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Big Idea Challenge: Successful Teams With Growth Potential

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YEREVAN, Armenia — Creative Spark Big Idea Challenge is the British Council’s 60-second video pitching competition designed to teach the basics of entrepreneurship and how to grow an idea from concept to reality. Within the scope of the competition, the American University of Armenia (AUA), in partnership with Northumbria University (NU), organized a series of workshops and consultation sessions for youth-led innovative projects to help aspiring entrepreneurs ideate their projects and prepare an impressive pitch. After several iterations, each of the participating teams prepared their one-minute video pitch, addressing the comments and improvement suggestions offered by the academic support team of the AUA/NU partnership.

In conclusion of the workshops and consultation sessions, the partnership showcased four country finalists to participate in the “Digital Technology” and “Climate Change” categories of the Creative Spark Big Idea Challenge. The teams that did not reach the finals had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in creating and developing their ideas. 

At the conclusion of the Creative Spark Big Idea Challenge 2021 competition, two AUA teams were announced as winners in the above-mentioned categories. The overall country winner and the winner from Armenia in the Climate Change category was I Was a Plastic Bottle, the first circular initiative creating yarn and synthetic fiber from plastic waste in Armenia and in the region. Fitted, an online platform where users can digitally try on clothes on their individual 3D body models, was the winner from Armenia in the Digital Technology category. These teams were nominated along with two other AUA/NU partnership finalists, Brique Heat and Medpoint Technologies. 

The workshops titled “The Art of a One-Minute Pitch” and consulting sessions for improvement of the one-minute video pitches were run by renowned trainer Jesus “Chus” Lozano, himself a serial entrepreneur and a business angel. He is recognized for helping first-time entrepreneurs to master their pitching skills and effectively communicate the idea to the audience. “The organizers put a lot of love and effort into bringing the tournament to every corner of Armenia,” Lozano attests. “AUA/NU partnership has a fantastic team, which took seriously the challenge of showing the world that Armenia has great talent. All the participants had a moment of inspiration and learned about the reality of becoming an entrepreneur. When you can clearly summarize your business idea in one minute, you understand that you are working on something exciting.”

The AUA/NU partnership was successful in reaching out to as many entrepreneurs as possible with only age and citizenship limitations imposed by program eligibility criteria. The participants were all citizens of Armenia from the capital and the regions. The two winning projects, I Was a Plastic Bottle and Fitted, are enterprises founded by women.

The AUA/NU partnership also organized training sessions in Gyumri and Vanadzor in cooperation with the Enterprise Incubator Foundation and its Technopark teams in those regional hubs. The organizing team also collaborated with IRIS Business Incubator and Impact Hub in organizing meetings with young entrepreneurs from those communities and running the local competition to select the 10 participating teams on behalf of the AUA/NU Partnership.

The local competition of the participating teams was conducted by leading experts in Armenia in partnership with Startup Armenia Foundation. Evaluators included AUA faculty, seasoned entrepreneurs, and startup ecosystem development experts.

Creative Spark: Higher Education Enterprise Programme is a five-year initiative to support international university and institutional partnerships to develop enterprise skills and creative economy across seven countries in Central Asia, South Caucasus and Ukraine through UK support.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.

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