Posted on Wednesday 12 March 2014 by Ulster Business

Top gun

NISP CONNECT's Peter Edgar and Bank of Ireland's Julie-Ann O'Hare unleash their inner Maverick to announce the prize for INVENT 2014's top guns.

Northern Ireland's hottest innovators will get the chance to travel to California for an exclusive, money-can't-buy opportunity to connect with some of the world's leading lights in science and technology.

The Northern Ireland Science Park has announced that each of the six category winners in its INVENT2014 Awards, in partnership with Bank of Ireland UK, will win two places on a lucrative visit to San Diego and San Francisco later this year.

The week-long visit will take in San Diego, which, as well as being home to many of the world's top business clusters in biotechnology, wireless communications, biofuels ad sports technology, is also the location for the elite fighter pilot academy on which the movie Top Gun was based.

The value of this opportunity to meet "the best of the best" is far beyond measure, as Steve Orr, Director of NISP CONNECT, explained.

He said: "This is a money-can't buy opportunity for our local innovators. California is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the science and technology world. Northern Irish entrepreneurs will benefit enormously from this direct bridge to the world's most influential and advanced players.

"This is like the Top Gun Academy for our local innovators: they will get the chance to meet real players, build invaluable links and bring their contacts home to help cultivate and develop Northern Ireland's science and technology industries.

"Through the Northern Ireland Science Park's direct links with the CONNECT organisation in San Diego, we have been invited to bring our own brightest talent to meet theirs. They will have the chance to meet potential partners, collaborators, customers and investors, just at the point when their new business is ready to take off following the INVENT programme.

The INVENT2014 awards (former £25K Awards) are looking for Northern Ireland's next big idea with commercial potential. They are open to individuals or small companies (less than five employees) with an innovative idea, from farmyard engineers to garden shed inventors, research scientists and high tech kids programming games and apps in their bedroom.

Julie-Ann O'Hare, Director, Business Banking Bank of Ireland UK, said, "This is a really amazing opportunity for some of Northern Ireland's best and most promising inventors to connect with global leaders of innovation in their fields of expertise. Can you imagine the networks this will explore and open to local businesses? We are excited to be part of INVENT 2014 and the unique opportunity for local talented inventors to springboard their ideas into a global, commercial reality."

Up to 24 award applicants will get the chance to team up with expert mentors, who take them through a six month programme of challenging and refining their idea, before presenting a final business plan in a grand pitch event in September. The winners in six categories will win a slice of the £33,000 prize fund and now the chance to be part of Northern Ireland's most exciting tech mission.

Initial applications for the INVENT2014 Awards must be submitted by Friday 4th April. For information on the awards, go to www.invent2014.co

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