UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, University College Dublin graduate Sharon Cunningham wins Entrepreneurial Venture Award in AMBA Excellence Awards

Sharon Cunningham, an MBA graduate from UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, University College Dublin, has won the coveted MBA Entrepreneurial Venture Award (Private Sector) for her company Shorla Pharma.

She received the accolade at a glittering awards ceremony held at the Sheraton Grand, London Park Lane. The event was attended by more than 200 top Business School leaders representing more than 50 Schools across the world, as well as category finalists, judges and members of the media.

Sharon Cunningham is a PwC-trained chartered accountant with an MBA from UCD Smurfit School and a BSc in finance from University College Cork.

She is the Co-Founder of specialty pharmaceutical company, Shorla Pharma, which develops innovative oncology products for unmet needs, with a focus on women’s and paediatric cancers.

Before this, she was Head of Finance at EirGen Pharma, a subsidiary of OPKO Health.

In 2019, Sharon was awarded the title of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur, won the Sodexo Women Mean Business Female Newcomer Award 2019 with her business partner, Orlaith Ryan, and led a team of five to win the final pitch competition on the MIT-Harvard Medical School Healthcare Innovation Bootcamp in Cambridge Massachusetts, US.

Sharon Cunningham said: ‘I’m truly humbled and honoured to accept this award on behalf of Orlaith Ryan and I and our company, Shorla Pharma. I know the competition was extremely high and the award is really special. It’s a privilege to represent UCD Smurfit School from where I graduated with my MBA in 2015. My MBA equipped me with the skills, confidence and network to embark on the entrepreneurial journey.

‘Thank you to the organisers and judges of the AMBA Excellence Awards and congratulations to the other finalists.’

‘At Shorla Pharma, we have an innovative pipeline of drugs in the oncology space with a focus on women’s and children’s cancers.’

‘We are a driven and compassionate company with the patient’s needs at the heart of our innovation guided by our vision of delivering more effective, less toxic products providing a major contribution to patient care.’

‘We’re preparing to launch our first product in the US next year.’

Professor Gerardine Doyle, Director UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, said: ‘We are immensely proud of Sharon in terms of the impact she is having on the health and wellbeing of women and children with cancer through innovative therapeutics. The award highlights the breadth and depth of learning within the UCD Smurfit School MBA programme where you can apply a core set of entrepreneurship and leadership skills to various arenas and industry sectors.’

 Andrew Main Wilson, Chief Executive of the Association of MBAs and Business Graduates Association (AMBA & BGA), said: ‘On behalf of the AMBA and Business Graduates Association (BGA) team, I would like to congratulate the Finalists and Winners of this year’s Excellence Awards.

‘The quality of Award entries was once again very high this year and we are proud to celebrate the achievements and innovation so clearly evident in AMBA & BGA’s network of Schools and their students.’


For more information or interviews, please contact:

  • David Woods-Hale, Director of Marketing and Communications, AMBA & BGA – woods@associationofmbas.com
  • Ellen Buchan, Communications and Insight Assistant, AMBA & BGA –


Awards selection process

Finalists were shortlisted by AMBA & BGA’s senior management team. Our judges reviewed 30 shortlisted entries, selecting a Winner and, if appropriate, a ‘Highly Commended’ entry for each award. Our judging panel is made up of AMBA board members, business experts, deans, and management leaders.

All of our judges were selected based on their experience and qualifications.

More information about the categories and complete list of the Winners, Highly Commended entries and Finalists

Business School Careers Strategy Award

This award recognises institutions that share AMBA & BGA’s passion for proactive and innovative approaches to graduate recruitment, talent management and succession planning. It is open to any AMBA-accredited and/or BGA member Business School working strategically and collaboratively in terms of recruitment and talent development in the business education arena.


  • Hult International Business School (US)

Highly Commended

  • ESADE Business School, Ramon Llull University (Spain)


  • Lagos Business School, Pan-Atlantic University (Nigeria)
  • Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University (UK)

Business School Impact on Community and Society Award

The Business School Impact on Community and Society Award honours AMBA-accredited and BGA member Business Schools that share AMBA & BGA’s commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and that are passionate about making a difference.

The award recognises Business Schools that are taking the initiative in creating a sustainable future and teaching students about social values.


  • Mannheim Business School, University of Mannheim (Germany) for ‘Where’s Amir? An example of a social sustainability project as part of the Mannheim MBA’

Highly Commended

  • Great Lakes Institute of Management, Gurgaon (India) for ‘Karma yoga: selfless action for community benefit’


  • Indian Institute of Management Indore (India) for ‘Traffic management project for Indore City, India’
  • Othman Yeop Abdullah Graduate School of Business, Universiti Utara Malaysia (Malaysia) for ‘Community development and engagement – (re)connecting with community and empowering the gifted: autism’
  • Paris School of Business (France) for ‘Acting Beyond Knowledge: a CSR initiative’
  • Porto Business School, University of Porto (Portugal) for ‘Reducing the School’s environmental footprint’

Business School Innovation Award

This award is a celebration of innovation and radical thinking in business education delivery across all areas of a Business School and has been developed to recognise and reward game-changing new practices, risks and creativity with relevance to programmes available at AMBA-accredited and/or BGA member Business Schools. It promotes the value of taking risks in pursuit of the new in different categories such as teaching, learning, recruitment and alumni relations.


