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Executive Education

The business boat race

By Peter Walker for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britain's two most venerable universities, Oxford and Cambridge, are popularly viewed as bastions of traditional learning, all manicured lawns and academics in flowing gowns.

Yet the institutions are continually at the forefront of new initiatives in all academic area -- now including business.

Both universities have highly-rated business schools, Oxford's Sad school, set up in 1996, and Judge at Cambridge, in operation since 1990.

Oxford and Cambridge have a friendly rivalry dating back centuries, largely fought out in sporting prowess, most famously the annual boat race every spring on the River Thames in London between the 'light blue' rowers of Cambridge and their 'dark blue' opponents from Oxford.

This month, the inter-university competition has taken on a new form: Business ideas.

Sad Business School hosted budding entrepreneurs from both universities who pitched their business ideas before a daunting panel of successful businesspeople and venture capitalists, with almost $20,000 in capital up for grabs.

The competing sides fought their way through qualifying rounds at their own university, respectively Oxford's "Idea Idol" and the "Business Ideas Competition" at Cambridge.

Innovative ideas

Oxford's three teams were Camerge, who developed an algorithm that helps digital cameras work better in varying light conditions; Matoke Matoke who have set up a fair trade company to sell embroidered napkins made by women displaced in the civil war in northern Uganda; and Design the Time, which lets people buy minutes to store personal content on the Internet.

The latter team so impressed one venture capitalist judging the Oxford heats that he has already offered them start-up funding.

Turning out for Cambridge were NeoHeal, who aim to use nanotechnology in place of traditional surgical sutures; RemRom Medical Devices, who specialize in the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of medical devices used in minimally invasive surgery; and TouchSight, who have developed a glove allowing disabled people to 'sense' their surroundings using ultrasonic and vibration feedback devices.

Among the judges was multi-millionaire entrepreneur Peter Jones, best known in Britain for his participation in a BBC television series, "Dragons' Den," in which inventors and would-be businesspeople pitch their ideas to a sometimes scathing panel of experts, Jones among them.

Other judges included Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of well-known British Internet travel firm, and Ian Lobley, a senior partner at leading venture capitalists 3i.

The runners up were Matoke Matoke and RemRom Medical Devices, while the overall winner -- getting almost $10,000 in capital -- was TouchSight.

'The competition was a huge success and we had an exciting and inspirational evening of commercially viable entrepreneurial ideas," said Rajeeb Dey, president of the Oxford Entrepreneurs student society.

"The quality and diversity of the entries was superb and all contestants did a fantastic job. Often great business ideas lie dormant; by providing a rewarding platform, we hope to germinate a company of real significance."


Oxford and Cambridge crews battle it out in the real boat race.


FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006



Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.


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