Fifteen ambitious summer placement students based across the Highlands and Islands have faced their dragons, with six being commended for pitches about their projects.
The students, who came from across the UK to work for eight weeks with local businesses and social enterprises, are part of the TalentScotland Summer Placement Programme managed by HIE.
Each student worked on a specific project for their host organisation, providing new thinking across a wide range of disciplines including scientific research, marketing projects and design.
The students were asked to pitch their project findings in front of a panel of business experts at an event in Inverness last month.
In joint first place was Mark Brannan, who worked with KP Technology in Wick, and Amy Mackinnon, working with Community Energy Scotland in Dingwall.
Runners up were Sandie Gallagher at Glasstorm in Tain and Allan MacIntyre at Albasoft in Inverness.
A Peoples Choice Award, voted for by the other students, went to Alex Gilbert and Marc Macleod who are both working with Greenspace Live in Stornoway.
The students worked in businesses and social enterprises in Shetland, Stornoway, Inverness, Tain, Oban, Torridon, Wick, Thurso, Lossiemouth, Islay and Dingwall.
Prof Iain Baikie, Director at KP Technology said "We all at KP Technology are delighted that Mark has done so well. Mark's skills have shone, he is a great team worker and has valuable physics knowledge and troubleshooting skills that helped him succeed with this project."
Donald Macritchie, Managing Director at Greenspace Live, said: "Alex and Marc were a great team and they brought a fresh approach to the project as well as there sound theoretical knowledge. Their confidence and ability to undertake research for an innovative solution demonstrated the value of such a programme and the benefit a small company can gain from talented individuals."
Alex Gilbert, said: "I really enjoyed the finals day, it gave me experience and more confidence in presenting to a larger audience than usual. My placement itself was fantastic. I gained a lot of skills that will be useful for my university course and my future career, including how to solve problems in the real world."
As well as gaining experience through the paid placements, the students received tailored training from Robert Gordon University's Aberdeen Business School at Fairburn Activity Centre near Muir of Ord. The training helped them with presentation and business pitching skills in preparation for this competitive event. The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) have made the development and delivery of the tailored section of the course possible.
Up to 50 placements will be available in summer 2012.
Ruth Sime, Acting Head of Business Support Programmes at HIE said: "The students really impressed on the day when giving their pitches to the business experts and brought their projects to life. The TalentScotland Summer Placement Programme provides benefits for both students and employers and the relevant work experience gained by the students sets them apart from others when applying for jobs, particularly when graduate opportunities are limited. The employers are able to take on committed project staff at a subsidised rate during the holiday period. Some employers are able to offer a permanent job to their placement students when they have graduated and this helps to retain skilled young people in the region."