Strathclyders triumph in business ideas contest

Man playing bagpipes

A budding entrepreneur behind bespoke technology for bagpipes that aims to reduce the risk of a fatal lung disease is among five winners with Strathclyde links to win a share a £7,000 prize pot to develop their early-stage concepts.

Run by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE), 15 finalists were in the running in the Fresh Ideas competition

Four out of the five main winners to receive £1,200 funding and access to ongoing expert business advisory support have Strathclyde links, including first-year Product Design Engineering student within Strathclyde's Engineering Academy, Robbie MacIsaac.

A student playing the bagpipes

His FLUX Blowpipe device can help prevent the serious ‘Bagpipers Lung’ condition, a potentially fatal inflammation of the lungs caused by inhaling certain allergens. It has been attributed to the moisture build-up in the pipes, as bacteria can form from mould. The device also prolongs the lifespan of the instrument by absorbing moisture.

Robbie, a world class piper himself who has played across the world, was just 14-years-old when he came up with the concept.

Reduces moisture

The student, who is now 19 and from Falkirk, said: “I found that moisture from the player’s breath has a big impact on the instrument so I started developing a concept for the bagpipes which reduces moisture and prevents it entering circulation and in turn that reduces the risk of Piper’s Lung disease because there’s less moisture.

“I made a model in my garage out of an old blow pipe and I found it worked. In my final year of school, I set up a registered company and won £15,000 investment from Scottish Edge as the winner of the Wild Card and Creative award, which allowed me to take my idea forward.

"This latest SIE funding has been great in giving me that final-push to market and will go towards launching in August at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, all going well.

“I hope my story will inspire other young entrepreneurs, the help and support is indeed out there. University is fantastic as I’m putting my learnings into practice, and as a Strathclyde ‘rising star’ I benefit from lots of business support and mentorship.”


Other winners included Alt-Eco, an eco-friendly accommodation created from re-purposed shipping containers founded by Adam and Daniel Jack, a Strathclyde Business Enterprise graduate and student respectively.

The carbon-neutral structures rely on solar panels, hydroelectricity and responsible waste solutions and will be trialled at a site in Arran.

Fellow winner and Engineering Aacdemy student Joe Gibson, who is in his fourth-year of Electronic and Electrical Engineering studies at Strathclyde, also designed an artificial intelligence-driven anti-drone technology to protect airspaces after being inspired when a drone caused his flight to be delayed in June 2018.

Student standing in an airfield

Joe said: “This award marks the beginning of a long journey with a project that has become more than just a hobby. This project is real now and with backing from a number of organisations, I hope to realise its full potential.

“The next step is to develop a prototype, with help from a summer internship with the Strathclyde Santander Internship Programme.”

Waterproof rucksack

Siri Price, a Strathclyde University Product Design and Innovation graduate, was also recognised in the Social Impact category and received a £500 prize and dedicated business support for her unique rucksack designed for homeless people who are forced to sleep rough.

Its simple design includes a fully breathable and waterproof rucksack that can be rolled inside the bag.

Ideas platform

Fiona Godsman, chief executive of SIE, said: “Year on year, we see such a high calibre of ideas reach the final stage of our Fresh Ideas competition with this year being particularly strong.

“Scotland has one of the most ambitious entrepreneurial ecosystems and we’re proud to be able to give students and recent graduates a platform to develop their ideas and help recognise Scotland as a world leader in innovation.

“We’re really looking forward to continuing to support the Fresh Ideas 2020 winners as they develop their innovative ideas and, despite the immediate challenges that we are all facing, I’m confident that the next year holds great things for them all.”

The Scottish Institute for Enterprise works nationally to promote and support enterprise and entrepreneurship in Scotland’s universities and colleges, creating  opportunities for students to be innovative. It works closely with academic institutions to champion enterprise education and help students start new innovative businesses and national competitions.