Paul Roper's device can be safely used by a disabled person and works perfectly on uneven or slippy terrain, earning him a place on the National Entrepreneur Awards shortlist

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An invention which takes the physical exertion out of hitching and de-hitching trailers and caravans in a safe and secure way has earned an IT Sligo student a place in the national final of the Enterprise Ireland-backed Student Entrepreneur Awards 2017.

Sligo’s Paul Roper, who is studying for a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Quantity Surveying at IT Sligo, invented the ‘Lock On’ hitch – a fully automated device for attaching trailers.

“I worked in the distribution business for several years before going back to college, and I kept noticing that attaching trailers often posed challenges for work colleagues and clients,” explained Roper, who came to IT Sligo as a mature student in 2015.

“The Lock On hitch is designed in such a way that it enables a wheelchair-bound person, for example, to safely hitch and de-hitch a trailer. It can also be used on slippy or uneven terrain such as marina slipways – allowing you to attach a trailer to a vehicle stationed on safer ground.”

The Student Entrepreneur Awards are backed by Enterprise Ireland, Intel, Cruickshank Intellectual Property Attorneys and Grant Thornton. The awards are part of an ongoing drive aimed at tapping into the potential for students to turn entrepreneurial ideas into commercial businesses. The objective is to encourage third-level students to start their own business as a career option.

“Paul’s invention and his determination to commercialise his product is a wonderful example of student entrepreneurship,” said Niall McEvoy, head of innovation at IT Sligo.

As well as presenting their business idea/product, the ten selected finalists have to submit a business plan for their venture. There is a cash prize of €10,000 for the overall winner as well as the opportunity to avail of €30,000 worth of specialist advice and assistance to potentially help turn the students’ enterprise idea into a business reality.

Roper’s invention won the ‘Best Pitch Audience Prize’ earlier in May when he presented his ‘Lock On’ device at Regional Innovation Showcase, organised jointly by IT Sligo, Letterkenny IT and the New Frontiers programme. The event celebrated regional entrepreneurship and development amongst the north west’s business and start-up community.

The 2017 Student Entrepreneur Awards will be announced at a ceremony in Cork Institute of Technology on 7 June. In the meantime, Roper is busy completing his end-of-year examinations in quantity surveying.

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An invention which takes the physical exertion out of hitching and de-hitching trailers and caravans in a safe and secure way has earned an IT Sligo student a place in the national final of the Enterprise Ireland-backed Student Entrepreneur Awards 2017. Sligo’s Paul Roper, who is studying for a Bachelor...