Top international business students in Tauranga for innovation challenge

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Business school students from around the world converged on Tauranga recently for the inaugural Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge, hosted by the Waikato Management School during the Groundswell Festival of Innovation.

“Situating the first Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge in Tauranga was a deliberate decision that recognised the Bay’s exciting entrepreneurial environment,” said Dr Stephen Bowden, senior lecturer in management at Waikato Management School and the challenge director.

The 48 students from 12 universities vied for top honours in a business case competition that looked at scenarios from three very different real-life companies: global toymaker ZURU and Tauranga’s Ubco Bikes and Good Buzz Kombucha.

“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,” said Bowden.

“The students faced the sort of tough questions that clients typically ask, which gives them great experience for life beyond university.”

The teams worked under time pressure to analyse the companies and devise strategies to address real- life challenges, such as which markets to target next, 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 challenge culminated in a final 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. We were literally blown away by the quality of thought and presentation,” said Campbell.

The team from the University of New South Wales, Simone Tai, Louise Li, Elaine Yan and Ken Tildesley, took out first prize. 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, said it had been great working with the students and supporting the integration of academic study with the business community.

“So different from the 80s approach to tertiary education.”

Other universities that took part were Victoria University of Wellington, the University of Otago, the University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology, Simon Fraser University (British Columbia, Canada), HEC Montréal (Québec, Canada), Penn State University (Pennsylvania, USA) and Lancaster University (UK).

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