An ambitious plan to establish Scotland’s first net zero airline to provide affordable flights across the Highlands and Islands has won a top prize.
Thomas Eccles from Nethybridge, the founder of FlyHighland Ltd, was named overall winner in the UHI Business Competition.
He impressed the judges with his pitch to be an aviation innovator by operating aircraft using hydrogen propulsion from the airport at Wick.
He was motivated to improve Scottish flight connections after being shocked by the price of a last-minute flight from Shetland.
Net zero airline
Thomas intends to work with a leader in aerospace concepts and is in the process of raising funding to purchase aircraft and gain the necessary permissions.
Thomas said: “I am overjoyed that FlyHighland has been awarded the top prize.
“It’s a tremendous honour to be recognised for our commitment to communities because we’re driven by the stories at the heart of the isolated communities we want to serve, and I’m deeply touched that we’ve been recognised for that.”
Other winning ideas at the UHI Inverness event included:
- A vegan food blend containing seaweed.
- A glow-in-the-dark mini golf course in Stornoway.
- Replacing prescription information leaflets with QR codes on medication boxes.
- Complementary therapies for pregnant women in Moray.
- An open-source computer games development company.
- An energy-saving service to counter inefficient electrical installations.
- The Rose Street Roundhouse, a new events venue in Inverness.
The UHI Business Competition, run by CREATE which is part of the Centre for Living Sustainability at UHI Inverness, is now in its 17th year.
It encourages enterprise and innovation by supporting people to take their first steps on the road to starting their own businesses.
It has presented more than £100,000 in prize money since the competition began in 2006.
UHI Business Competition winners
The competition attracted 77 entries from students across the UHI partnership, as well as entrepreneurs living in the Highlands and Islands, Moray, Perthshire and Argyll.
Professor Chris O’Neil, principal and chief executive of UHI Inverness, said: “Our region is phenomenally important economically and this competition has had a huge impact on the entrepreneurial spirit of its people.
“It has again highlighted the great potential for innovative local business ventures, and I have no doubt that the future is very bright for our winners.
“Their resourceful ideas and solutions demonstrate the enterprising drive and initiative that we strive to nurture.”