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Bigging the BIG Awards : Finding The Next Tech Stars

There is without a doubt an array of creative entrepreneurial talent within the UK and recently, there has been much talk about the need to stimulate the economy by promoting innovation and entrepreneurship within the technology sector.

At Cisco, we believe there is still a lot of work to be done to take British innovation and entrepreneurism to the next level, so, as the official Network Infrastructure provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, our focus has been on helping to build a brilliant future for Britain during and beyond the Olympic year by creating initiatives that have a long term contribution to the UK. Initiatives that will develop and support the sustainable growth of innovative start-ups and SMEs, which are integral to the future of UK business.

The UK has one of the world's strongest digital markets and the ICT, software and digital content sectors are worth £100bn combined. As a nation, we have a great opportunity to put Britain at the forefront of technology innovation and by nurturing the innovators of today, we can ensure that Britain fulfils its potential as a global technology hub.

It was with this in mind that we created the BIG Awards - an annual open innovation competition which will reward winners with a prize package of cash, expert mentoring from Cisco, and a support package covering PR, marketing and legal services to help them grow.

The Awards form the latest development in our longer term initiative the British Innovation Gateway (BIG) - a significant five-year investment of cash, technology and resources, which aim to develop Britain's innovation eco-system and create an environment in which start-up digital businesses and their ideas can flourish.

At the heart of the Government's goals of driving economic growth through high- tech innovation, the competition provides the great minds of today an opportunity to showcase their innovative ideas and be rewarded with the mentoring, resources and investment they need to prosper.

All early age start-ups and talented individuals, aged 18 and over within the UK are welcome to enter the competition and submit their technology ideas into one of five categories, which represent some of the most relevant technology challenges and trends of today, including big data, internet of things, mobility, future cities and collaboration.

There have been an amazing amount of creative ideas and concepts submitted already, and I'd personally like to urge every budding entrepreneur and start-up to enter. Cisco is fully committed to supporting open innovation - and we believe that it shouldn't just be about giving just cash to start-ups and SME's, but about offering the support and services that the start-up community need to accelerate their development and really thrive.

I have worked with countless SMEs over the years and have been lucky enough to meet many talented minds. Despite the economic challenges we face, entrepreneurs of today are hungry for opportunities, relentless and dedicated.

This is why, while it is important that we lay the foundations for the start-ups and SME's of the future, we must also recognise the importance of shining a spotlight on the undiscovered entrepreneurs of today and focus our efforts in helping them to develop.

The Big Awards is an integral component in our mission to promote and encourage UK innovation and help kick start the new generation of entrepreneurism. We believe that together with the government and other partners we can truly help inspire the minds of the entrepreneurs of today and build a brilliant future for Britain.

The deadline for the Cisco BIG Awards has been extended until midnight, 1st May, so register now at