added plant-based ingredients, aimed at supporting health and wellbeing.
Jamila’s business idea also secured another of the competition’s coveted prizes, a year of office space at the Aberystwyth innovation and enterprise campus, AberInnovation.
She was also awarded a £500 prize for rural business sponsored by the Growth in Rural Resilience and Innovation Network (GRRaIN).
Five of this year’s twelve entries were shortlisted by the judging panel, who studied business plans, listened to pitches, and deliberated over the submissions.
All five finalists have been awarded £1,000 by the University, from its Research Wales Innovation Fund grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.
A separate prize of £3,000 sponsored by Engineers in Business was awarded to Thomas Breeze, a Computer Science postgraduate, who showcased an innovative modular robotics concept, BreezeLabs.
The judging panel included several Aberystwyth University graduates who have gone on to have successful careers in business. They were also joined by last year’s InvEnterPrize winner Karl Swanepoel, who graduated with a degree in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in 2021.
After securing investment in his business idea in InvEnterPrize 2021, Karl’s company Revolancer, a freelance marketplace that connects skilled freelancers with ambitious businesses looking to grow, has gone from strength to strength.
As well as helping to judge this year’s entries, Karl also donated a £1,500 Revolancer voucher as a prize for the finalist whose business idea would benefit the most from freelancer support, such as design work or website development. This prize was also awarded to ProHempOtic.
Following the prize-giving, Jamila La Malfa-Donaldson said: “The opportunity to enter, let alone win, the InvEnterPrize competition has given me a life-changing opportunity I am very grateful for. To prepare for the competition, I worked with Big Ideas Wales business advisor Julie Morgan, I attended all of the online workshops led by Aberpreneurs and took part in the BioAccelerate programme run by AberInnovation.”
Jamila is studying for her PhD at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), and has been developing testing processes, and cultivation and processing methods of industrial hemp for therapeutic compounds.
The 29-year old from South East London has already been making plans on how to use her investment funding: “I intend to spend the prize money on research and development activities for the product line, testing the products for their safety and nutritional content, as well as developing the brand and an e-commerce website and blog. I’m excited to grow a team of freelancers through Revolancer. I am also taking part in the Productivity to Prosperity programme run by AberInnovation to develop a recipe for a novel hempseed drink. I look forward to continuing to work with Julie Morgan, who is now working with Antur Cymru Enterprise, to test the product line in a pop-up Trading Space in Aberystwyth town centre this summer.”
Organised annually by the University Careers Service, this year’s InvEnterPrize contest saw entries from entrepreneurial students and groups of students from across the University, who submitted a wide range of business ideas.
There were product design concepts such as a smart cane aid for blind people and a weight harness for kettle bells; online enterprises including a music and chat platform and a styling platform; software to assist with the creation of virtual tours; a healthy lung app to help patients to manage their disease; a shop selling environmentally conscious products; and a seed and seedling development company.
The University’s Careers Consultant and Entrepreneurship Champion, Tony Orme, said: “A decade on from its launch, InvEnterPrize continues to be one of the most exciting student business idea competitions in the UK. The added value of the competition is that, whilst they are developing their business plans, entrants are given the opportunity to attend workshops and presentations to hone their enterprise skills and access to free one-to-one start-up mentoring from Big Ideas Wales.
“The quality of this year’s finalists has certainly lived up to expectations – congratulations to each of them. Our thanks go to the Aber alumni whose generous donations fund the main prize, and of course to our fantastic judges. It was great to welcome back last year’s winner, Karl Swanepoel, whose success with Revolancer we are eagerly following. We wish Jamila all the very best as she develops her business.”
Chair of the InvEnterPrize judges, Peter Gradwell, who graduated from Aberystwyth with a degree in Software Engineering in 2002 and founded business communications company Gradwell Communications Ltd and more recently, a mobile network (IQ Mobile Ltd), said: “The alumni ‘Dragons’ were delighted to be back to assess another fantastic range of innovative business ideas from Aber students. The entries highlighted the diversity and tenacity of student business, covering business opportunities such as fitness, entertainment, mental health, biomedical sciences, tourism and robotics. Congratulations to our overall winner Jamila, who delivered a clear presentation and comprehensive business plan to bring to market an innovative range of hemp based products, leveraging both an exciting consumer healthcare trend and the University’s experience in developing industrial hemp.”
Aberystwyth University offers a full programme of events to support entrepreneurial activity amongst students, graduates and staff. To find out more visit the AberPreneurs website.
