Friday, September 02, 2005

Oriental Negros Innovation Awards 2005-2006

Rational Technology for September 4, 2005

This year marks the third year that the province is holding the Oriental Negros Innovation Awards. The brainchild of DTI Provincial Director Javier Fortunato and then-Peace Corps volunteer Veneeth Iyengar, the business plan competition has already seen its 2003 grand prize winner, Boni Comandante's Buhi fish anesthetic, reap international awards and at the same time grow into an international company. The Innovation Awards contest by itself should also be a source of pride for Dumaguete as it is now used as the template for other similar competitions, most notable the Philippine Entrepreneurial Startups Organization (PESO) contest.

What exactly are the Innovation Awards? In a nutshell, it is an competition that aims to discover and encourage that aims to discover and develop innovative business ideas. Focus areas are businesses concerning agriculture, health, environment, science and information technology. The contest is open to all entrepreneurs, but the stipulation is, of course, that the business must be set up in Oriental Negros. This is spur the further economic development in Oriental Negros by creating more jobs and bringing in additional capital investment into the city.

There's a prize money of P50,000 to the first place winner. Runners up will also receive cash awards. The end goal, of course, are not the prizes themselves. The prize money actually constitutes seed capital that must go into starting up the business.

In the scale of things, P50,000 might not sound like much to start a business, but one should consider it only as an initial incentive. As with the Buhi project, winners will receive guidance in refining their business plan, visibility with potential investors, and nominations for participation in other competitions.

What does it take to participate in the competition? Well, to begin with, think of an innovative idea. Start, if you wish, with a problem that you wish to solve, and come up with an innovative way of solving it. The plan should be realistic and achievable, and it should have good revenue potential. Examples of past winning entries include: a round-the-clock solar fish dryer, bricks from waste calcium carbonate (calburo), soya-based computer ink, an electronic advertising board, and coconut milk processing.

Then, draft the idea into a concept paper. The concept paper is a general overview of the business idea, no more than 1,000 words long. It explains the idea, the problems it solves, and why it is unique. It also should explain how the idea would make money.

Take note that the concept paper is at most 1,000 words long. Participants, however, should not make a virtue of extreme brevity. As a judge in the preliminaries in the last two competitions, I was often at a loss because some papers did not explain enough as to why they should be considered worthy ideas. I was told that some entries consisted of only one or two sentences. Ladies and gentlemen, this is certainly not the way to participate, let alone win, a business plan competition.

For the truly innovative ideas, the concept paper is just the start. Ten participants go on to the next round, where they will participate in workshops to help them flesh out their ideas further. These ten contestants will go on to produce a more detailed business plan that will be brought for the consideration of the final judges. The final judges are typically successful entrepreneurs who have some gut feel as to what makes an idea successful or not.

There's so much more to be said of this exciting competition. I highly encourage people to participate. Deadline for the team registration is September 22. Deadline for the concept paper is on October 19. Get those gears working, folks!

For more information, please visit the Innovation Awards web site at www.innovationawards.kom.ph.