Business school students from around the world converged on Tauranga last week for the inaugural Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge, hosted by Waikato Management School.
Forty-eight students from 12 universities across five countries vied for top honours in a business case competition that looked at scenarios from three real-life companies: global toymaker ZURU, Tauranga’s Ubco Bikes and Good Buzz Kombucha.
The teams worked under time pressure to analyse the companies and devise strategies to address real-life challenges such as which markets to target, capital requirements, scaling up production capacity, new product development and pricing.
They then presented their strategies in boardroom settings around the Tauranga CBD to panels of business judges, including representatives from the case companies.
“The aim is to put students under the same pressures that management consultants face every day and get them in front of really exacting business people,” says Dr Stephen Bowden, director of the challenge and a senior lecturer in management at the Waikato Management School.
“The students faced the sort of tough questions that clients typically ask, which gives them great experience for life beyond university.”
The challenge culminated in a final on 31 August where the top four teams presented to a panel that included Good Buzz founders Amber and Alex Campbell and their business partners, Wendy and Richard Gatward.
“We really enjoyed the process and the outcome from the students was just amazing," says Mr Campbell. "We were blown away by the quality of thought and presentation."
The team from the University of New South Wales took out first prize in the inaugural competition. The other finalists were Waikato Management School, Queensland University of Technology and the University of Canterbury.
Katherine Sandford, chair of Ubco and a judge over the week, says it was great working with the students and supporting the integration of academic study with the business community. "It's so different from the 1980's approach to tertiary education."
Other universities that participated were Victoria University, the University of Otago, the University of Auckland, AUT, Simon Fraser University (British Columbia, Canada), HEC Montréal (Québec, Canada), Penn State University (Pennsylvania, USA) and Lancaster University (UK).
Dr Bowden says situating the first Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge in Tauranga was a deliberate decision that recognised the Bay of Plenty’s exciting entrepreneurial environment. "It also gave us the the opportunity to be part of the highly regarded Groundswell Festival of Innovation."