Turning start-up dreams into reality at the 2024 Entrepreneurship Concepts Competition

Faculty of Engineering
Centre for Entrepreneurship and Engineering Design
Student life
Sherlock AI team receives prize onstage
Three teams of uOttawa Engineering student entrepreneurs are proposing innovative business concepts that will make a difference in health care, assistive robotics, and financial literacy.

Amidst the rush and excitement of Design Day, uOttawa Engineering student innovators prepared to turn their dreams into reality at this year’s  Entrepreneurship Concepts Competition. This competition gives engineering students the opportunity to present a business plan to a panel of expert judges and the chance to win a grant to bring  their business idea to life. Guest judges at the competition included Eva Al-Switi (Startup Garage, University of Ottawa), Andrew Hudon (L-SPARK Accelerator), and Darryl Duncan (RBCx) who provided participants with invaluable insights and feedback as they presented their progress to date.

This year’s Entrepreneurship Concepts Competition winners were: Sherlock AI, an AI analysis tool for medical imagery; Independent Robotics, an app-controlled, mobile assistive robotic arm; and Moo Money, an educational web platform to encourage financial literacy.

These businesses are fueled by creativity, passion, and ambition. Engineering students are in a unique position to present innovative solutions to modern problems. Thanks to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in place at the Faculty of Engineering, that dream is one step closer to becoming reality. 

First Place: Sherlock AI

Sherlock AI

Following their third-place win at the Entrepreneurial Ideas Competition during the 2023 winter term, this trio returned to present their updated business idea to the judges. Albino Nikolla presented his team’s innovation, Sherlock AI: a smarter imaging software that aims to decrease wait times for medical imaging results, while also increasing patient access to radiologists.

The software analyzes medical imaging and classifies it by diagnoses; this reduces the excessive workload that radiologists often face. Currently, the average wait time for an x-ray diagnosis can range from 50 to 82 days, unfortunately resulting in diagnoses that may be too late. The Sherlock AI team wanted to create a solution that would reduce wait times for medical imaging results, which in turn could help improve illness detection.  

The team recently stated that they now have access to the Canadian Medical Imaging Inventory and have started optimizing their design to increase its precision to better identify different medical conditions.  They have also recently been accepted into the Start-up Garage Program, a year-round program that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, including by connecting them with the resources they need to get started.

Sherlock AI won $5,000 to support their efforts to optimize imaging efficiency and thus improve patient outcomes. 

Second place: Independence Robotics

Independent Robotics

Inspired by their work with clients with cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, this team presented a mobile robotic arm that can complete simple assistive tasks for people with mobility issues. Controlled by an app on the user’s phone, the arm can move around the user’s home and retrieve objects. While many similar designs are completely autonomous, they also cost over $40,000, representing a significant financial barrier for many clients.  

As this student team worked directly with people with mobile impairments, they discovered that complete autonomation is not always necessary; in many cases, clients prefer the agency of being able to control the movements of their assistive robotics themselves. The team at Independent Robotics developed the app’s software to operate similarly to other app interfaces that their target demographic already uses and enjoys. The team stressed that the advice, needs, and lived experiences of people with mobility issues were at the core of their design.  

Independent Robotics has now patented their design and is working with partners to ensure that their product will be eligible for insurance coverage. This student team won $3,000 to continue their work in accessibility services. 

Third place: Moo Money

Moo Money

After identifying a lack of training in financial literacy within the formal education system, this team of student programmers set out to create an online financial literacy platform that would empower users and help them gain confidence in dealing with financial issues.  

Moo Money is a web platform that provides online lessons and professional advice to individuals looking to learn key financial literacy skills, such as how to manage finances, save money, pay taxes, make financial decisions, and handle debt. While the platform can be used by anyone, its primary audience is young people at the start of their financial lives, such as students, as well as their parents.

The platform offers learning materials to accommodate various learning styles, including videos, case studies, articles, games, and quizzes. The team at Moo Money plans to partner with banks and educational institutions to bring their web platform into schools so that more financial literacy resources are included within the curriculum. The judges awarded $2,000 to Moo Money to further develop their start-up. 

Another great year at the Entrepreneurship Concepts Competition

This year’s Entrepreneurship Concepts Competition provided a valuable platform for these three winning teams. They were able to showcase their entrepreneurial spirit and obtain important feedback from industry experts to continue shaping their innovative business ideas. We can’t wait to see what these future engineers accomplish next!