Milton Keynes students get their heads together for Cranfield Business Challenge

Cranfield Business Challenge is an annual event run by Cranfield’s Centre for Customised Executive Development (CCED). This year’s event took place today on 24 June 2016 at Cranfield University’s campus in Bedfordshire.


The event welcomed around 100 students from across schools from across Bedford and Milton Keynes together for the first time. The students were predominantly aged between 17 and 18 and are currently studying for their A-Levels.

Wesley Randle from Tacit Simulations worked with a team from one of the schools who won and got through to Phase 2 in September 2016.

Students were divided into 20 teams of 5, and each team had a dedicated mentor. The mentors came from a range of renowned businesses including Nissan, Metro Bank, John Lewis and Get Water.

As part of the challenge, students were tasked with stepping into the shoes of a start-up business leader, creating a strategy to buy and launch a product, and increasing the net worth of their company by the end of the day. The students were judged by the CCED team and winners received a one-year IPSim licence from business software simulation company, Tacit Sims, and £1,500 worth of vouchers. IPSim is a multiplayer simulation which enables users to take control of a company that develops technologies.

Benefits for students

Seating students in positions of authority, the event opened a number of opportunities to them including:

  • Putting classroom theory into practice
  • Running a business and understanding the interdependency of all business areas
  • Showing resilience and ability to make decisions quickly and effectively
  • Working as a team while also displaying leadership qualities
  • Adopting a business mind-set

Furthermore, stepping into the shoes of a business leader encourages students to practice and develop a skill set essential for working in any position in a business. Namely, strong team involvement, strategic direction, forecasting, resilience and acting sustainably. Each group was assessed against this skill set.


The winners were selected on two criteria – the clear profit winners at the end of the challenge and the ‘wildcard’ who displayed resilience, team work and clear strategy.

Each of the winners will now go through to a second round in September to narrow it down to two finalists, who will be judged on a digital presentation and awarded their prize at a ceremony in December.

Walton High School

Shenley Brook End


Lord Grey

The Hazeley Academy



Cranfield MBA alumnus and current CCED employee, Doc McKerr, opened the event.

Focussing on two key dates, 1 July 2008 and 25 April 2015, that have enabled him to build up a skill set suitable for business, he spoke about his personal experience of change and resilience and their importance in corporate leadership.

On 1 July 2008, Mr McKerr was deployed to Afghanistan while serving in the military, and on 25 April 2015, the Nepal earthquake occurred, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, killing over 9,000 people, and injuring over 20,000.

Mr McKerr explained that training at Sandhurst, The Royal Military Academy in Surrey, taught him the following effective decision-making process:

Observe à orientate à decide à act

In order to make this process as effective as possible, business leaders should try to stay one step ahead of their competitors – for example, by orientating themselves before their competitors.

Mr McKerr highlighted that although learning leadership theory was insightful, proactively implementing it into an action enabled him to identify his personal strengths and areas for development. When he was deployed to Afghanistan, he led a team of soldiers who inevitably saw downfalls as well as successes. He encouraged students to accept their weaker areas and work on strengthening them by being resilient, determined and confident.

He then spoke about his experiences in Nepal where he has been named as a Goodwill Ambassador. He plays an active role in influencing the global perception of Nepal as a ‘dangerous’ place for holidaymakers. Mr McKerr’s role is to help increase tourism in Nepal which in turn will help the Nepalese economy regain momentum. Once again, he emphasised the importance of resilience in seeking to change people’s views about travelling to Nepal.

Karen Valverde, Business Simulations Director at Cranfield’s Centre for Customised Executive Development, commented: “It was great to see such a large turnout at this year’s first joint challenge between students from Milton Keynes and Bedford. The challenge is an ideal way for students to experience working in a business with first hand guidance from mentors from the corporate world.”

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