Leap of Faith – The Adventurous 48 Hours of the 2019 EIRA Start-Up Weekender

Adrian Paris, University of Kent Hub Innovation & Enterprise Assitant

The 2019 EIRA Sart-Up Weekender was Held at Hilltop Outdoor Centre in Norfolk

From 15th to the 17th of March, approximately 50 students from four universities including the University of Essex, the University of East Anglia, the Norwich University of the Arts and the University of Kent attended the Start-Up Weekender event in Norwich funded by EIRA.

After arriving on Friday afternoon, students from all universities were allocated to mixed groups and settled into their designated accommodation before gathering in the reception for dinner. The catering team offered a delicious selection of either lamb shank served on a bed of mashed potatoes, a traditional English roast dinner or scrumptious vegetarian alternatives and students were encouraged to socialise with one another. Once the evening meal was completed, students proceeded to the lounge area to register themselves and later staff members formally introduced themselves and explained where they were from. A detailed outline of the itinerary for the weekend was given to students and the night ended with a series of different board games, movie watching and musical instruments being at the student’s disposal to further stimulate interactions and relationship forming.

Saturday’s schedule began with an early breakfast at 7:45am and involved a beautiful assortment of breads, pastries, fruits, cereals and even included staff serving a full English breakfast. Once students had finished with their meal it was time for the activities. Students participated in a range of team building exercises as well as attending talks regarding business inspiring goals. Exercises included outdoor activities such as archery, wall climbing and abseiling, tree-top trail courses and many more, with the intention of providing opportunities for students to establish trusting partnerships with each other. After a few hours of thrill seeking and laughs, students and staff headed to the conference room to listen to a series of talks regarding the main project which students were going to partake in for the next 36 hours.

“Overall the experience was incredible, it was really fun being able to do the activities as well as the business ideation. We really learned a lot during the weekend and are really grateful for the opportunity. We know that we will make use of what we learned in the future and the event gave us insight and confidence when generating business ideas.” –Rebecca Hoare, University of Kent student and attendee of event

United Nations Sustainable Development. (2019) Available at: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

Participants were debriefed about the 17 UN sustainability goals covering major key issues such as world poverty, world hunger, improved education and more. Groups were instructed to conceive an innovative solution to one of the UN sustainability goals mentioned and were expected to explain the logistics of their innovation including sources of revenue, distribution and manufacturing management and marketing strategies through presentations which were to be given on the final day of the event. Students were reminded to be as concise as possible as they only had 5 minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of four judges.  Further talks were given to address key components of successful presentations along with essential points to consider when conceiving a tangible business idea. While the Norfolk sun and clear blue skies were still visible, the rest of the day was designated towards allowing groups to brainstorm and develop their ideas. Dinner was held just before 6:00pm and included a mouth-watering selection of either beef or vegetable lasagne and BBQ chicken with chips along with either chocolate sponge cake or berry cheesecake for dessert. A night of music, skilled snooker and intense table tennis followed but lasted for a duration of about an hour when staff soon realized that students were leaving the board games…to advance in their presentations.

Air Jump Hilltop Outdoor Centre Video

A brightly sunlit Sunday morning led to a great start for the day, beginning with breakfast and then leading to the last set of activities. Courage and bravery was clearly demonstrated by students as they partook in activities including a free fall from a 16 metre (52ft) jumping platform onto a giant airbag, known as the Air Jump, and a 12 metre (40ft) high Super Swing. After the rush of adrenaline passed groups were instructed to utilize the remaining time to finish their presentations and rehearse their speeches. At around 1:00pm students and staff made their way to the conference room to show the audience the endless hours of hard work they had put into their ideas and presentations. The judges gave took their seats and were keen to hear the innovative ideas. Group by group, students presented their intricate solutions to problems and gave elaborate presentations with some groups utilizing animation and app prototypes to further illustrate key ideas. Students focused on key innovative issues ranging from how to best harness and distribute renewable energy, complex systems created to improve education and intricate facilities designed to generate energy. In the end, three groups took home the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prize but all participating groups were congratulated for their enormous effort, creativity and ambition evident through their ideas. The last hour of the event was dedicated to students saying their goodbyes and exchanging business social media information with each other to further develop their relationship in the future. All in all, the EIRA Start-Up Weekender event accomplished all expectations and went beyond the perceived goals as students were completely engaged in establishing partnerships, working together to formulate ideas and present them professionally and most importantly to learn and develop their entrepreneurship skills. Success!

“The energy and enthusiasm that came from the teams was outstanding, considering that the students had never met each other before Friday afternoon, to then be put into mixed University groups to then engage with each other and identify ideas for start up business ideas.  Then by Sunday afternoon to be presenting those ideas to a panel of judges, and to be of such calibre, is simply breath taking! Its so rewarding to further partner up with colleagues at the other institutions and so amazing that the EIRA project has been able to support such an activity” –Marcus Wright, Enterprise Relationship Manager, University of Kent

For more information on the University of Kent hub for innovation and enterprise please see here: 

For more information on EIRA please see here :



Adrian Paris

Kent Hub for Innovation and Enterprise Assistant

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