Belfast Telegraph

Scheme gives Northern Ireland tech companies the chance to pitch directly to Prince Andrew

By Yvette Shapiro

Technology start-ups from Northern Ireland will have the chance to compete for a place on a high profile entrepreneurship programme run by Prince Andrew.

Shortlisted companies will deliver pitches at Hillsborough Castle later this month as part of the Duke of York's Pitch@Palace initiative.

The scheme was launched in 2014 and has helped scores of new businesses to access investment, advice and mentoring.

Some have gone on to huge global success, including London-based artificial intelligence specialist Magic Pony which was recently acquired by Twitter for a reported $150m (£113m).

In total, Pitch@Palace companies have created almost 350 jobs and reached £124m in turnover.

Writing on the programme's website, the Duke of York said: "A more entrepreneurial economy and people with an enterprising culture will create jobs for our next generation workforce. Our prominence in science, technology and engineering is undisputed, creating valuable ideas and inventions to seed business of the future.

"We also see across the educational landscape numerous projects aimed at building young people's entrepreneurial skills. More businesses can be created in the UK through a combination of these factors. A key task is to now ensure we do more to help these businesses to scale."

Belfast company Pure Marine was one of the programme's winners in 2014.

The firm, based at Catalyst Inc (formerly the Science Park), has developed a wave energy converter capable of generating competitively priced electricity. Earlier this year, its DUO technology was selected as one of only nine finalists for the US Department of Energy's wave energy prize competition.

"Taking part in Pitch@Palace was a unique experience that opened up new opportunities and introductions to some of the biggest players in the global energy industry," said director Paul Brewster.

"Our prize included a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and I also was invited to join the Duke of York on a trip to Saudi Arabia which provided the opportunity to meet a number of influential investors."

Three entrepreneurs will be selected from the Belfast event to attend Pitch@Palace Boot Camp with the potential to be selected, as one of 15 finalists, for the Pitch@Palace final at St James's Palace, London, in November.

This year's theme is technology and the organisers are hoping to attract companies involved in biotech, cyber security, education, financial and consumer tech, data and analytics, and artificial intelligence.

Alan Watts, director of Halo at Catalyst Inc, said: "We are delighted that Pitch@Palace on Tour will be taking place in Hillsborough Castle on September 29. While the funding is certainly central to Pitch@Palace, the access to top UK CEOs and influencers is what makes this experience unique.

"Start-ups emerge with connections and prospects which undoubtedly add significant value to the company.

"We know we have many world- leading technology start-ups in Northern Ireland and Pitch@Palace is a great opportunity that could catapult a business to the next level."

The closing date for applications is on Friday. Applications can be submitted online at http://pitchatpalace.com

@yvetteshapiro

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