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Laser bike light scoops £10,000 UK student business prize (+ video)

Emily Brooke and team behind Blaze will use cash to research drivers' blind spots

A University of Brighton graduate who invented a bicycle light that projects a laser image of a bicycle onto the road ahead has won a £10,000 prize in a student business competition – and says she and her team will use the money to research drivers’ blind spots with the aim of improving her product.

We featured Emily Brooke’s Blaze light here on in November last year, when she and three colleagues involved in the project were looking for £25,000 in Kickstarter funding. By the time the appeal closed just before Christmas, they had secured £55,000 from 782 backers.

Emily decided to develop the light after coming across research that found that 79 per cent of cyclist fatalities in the UK happen when a motorist turns across the path of a rider they have not seen.

The idea is that by projecting the bicycle symbol onto the road ahead, the visibility of the rider is heightened, and also helps mitigate the potential for blind spots. 

At the time, she said: "In my final year at Brighton I gave myself the theme of urban cycling. It was a question of cycling around Brighton and thinking about what would help. That chap over there can’t see me, but if I was four yards ahead he could see me, so I’ll project a presence four yards ahead. I was working on it all through my final year."

Here's a video of the light in action that accompanied the Kickstarter campaign.

Yesterday, at the British Library in London’s St Pancras, she presented the idea to a panel of judges, and in front of a 250-strong audience including government ministers and successful entrpreneurs in the Varsity Pitch Grand Final.

She was up against six other finalists at the event, which is organised by the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE), and emerged triumphant.

Afterwards, Emily said: “Winning the NACUE Varsity Pitch - and against such fierce competition - is an incredible feeling. We are thrilled, as this means that we can fund research into driver perception, including retina tracking and reaction times.

“Winning has made all of this a reality, and will give us some hard data to help us take our Blaze Laserlight – and cycling safety – forward.”

Hushpreet Dhaliwal, chief executive of NACUE, commented: “Getting to the final of Varsity Pitch is itself a fantastic achievement. We had more applications than ever this year and all of the pitches came brimming with innovative and unique ideas. To speak in front of hundreds of people and to show the passion and drive that the finalists have is simply exceptional.

“To become the best student business in the country, and winner of the £10,000, they have demonstrated a creative and vibrant nature we find in all the UK’s young entrepreneurs. Their business idea and overall attitude is truly inspirational and I am sure that the money will go a long way towards making Blaze a success.”

“The judges were particularly impressed with Blaze revolutionary approach to cycle safety, the proven support for their idea and their clear plans to make their business successful.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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