Not everyone is made in the same way. Some thrive in education, some channel their talent creatively and others are born to be in business. David Gammon grew up around many successful entrepreneurs and their influence, combined with his career path, helped to inspire the creation of the Royal Academy of Engineering <a href="http://www.raeng.org.uk/grants-and-prizes/support-for-entrepreneurs/launchpad-competition">Launchpad Competition</a>. David is supporting the Enterprise Hub in the search to find budding entrepreneurs aged 16-25 who have extraordinary ideas in engineering and technology. He tells us more about his history and why he’s involved with the competition.
As I grew up it was expected for young people to go to university and obtain a degree in order to do well in life. But having seen many people around me do so well in business, I began to see how academia wasn’t necessarily the route for everyone. I didn’t do well enough at A Level to go to University so I took a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Business Management and learnt a breadth of valuable, practical skills that I still use daily.
Since I was eight or nine I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to work with entrepreneurs. I was surrounded by them. My grandparents on both sides were self-employed. My father, John C Gammon, founded a multinational civil engineering firm in the Far-East which included Gammon Construction Limited; my uncle, Sir Val Duncan, was chairman of Rio Tinto Zinc and my uncle, Rob Walker, formed one of the most successful FI private entrant racing teams in history. While these are amazing achievements, they didn’t come easily and all of my family members struggled to get financial support for their ventures from the offset and beyond. This is one of the many reasons why I am passionate about supporting today’s exceptional entrepreneurs through my own company, Rockspring, and through the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Launchpad Competition.
I think that young people today are realising that there are more options for them and that choosing to be self-employed or an entrepreneur can be a great move, if not always an easy one. Through the Launchpad we chose to support 16-25 year-olds as entrepreneurs of this age often struggle to get started, even though they can be the ones with the best ideas. More often than not, they are not fortunate enough to have a network to support them as this is something that comes from many years of employment, as well as experience, which by definition young people have not had the time to develop.
I think anyone with an idea that improves on the status quo is a winner. It could be anything from a new pepper mill design to a device that can help to predict a genetic disorder. There’s no limit to ideas but entrepreneurs should aim to make the things we do better, quicker, greener, more ethically or cheaper. If someone has this talent, then it doesn’t matter whether they are fresh from secondary school, working in a supermarket or studying for a PhD. In every hundred people there is likely to be three or four talented entrepreneurs and our competition is designed to spot these and support them to build their ideas into fully-fledged businesses. Of course this isn’t a process that happens overnight, but with the funding, continued mentorship, and access to a very valuable network of contacts that we can provide through the Enterprise Hub and Rockspring, our candidates have the opportunity to create something really special.
I am lucky that I have managed to find a career where I spend a lot of time supporting today's fantastic entrepreneurs. The J C Gammon Award is an expression of my desire to deepen my contribution and I'd say is one of the best things I can do with my family’s savings. The Enterprise Hub is a world class program of support from one of the most prestigious institutions in our country. I am enormously grateful to be working with them on this. Every year we will be looking to give young entrepreneurs, with an ambition to set up their own business, the best possible chance of success from the ground up. Now all we need is for talented individuals to step up and tell us about their ideas.