BIG IDEAS AND BRIGHT MINDS: the All-Innovate ideas contest

Oxford’s first inter-college idea competition boosts diversity and collaboration

The Oxford Foundry is delighted to announce the launch of a new University-wide idea competition, All-Innovate. The competition enables Oxford students from diverse backgrounds and areas of study to collaborate across college and academic borders in the spirit of One Oxford*. All Innovate aims to provide students with a platform to develop their ideas whilst gaining valuable transferable skills. In this first year, 21 Oxford colleges have opted in to participate in the competition, demonstrating university-wide support and commitment to providing entrepreneurial learning opportunities to students across the institution. The contest is funded by Santander, through its Santander Universities initiative, and the winners will be awarded cash prizes worth a total of £20,000.

The 21 Oxford colleges participating in All-Innovate are:

Brasenose College |  Exeter College | Green Templeton College

Harris Manchester College | Hertford College | Jesus College

Keble College | Kellogg College | Linacre College

Magdalen College | Merton College | New College

Oriel College | Pembroke College | The Queen’s College

Somerville College | St Anne’s | St Catherine’s

St Edmund Hall | Wadham College | Wolfson College

"By participating in All-Innovate, students can develop this crucial, entrepreneurial mind-set"

Through the competition, students from across the University can team up, share expertise and work together to tackle real problems, while they develop highly desirable practical skills in areas such as creativity, critical thinking, decision making and problem solving. These skills have been flagged as crucial to the development of the future workforce according to the World Economic Forum.

“Universities play a central part in demonstrating the importance of diversity for building strong teams, developing fresh ideas and broadening opportunities,” explains Ana Bakshi, Director of the Oxford Foundry. “These students are our future entrepreneurs, leaders, creatives and scientists, and the strongest teams will be those that demonstrate a full mix of genders, disciplines and cultural backgrounds.

The competition provides students with key transferable skills, encouraging them to think more critically, to identify whether they are solving a real problem and to understand what value their proposition truly offers: is there a consumer need for their solution? Who is the core market for it? Will the idea attract investment, and will your potential customers pay to use it? These are the questions that students can expect to tackle during the competition, so every step of the experience is designed to be packed with value for all participants.

To support students to develop the skills they’ll need to participate in the All-Innovate contest, the Oxford Foundry has produced a series of introductory Idea Exploration workshops, featuring sessions on design thinking, customer development, ecosystem building and more. The sessions were attended by 100+ students from across the University, and were led by experts such as Queen’s College alumna Morganne Graves of phi360, Katrina Cruz from Anthemis Group, and Chris Corbishley from Forward partners, a leading early-stage venture capital fund. Further workshops in the series are scheduled for Hilary Term, including sessions delivered by experts from Boston Consulting Group and Curzon PR.

The All-Innovate contest was born out of the original Tri-Innovate student idea contest run jointly between Wolfson, Pembroke and Hertford colleges. As Will Hutton, Principal of Hertford College, commented:

“It’s hugely rewarding to see our original Tri-Innovate contest evolve and scale up to become All-Innovate, an inter-college contest for the whole University of Oxford, supported by the Oxford Foundry. It’s clear that there is a strong and increasing appetite for entrepreneurship at Oxford, and I’m excited to see the range of new ideas and solutions each college is going to deliver.”

Nick Davies, Deputy Relationship Director at Santander Universities, explains why the organisation has partnered with the Foundry to support and fund the All-Innovate contest:

“Inspiring student enterprise and fostering an entrepreneurial mindset is a core component of the support that Santander Universities provides, and we are delighted to support the All Innovate competition at The Oxford Foundry. In the modern economy enterprise has more relevance than ever, and that’s why competitions and programmes like this are so important; to provide young people with the resources they need to develop entrepreneurial skills which will serve them long into their careers, or to launch their own businesses which have every chance of prosperity and success.”

Janet Royall, Principal of Somerville College, commented:

“All-Innovate provides a great opportunity for students to explore their entrepreneurial side, and to apply their talents to enterprising initiatives. We’ve already seen a good number of Somervillians getting involved with the Oxford Foundry’s events and activities in the past year, and I hope that our students will take up this challenge and contribute some fresh, impactful ideas to the contest!”

Miles Young, Warden of New College, added:

“As a member of the Foundry’s Academic Steering Committee, I see first-hand just how dedicated the Foundry is to helping Oxford students engage with the changing landscape of work.   Quite literally, they create personal confidence in the ability to innovate, and to turn entrepreneurial ideas into practical plans.  By participating in All-Innovate, students can develop this crucial, entrepreneurial mind-set.  Certainly, at New College I am keen to encourage as many of our own students as possible to involve themselves in the contest, and to enjoy the process as well as benefit from it.”

Professor Sir Rick Trainor, Rector, Exeter College, said:

“I’m delighted that Exeter College is participating in the new All Innovate contest. The college has a strong academic and sporting tradition, and many of our alumni (along with a growing number of current students) have a strong interest in entrepreneurial endeavours.  These are supported by our newest building, Cohen Quad, which provides many opportunities for our students to engage in collaborative activities . We are committed to building our offering for entrepreneurial endeavour, so we’ll be strongly encouraging our JCR and MCR members to get involved in All Innovate and contribute their ideas.”

Professor Peter Tufano, Dean of Saïd Business School, commented:

“Through All-Innovate, we are unearthing and showcasing the rich entrepreneurial talent that exists at Oxford. We’re looking forward to seeing ideas from students across all four academic divisions, from Philosophers and Sociologists to Engineers, Medics and Mathematicians.”

The All-Innovate inter-college final will take place in February 2019, where the teams with the strongest ideas will take turns to pitch to a panel of judges, and the winners will be announced.


*Working across University boundaries of subject and college in this way feeds into the notion of One Oxford, as the Vice Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, explained in her recent Oration to the University in October 2018:

 “I have taken to using the term One Oxford, by which I simply mean colleagues across the collegiate University working together for the benefit of all, to advance mutual interests and shared values. It is about breaking down Divisional barriers and Departmental protocols and harnessing the strength and depth found all across the University.”