Dragon's Den Decides ...


Project Summary

Young people aged 12-19 become "dragons" selecting a winning pitch from academic scientists to run an event at the Manchester Science Festival.

Project Partners

Sara Evans
ICA:UK Lead Project Worker
Role Description:
Community Partner
Dr. Ernesto Hernandez
School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science, University of Manchester
Role Description:
Dr. Stuart Allan & Dr Catherine Lawrence
Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester
Role Description:
Dr. Kevin Kane
Salford Business School, University of Salford
Role Description:

Benefits & Impact

This project has seen a benefit to the young dragons, students at the university, academics, young people and the surrounding community. The dragons have learnt, engaged and stretched their creative and organisational skills by action planning and delivering a fantastically successful project. They have also had the opportunity to work side by side on a common ground level with scientists and MA students helping to demystify academia.

This bridging working relationship has also enabled young and more experienced scientists and academics to support and work alongside  young people who are not necessarily from a scientific background or interest and learning how to encourage and support them throughout. It has also enabled other young people and the community who attended their event to be inspired and encouraged through a fun, educational and accessible event for the Manchester Science Festival.


“The Bacteria Party is a great idea to help promote understanding of science and have some fun at the same time. The team at the School of Pharmacy did a great presentation and convinced the Dragons that this was the event that was most likely to inspire the local community to learn about science, the good as well as the bad sides of bacteria and how it affects our lives.” Sarah Evans – ICA:UK Lead Project Worker

“I enjoyed all of it. It was fun and interesting to hear ideas and to ask questions. I will always remember asking our questions after the pitches. I learnt that I’m good at asking questions and thinking on the spot.”  Young dragon

Lessons Learnt





‘The Dragons Den Decides’ project relied on commitment from many different people to bring this three part event together. The project was one of the four Manchester Beacon Science Festival Community Awards 2010. These awards aim to support the establishment between networks of researchers from the Manchester Beacon universities and local communities.

‘The Dragons Den Decides’ began with recruiting young people aged 12-19 to become our dragons. They would then judge pitches from scientists and academics in Manchester in order to give the winning idea not only the opportunity to create their idea into an event for the Manchester Science Festival but also the chance to work and action plan and develop their event with our dragons and £500 to make it happen...

Aims & Objectives

  • To inspire, encourage, engage and empower young people and their community.
  • To engage young people to participate in a training event to learn skills and how to apply them to a project.
  • To work with the University of Manchester to create links and partnerships that will live on past the Science Festival.
  • For the University and project team to learn and experience working with and engaging young people aged 12-19.
  • To involve young people in a meaningful way with the planning, design and delivery of public engagement.
  • For young people to see a more positive perception of universities.


The breaking down of our event into three stages – the training, the dragons den with action planning and the event, we felt strengthened our project significantly. The young people were more confident to be involved and lead which made an impact on the confidence and structure of the scientist and academics involvement.

The dragons training day

We began the day with some team building so the group could bond and work efficiently and effectively in the short space of time we had and then looked into what the project would be in similarities and differences to the dragons den television programme. We also familiarised ourselves with the positive attributes and skills we would need to be a successful dragon. 
The dragons den day 
There were four sets of pitches which had fulfilled our young dragons set
criteria for pitches that had made it through to the dragons den who had
three minutes to pitch and then five minutes allocated for questions. The
young dragons prepared questions but as their confidence visibly grew they began to believe in their abilities and work as a team to set  themselves into a natural progression of questions for the scientists and academics.
After a deliberation period the dragons announced the winner of the £500 and prepared to work with ‘The B-Team’ on their event idea of ‘The Bacteria Party’. Their pitch was entertaining, engaging and well prepared and presented pitch was a clear winner with the dragons which increased their excitement.
The scientists, dragons worked together supported by myself and Emily. We action planned, in just three hours what we wanted the event to look like and what responsibilities we would all take with us to action in the run up to the event at the Zion Arts Centre. 
We created a package of work for each of the stations as we expanded out into groups thinking about details of each station, needs, wants and costs. The young people who worked with the scientists and academics furthered their current knowledge of planning an event .
The dragons decided to promote the event and their new found confidence as event organisers by designing their own ‘I am a Dragon’ tshirts and printing them locally. This allowed them to channel their own creativity and to stand out on the day of the event so that other young people felt comfortable approaching them to ask about the event.
The event day
The Bacteria Party aimed to engage at least 40 young people who would
interact with 6 stations at the Zion Arts Centre filled with fun facts and games to learn out the good, bad and ugly of the bacteria that affects our everyday lives!