Uni of Brighton technician wins £50,000

A University of Brighton technician has won £50,000 for inventing a system to transform pedal cycles into electric bikes.

Stephen Britt took the South east title in a £500,000 "Take One Small Step" competition, run by Barclays Business to help aspiring businesses make their ambitions a reality.

Stephen's brainwave came while he was stuck in a traffic jam and he found himself thinking of ways cyclists could speed past congestion and move easier and quicker up hills.

He developed a battery-powered motor and gearbox system that continuously propels a bike for a maximum 10 miles before the batteries need recharging. the lightweight mechanism allows the full range of gears to be used, and can be fitted in less than 15 minutes. The low-cost, environmentally-friendly kits last year won Stephen the university's student and graduate innovation award.

Stephen received support and advice from the university's enterprise team which helps students, alumni and staff to develop enterprising ideas. Enterprise manager Clare Griffiths said: "This is fantastic news for Stephen and the university.

"The university takes great satisfaction from nurturing enterprising ideas that begin in the university and make their way out into the commercial world – it's an ever increasing focus of our job."

Stephen, from Herstmonceux near Hailsham, thanked the university for its support and those who voted for his idea. His invention was an overwhelming success, receiving 31,000 public votes, 25,000 more than his nearest rival.

He now intends leaving the university to work full-time on his product: "With luck and hard work, I should now be able to get the product fully developed and onto shop shelves in the near future.

"I have always thought that cycling was an easier and less stressful way of reaching a destination and there is today greater emphasis on encouraging more people to choose a bicycle over a car.

"I am incredibly excited about the future. In the next five years I would like to see Fast Forward's pedals get a lot more people cycling. I want to create a strong business which is trading in many countries and supporting a large workforce."