Cisco launches BIG Awards to seek out best UK tech innovation

Cisco launches BIG Awards offering cash injections to UK start-ups with the most innovative technology-based ideas.

Cisco has unveiled the British Innovation Gateway (BIG) Awards to recognise the best high-tech innovation that the UK has to offer.

Launched last night, at Ravensbourne College in Greenwich, the competition aims to encourage young entrepreneurs to develop technology-based prototypes.

Up for grabs is a £100,000 cash prize for the winner in addition to support and mentoring from JP Morgan, law firm Bird & Bird, PR agency Octopus Communications and digital marketing firm DNX, on how to best use the cash injection to get a business off the ground. 

Entrants who place second and third will also receive cash prizes and support from Bird & Bird, as well as Cisco engineers and managers. The top 20 entries will receive mentoring and support on making a business idea a reality.

Open to all UK residents aged 18 years or older, the awards have five categories to enter: Big Data including datacentre and virtualisation; collaboration including video and social media; future cities; the internet of things; and mobility. The competition will run from 1 February 2012 until September 2012.

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Ian Foddering, chief technology officer and technical director for Cisco UK and Ireland, said the networking supplier will run five annual BIG Awards with the first winners being announced after the Olympics closing ceremony.

“The UK is very good at coming up with ideas, so we’re offering the support to follow them through. Cisco will not keep the intellectual property rights to these ideas, they remain your own,” he said.

In a bid to leave behind a legacy of entrepreneurism, after Cisco's contract to support the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics the firm will open two innovation centres for the use of the local SME community - one at Tech City in Shoreditch and one based at the Olympic Park. 

These centres will become part of Cisco’s public technology network called the National Virtual Incubator (NVI) which connects to other centres around the UK. The NVI is supported by Janet - the education and research network for the UK. The innovation centres will be used for the BIG Awards, but over the next six-to-eight months Cisco plans to open more around the UK.

Foddering said,  “The competition spans the whole country not just Tech City and the six boroughs surrounding the Olympic Park.”

Cisco’s five year innovation effort for UK SME, has been praised by Prime Minister David Cameron. Cisco recently pledged $500m to support its British Innovation Gateway initiative, which launched last year and aims to generate long-term support for high-tech startup businesses in the UK.

During a meeting between the Prime Minister and John Chambers, Cisco’s chief executive, Chambers said the vendor will make investments through money, technology and manpower.

In a statement at the time Cameron, said, “I welcome this major statement of support from Cisco. This will help create many new jobs and opportunities, and support our drive to diversify our economy and generate sustainable economic growth.”

Chambers said at the time, "This project is a logical progression of the work we've done in the east of London for the 2012 Olympic Games, and we are delighted to work with the UK government as it serves as a reminder of how business and government, working together can turn vision into reality."

Also this week the government announced UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) has created a programme for monthly sessions with its two partners TechHub and Minibar, based in east London. As part of the Technology Task Force, launched in November, UKTI’s sessions aim to support start-up companies by offering advice and opportunities for overseas growth. The first clinics will be available from early February.

Submissions for the BIG Awards are now open and will be accepted until 31 March 2012.To submit your entry find out more information here.

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