  • Imperial College Business School, Imperial College London (UK) for ‘World’s first live holographic university lecture’

Highly Commended

  • NEOMA Business School (France) for ‘ExE (experiential education)’


  • Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow (UK) for ‘Emergency and disaster management training’
  • Graduate School of Management, MIP Politecnico di Milano (Italy) for ‘FLEXA: a new digital mentor for personalised lifelong learning’
  • Paris School of Business (France) for ‘Virtual reality in marketing courses’
  • Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Spain) for ‘Science Park partnership’

MBA Entrepreneurial Venture Award

This award highlights the success of Business Schools in fostering entrepreneurship among their MBA and executive MBA cohorts, and is a chance for individuals to impress a panel of high-profile judges who are already at the forefront of global entrepreneurship.

MBA Entrepreneurial Venture (private sector)


  • Sharon Cunningham, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, University College Dublin (Ireland) for Shorla Pharma

Highly Commended

  • Kris Lindahl and Hal Salvesen, Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University (UK) for Digital Future Capital


  • Goke Lawrence Egunjobi, Lagos Business School, Pan-Atlantic University (Nigeria) for
    i-impact Products & Services
  • Hany Soliman, The American University in Cairo (AUC) School of Business (Egypt) for Engineering Group for Innovation
  • Shrenik Paras Parmar, Nottingham University Business School, University of Nottingham (UK) for Proodle Solutions

MBA Entrepreneurial Venture (Third Sector)


  • César Coasaca, CENTRUM PUCP Business School (Peru) for Inventum


  • Comfort Onyanta Alli, Lagos Business School, Pan-Atlantic University (Nigeria) for Street Child Care and Welfare Initiative
  • Xia Yixin, School of Business, Jiangnan University (China) for Wu Xi Beizhe Wenhua Chuanbo

MBA Student of the Year Award

The MBA Student of the Year Award plays a pivotal role each year in supporting our pledge to promote the MBA’s position as the leading international business qualification.


  • Udochuku Richson, IE Business School (Spain)

Highly Commended

  • Vincent Weber, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) (Spain)


  • Carla Mariana Chávez Castellanos, Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración (IESA) (Venezuela)
  • Mecia Petersen, Nottingham University Business School, University of Nottingham (UK)
  • Monika Lemajic, Copenhagen Business School (Denmark)
  • Shivani Ghai, UCT Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town (South Africa)

Find a list of all AMBA-accredited Schools here.

About AMBA & BGA


Spearheading excellence and trailblazing innovation, for more than 50 years the Association of MBAs (AMBA) has been the impartial authority on post-graduate management education. AMBA established that vision in 1967 and, in a volatile, uncertain world, it’s as relevant today as it was then. We are committed to raising the profile and quality standards of business education internationally, for the benefit of Business Schools, students and alumni, employers, communities and society.

  • AMBA’s accreditation service is the global standard for all MBA, DBA and master’s degrees, currently accrediting programmes from the top 2% of Business Schools in more than 75 countries.
  • AMBA’s Research and Insight Centre produces a rich body of reports exploring global trends in the business education sector. This drives our global thought leadership and public affairs campaigns.
  • We are the only professional membership association that connects MBA students and graduates, accredited Business Schools and MBA employers throughout the world.
  • Through its members, AMBA is building an international force for good, championing best practice, responsible management and sustainability. Membership to AMBA means being part of an international community of peers with access to business strategy thought leadership, career advice and knowledge, and an MBA jobs portal.
  • AMBA’s multi-award-winning events offer networking opportunities online and in person across all continents in association with international corporate partners and thought leaders exclusively for our members and accredited Business Schools.


The Business Graduates Association (BGA) is an international membership and accreditation body of world-leading and high-potential Business Schools that share a commitment for responsible management practices and lifelong learning, and that are looking to provide a positive impact on their students, communities and the economy as a whole. It offers:

  • Quality assurance services to Business Schools and similar institutions, aimed at continuous improvement and positive impact to increase a Business School’s credibility and influence.
  • Consultation and mentorship services to Business Schools to improve their marketing and admissions, programme design, alumni interaction, teaching methods, and career development services.
  • Award-winning international events for Business School professionals, focused on continuous learning.
  • Student and graduate membership, which includes social networking events worldwide, professional development tools, a Career Development Centre, and much more.
  • Leading and award-winning content on responsible management, professional and personal growth, and influence, via the Business Impact content hub.



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