Young person celebrates kickstart job and overcomes several obstacles
22-YEAR-OLD Lee from rural Ceredigion found it challenging to secure permanent employment. Having no mode of transport as well as his diagnosis of autism and depression meant that Lee has experienced significant barriers with finding and maintaining employment. Communities For Work Plus (CFW+) provided Lee with the right tools and opportunities to find the right role for him. He now has a job at ASN Watson (Savers), with a more positive future ahead.
Lee was struggling financially with increasing debt and although he had been working in the past, the nature and environment of the work was not practical for Lee’s abilities; he was often misunderstood by employers.
After being referred to CFW+ from Job Centre Plus, Aberystwyth, Lee received support with job searches, applications, cover letters, cv writing, and interview skills. He’s now in paid employment, secured through the Kickstart Scheme. The UK Government Kickstart Scheme provides funding to employers to create jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit.
Lee said: “The project helped me a lot as I struggle to know where to start when it comes to finding jobs, but this definitely helped. Communities for Work+ has got you covered!”
Communities For Work Plus is a Welsh Government funded project, delivered by Ceredigion County Council which supports individuals in or at risk of poverty, aged 16 or over, across Ceredigion and throughout Wales. Participants may be experiencing in-work poverty, unemployment, living on minimum wage, or struggling to pay basic monthly outgoings on sporadic zero-hour contracts.
Misha Homayoun-Fekri, CFW+ Mentor said: “Lee has been a pleasure to support. He was always very responsive, and we worked together every step of the way. I am so pleased for Lee that he has found a job that he can be happy in.”
Since starting his new role, Lee has become a lot more independent, his mental health has improved, and has started to save money for the future.
Councillor Wyn Thomas, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, said: “One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum. A report released by the Office for National Statistics shows that only 21.7% of autistic people are in employment; meaning that businesses are missing out on the opportunity to benefit from the strengths that autistic people can bring to the workplace. So, it’s great to hear that Lee has found an autism-friendly employer through the support provided by CFW+ and I encourage more employers to be more inclusive to all abilities when considering employees.”
If you think the project may be able to help you or if you would like more information, contact the team on 01545 574193 or email TCC-EST@ceredigion.gov.uk.
Wales’ first law department celebrates 120 years at Old Bailey
Wales’ oldest university law department has marked its 120th anniversary with a celebratory event at London’s top criminal court.
Law has been taught at Aberystwyth University since 1901, and in the 120 years that have followed more than 9,000 students from almost one hundred countries have graduated and launched their careers from the department.
The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales provided an illustrious setting for the first of two prestigious events held to mark the 120th anniversary of the longest-established law department in the country.
Alumni of the department include several Ministers of State, politicians and leaders, many who have gone on to develop distinguished legal careers, and those who have achieved success in other professions.
Held at the ‘Old Bailey’ in London, the celebratory event was attended by alumni, staff students and other special guests, including Ceredigion MP Ben Lake. The Guest Speaker was The Rt Hon Lord David Lloyd-Jones FLSW, Honorary Fellow of Aberystwyth University.
The special anniversary will be celebrated at a second event to be held at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales in Cardiff on the evening of Friday 10 June. Alumni wishing to attend can find more information on the University website: www.aber.ac.uk/en/development/newsandevents/law-anniversary-dinners
Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, The Rt Hon. Lord Thomas of Cwmgïedd, said: “The history of the teaching of law at Aberystwyth is an inspiring story of dogged determination by a small number of indomitable individuals who laid the foundation for the highly-respected department you see today. In 1899 when it became clear that there was widespread support for the ambition to establish a law department in Wales to provide a broad education in legal principles, funding was raised through the generosity of members of the Bar circuits of north and south Wales, and amongst London Welshmen, with many firms of solicitors and individuals making contributions and pledging recurrent annual support.”
Professor Emyr Lewis, Head of Aberystwyth University’s Department of Law and Criminology said: “From its embryonic foundations at the beginning of the twentieth century, the teaching of law at Aberystwyth has flourished. Today, as well as excellent teaching which has always been a hallmark of the Aberystwyth approach, the department offers numerous opportunities for students to develop practical skills and hands-on experience.
Students have the chance to undertake casework in our Family Law Clinic, acquire and practise advocacy skills through our Mooting Society, volunteer with ground-breaking research projects such as Dewis/Choice and the Veterans Legal Link Project, and benefit from our new Law in Practice modules which are designed to begin filling the gap between the traditional core knowledge gained through a law degree and practice.”
