What an event! In our new normal of virtual events, our National Final on Wednesday 18 November, has to stand out as of one of the best! We welcomed twelve amazing Big Ideas teams, parents, teachers, mentors, special guests, our exceptional judges, inspiring keynote speakers, and a panel of sustainability experts. It was a truly awesome finale for the Big Ideas Competition 2020.
This year has brought new challenges for all of us and we’re so incredibly proud of everyone that’s taken part in the Big Ideas Competition. We’ve been so impressed with your dedication, enthusiasm and the hard work you’ve put in, through lockdowns, isolating, and school closures. Throughout the whole programme, from the first Big Ideas Days in Autumn 2019, your creativity and innovation along with your passion for helping to solve incredibly important sustainability issues has been unbelievably inspiring.
We were delighted to be joined by a selection of our 74 mentors from this year’s programme who collectively volunteered more than 2,000 hours!
The day started with an inspiring speech from 18-year-old Mya-Rose Craig who spoke about the vital role of young people in the environmental movement. She shared her story, which included setting up Black2Nature when she was 13 and more recently her trip to the Arctic with Greenpeace to witness first-hand the impact of climate change on our precious planet.
Just before lunch, the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, a long time supporter of the Big Ideas Programme, joined us. He congratulated the teams and praised their resilience and determination at continuing with their Big Ideas through lockdown. This was followed by a celebratory video from Kimi Omolokun. Kimi was a member of the team that won the first ever Solutions for the Planet Competition back in 2008! It was wonderful to have her back 12 years later, and hear the journey she’s been on since then. She attributes her involvement with the competition as a catalyst for setting her on her STEM journey, and she’s now a Junior Doctor.
With just 10 minutes for their presentation and judges’ questions, each team had to ‘sell’ their Big Idea to our panel of esteemed judges. This was by far the most exciting part of the day for everyone.
The judges knew how tough their task was going to be, having already had a week to examine each team’s incredibly detailed business plans, however these presentations really did raise the bar.
After lunch, teams had the opportunity to hear from our Business Partners in a fast paced carousel. They heard about how each partner is addressing sustainability within their business and some of the STEM skills that they are looking for in new recruits. Our Solutions for the Planet team valued this section of the day as much as the students – it was great to hear about the innovations that are helping these businesses become more sustainable.
Another highlight of the day was our fascinating “Where do we go from here” Panel Discussion. We welcomed four sustainability experts: Emily Hickson, Gareth Jones, Kat Luckock and Kofi Atuah who shared their reflections on the biggest sustainability challenges facing young people in 2020, advice for their 13-year-old self about sustainability and then responded to questions from the audience.
To reach the National Finals, each finalist team had to compete against 156 other teams, be selected as a regional finalist, compete at the regional finals, and then be selected by regional judging panels. So the lengths our finalist teams have already gone to in the face of the challenges of COVID-19 is quite simply incredible. Four of the teams have started raising money to fund their Big Idea; one team performed a live demonstration of the science behind their idea; all of the teams have started building their networks; and all of those with products have started to develop prototypes. This really showed how students have developed their skills.
In this unprecedented of years, the judges made the unprecedented decision to award joint winners of third place! Well done to Team Bebo and UV Disguiser, both from Colton Hills Community School, Wolverhampton – both your ideas for reducing plastic pollution in the oceans are really innovative and while the aims are similar, your ideas are unique.
Second place went to Beauti-Fill from Priory School in Portsmouth, with their idea for a mobile refilling station for health, hygiene and beauty products. It’s an amazing idea as it’s always better to reuse containers – it’s much more sustainable than recycling. The judges found Beauti-Fill’s passion for their idea completely infectious. A business idea founded on a social purpose and designed to be inclusive for all with an incredible website already created.
And our biggest congratulations goes to our winning team, Food for All from Bannockburn High School, Stirling. Their brilliant idea is to tackle food waste and poverty with a café that redistributes food to people in need and a campaign to educate people about healthy eating. What particularly captured the judges imagination about Food for All was the way they had fantastically pivoted through the pandemic, adapting to the challenges posed by social distancing. They developed partnerships and identified additional collaborative opportunities, and having already smashed their fundraising target, this Big Idea is ready to go. Alyn Smith MP who joined the us for the team’s presentation said,
“I was extremely grateful to be invited along to the Big Ideas 2020 event, and cheer on my home team from Bannockburn High School, Stirling. Eilidh D, Eilidh J, Ewan and Imogen were articulate, clear and their passion to tackle food poverty shone through extremely well. I’m very proud they’ve won first place in this UK-wide competition, and championed the values and beliefs of their school and city. I give my thanks to them and hope their project continues to make a real difference to those in need in Stirling’s communities.”
Alyn also added “Hats off too to Jen and her colleagues, who have pulled off an amazing feat in the most difficult of circumstances. Inspirational all round, and I can’t wait for next time!”
While there can only be one overall winner, we think every young person who entered the competition is a winner due to the incredible amount of hard work, passion, courage and determination they have shown. We’re so proud of each and every one of you!
We’d like to say a huge thank you to the teachers who ran this enrichment programme within their school this year. They’ve supported their teams, given up their precious time to run development sessions, read business plans and even turned their hands to the technical challenges of virtual presentations and events. Your support, enthusiasm and commitment make such a difference to your teams and the programme. The employee volunteers from our business partners have also done an awesome job mentoring the teams this year, mostly virtually, they’ve been vital to the development of ideas and support networks. We’re really grateful for their continued support for their teams, their schools, and our Big Ideas Programme. We’d also like to thank all eight of the MPs that took time out of their busy schedules to come and support the teams local to their constituencies.
Finally, we would like to thank all our business partners for their ongoing support of and belief in the Big Ideas Programme: Tarmac, IGEM, SGN, Mears, Northern Gas Networks and Kongsberg Automotive. Thank you, too, to our partner BIC for providing us with all our pens and glue sticks for the programme, from their Ecolutions range. The community engagement and social value you’ve all shown is incredible.
We wish all the teams success in continuing to develop and implement their ideas. From the discussions with our panel of experts and business partners, we know there are already plans to grow support networks and strategies for putting ideas into action.
Our 2020/21 Big Ideas Programme has already started with the first in our new generation of independent Big Ideas Days ‘Out of the Box’ having already taken place and we can’t wait to see even more Big Ideas this year.
Written by Jeremy Newman, S4TP Associate and Jen Baughan, S4TP CEO
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solutions for the Planet Ltd