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Sowing the seeds of innovation

The biggest business prize in Ireland is up for grabs and fledgling firms on both sides of the border are invited to apply.

InterTradeIreland's Seedcorn All-Island Business Competition 2010 offers a prize of €280,000. Since it began six years ago the competition has leveraged around €125m of additional equity investment to companies around Ireland. Sean Gallagher, a board member of InterTradeIreland and a 'dragon' on RTE's Dragon's Den, said: "The economic environment has never been tougher for young companies. InterTradeIreland's Seedcorn competition can help businesses get off the ground with a cash incentive as well as invaluable advice and support from leading investors across the island.

"They can use the competition to help develop their business ideas, improve their business plan and learn how to present concepts to panels of investors.

"I would urge companies to enter Seedcorn and give their business a boost - aside from the prize fund on offer, the competition provides an opportunity for firms to raise their profile, make invaluable contacts and ultimately attract further investment."

Companies who win the top categories of best high growth company and best emerging company could win €100,000 and €50,000 respectively.

There are also six regional prizes of €20,000 each and a best spin-out prize of €10,000.

Sophia Search, which is based at Northern Ireland Science Park and St Petersburg, won best high growth company last year.

It has developed semantic search technology for searching documents and unstructured information. The technology was jointly developed by scientists from the University of Ulster and the St Petersburg State University in Russia.

Following the scoring of written business plans, the top entries from each region and category are selected to make a short presentation to a panel of judges, followed by a question and answer session.

Business plans must be submitted for scoring by judges by September 17. To register, visit www.seedcorncompetition.com.