Louise Jagger, Aberystwyth University’s Director of Development and Alumni Relations, said: “The long tradition of philanthropic giving at Aberystwyth University continues to this day and was also celebrated and promoted at the dinner. Over recent years we have embarked on our largest ever philanthropic campaign to transform the iconic Old College into a major cultural and creative centre for Wales to mark the University’s 150th anniversary.
“Part of our plans for the Old College include a Law Room and Moot Court to honour and celebrate the rich contribution that the Law department has made to the University through the provision of a space for public engagement and for enhancing the public understanding of the law. The facility will provide a dedicated venue and resource centre for Moots, the Law Society, debates, seminars, exhibitions, public lectures and alumni gatherings. Students past, present and future will benefit from this excellent facility. We are grateful to the alumni and friends who have already donated towards this goal and will be inviting further contributions right up until the reopening of Old College in 2024.”
Professor Tim Woods, Aberystwyth University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Learning, Teaching and Student Experience, said: “It is a pleasure to join alumni and friends from across the country to celebrate the Department of Law and Criminology’s contribution to Aberystwyth University and its impact on the world over the past 120 years.
“The University itself is celebrating its 150th Anniversary this year, and we look forward to reuniting with alumni and supporters at celebratory events in Cardiff, Aberystwyth and London over the coming year to mark this important milestone.”
Aberystwyth University was awarded University of the Year for teaching quality and student experience (Good University Guide, The Times and Sunday Times 2021) and also University of the Year for teaching quality two years consecutively, and Welsh University of the Year (Good University Guide, The Times and Sunday Times 2020).
Funding for music education trebled to the tune of £13.5m
Every child will have the opportunity to benefit from music education as part of the Welsh Government’s plans for a national music service, which will help ensure no child misses out due to a lack of means.
As the National Plan for Music Education is published, the Minister for Education has confirmed funding will be trebled, with £13.5m being invested over the next three years.
The plan will make access to music education fairer and more consistent across Wales, with a particular focus on learners from low-income households and those with Additional Learning Needs. Support will be available for children and young people to access and progress with music tuition, with learners from disadvantaged and under-represented groups supported to join music ensembles.
The plan includes a number of key work programmes such as:
A review on music tutors’ terms and conditions, to ensure they are treated equitably and are recognised properly.
A ‘First Experiences’ programme to offer children in primary schools a minimum of half a term of musical instrument taster sessions, delivered by trained and skilled music practitioners.
A ‘Making Music with Others’ initiative, including opportunities for children and young people in secondary schools to gain industry experience through working alongside musicians and creative industries
A new national instrument and equipment library to support access to a resource bank to be shared across Wales.
These programmes will be rolled out from September 2022, supporting schools and settings to give all children and young people from the ages of 3 to 16 the opportunity to learn to play an instrument as well as singing and making music in our schools and our communities.
The National Music Service will operate as a ‘hub’, with the Welsh Local Government Association co-ordinating the Music Service’s programmes with a wide range of organisations. It will help schools and settings in their delivery of the Curriculum for Wales and provide more diverse opportunities for children and young people to experience music outside schools and settings.
First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford and the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, visited St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School in Swansea to see a cluster of primary school children taking part in a ‘Play Along’ session led by Swansea Music Service.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
“The establishment of a National Music Service for Wales is an important commitment in our Programme for Government and I’m delighted that we are delivering on this pledge.
“Learning an instrument was a formative part of my upbringing and a lack of money should not be a barrier to any young person who wants to learn to play music. We are fortunate in Wales to have a strong tradition of school, county and national ensembles, and we want to make sure that our children and young people are able to play a full part in these. This funding will support music services in schools and within the community to help nurture our young musical talent.”
The Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said:
“Our vision is for all children and young people across Wales, regardless of background, to have the chance to learn to play an instrument. The plan we are publishing today, backed by funding, will help deliver that vision.
“For too long, the chance to learn an instrument and develop musical skills has been for those few whose families and carers who can afford tuition. I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to access music tuition, and that’s why we’re making this significant investment to deliver a range of activities for our children and young people to learn and experience the joy of music.
“The development of the National Music Service will ensure that we nurture our next generation and continue to produce new talent and showcase Wales to the world.”
WLGA Chief Executive Chris Llewelyn said:
“We are proud to work with the Welsh Government on delivering this vital service to children across Wales. Many families in Wales can’t afford an instrument, and this funding will go a long way to opening doors to children across Wales to have the opportunity of learning an instrument.
“Playing an instrument and reading music is a very important skill for a child, and music brings enormous joy to children. Local authorities believe that children across Wales will have better access to instruments, and this plan will develop many future talented musicians, and support pupils to develop their musical skills.”
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