Student enterprise. What’s the Big Idea?

The Big Idea Challenge 2017 finals took place on 24th April at St James’s Palace. Hosted by HRH The Duke of York, KG, Patron of London Metropolitan University, the Big Idea Challenge is a major competition which seeks solutions to some of society’s most pressing issues.

This year’s finalists, a mix of university and sixth form students, wowed judges with ideas from helping homeless people in London to keeping people safe on a night out. We managed to catch up with some of the winners and find out The Duke of York thinks about universities’ role in enterprise.

UNIVERSITY GRAND CHAMPION: Fresh Start – busses that change lives.

Valeria Kormysh, Oriol Iglesias Grau, Jesus Diaz Moreno.

Fresh Start is a social enterprise that aims to transform a classic red London bus into a mobile support centre for the capital’s homeless complete with showers. Developed by students from London Metropolitan University, Valeria Kormysh, Jesus Diaz and Oriol Iglesias Grau, were named the winner of the Big Idea Challenge 2017.

The team will now receive expert support to make their idea a reality, including start-up funds, a digital platform and space in London Met’s business incubator, Accelerator.

Valeria Kormysh: “We wanted to do something that would really make a difference to people, and which would have an impact on our local communities. We went out and spoke to homeless people in London and asked them about the biggest challenges they faced, and were really surprised by their answers.

“We expected that access to drinking water, or shelter, would be the most common issue, but what kept coming up was somewhere to wash.

“We did research and found that many shelters and charities have such facilities, but they can be hard to get to for people. So we thought, why not bring the showers to them?”

Fresh Start will not just offer washing facilities, but also a means of distributing clothing and other supplies and services to homeless and vulnerable people across the capital. The students are now seeking corporate sponsorship to help fund the project.

Oriol Iglesias Grau said: “It’s an amazing feeling to win the Big Idea Challenge, but now we need to start raising funds and get people involved. We want to engage with charities, universities, the NHS and corporates and raise awareness among as many people as possible.

“The homeless population in London is rising and we need to get the bus on the road as soon as possible to start making a difference.”

COLLEGE GRAND CHAMPION: Tracklet – stay safe when you’re out and about

Deianira Urovi, Juhi Ashra, and Minhal Shahid ß

‘Tracklet’, is a smart bracelet designed to improve safety for young people on a night out. The bracelet allows users to track their friends and help find each other should their mobile phones run out of battery.

Hailing from City and Islington College, students Deianira Urovi, Juhi Ashra, and Minhal Shahid beat teams from 17 colleges across London to win the Big Idea Challenge Grand Champion.

Student Juhi Ashra said: “We wanted to come up with an idea that solved a problem affecting us all. As girls living in a big city, we’ve always found it a bit scary when we lose each other when we’re out, which can happen very easily. We think a lot of people can relate to this problem and have had really positive feedback to the idea.”

The Tracklet team will be given expert support by London Met’s incubator, Accelerator, to get their business up and running, as well as a bespoke website.

Teammate Deianira Urovi said: “It has been an amazing journey and it’s a great feeling to win the Big Idea Challenge. I never thought I’d ever meet a member of the Royal Family, so coming to St James’s Palace and receiving our award from The Duke is very special.

“We’re now taking Tracklet into the investment phase and are hoping to develop it further.”

THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD: Neighbourhood – social media platform app

Eesa Aleem, Zain Hussain, Akramul Islam, Mohamed Azim and Shohaib Naseer

Five students from Norlington College won the People’s Choice Award with more than 1,400 public votes. Their app, Neighbourhood, aims to tackle urban isolation by building trust within local communities.

Eesa Aleem, Zain Hussain, Akramul Islam, Mohamed Azim and Shohaib Naseer, beat teams from 17 colleges across London with their idea, the Neighbourhood Social Platform App –  an online bulletin board for Waltham Forest residents.

Zain Hussain said: “Getting so many votes is a real honour and shows that there is an appetite for our app. It’s cool that our idea will now be developed we’re really excited to see where we go with this now.

“Our next step is to keep searching for investors and explore how we can take the idea forward.”

Commenting on the awards the Duke said: “The Big Idea Challenge brings learning and enterprise environments together to create ideas that can grow. This is the epitome of what enterprise and entrepreneurship is all about.

“It is the job of universities to prepare people for the challenges they will face in whichever avenues they choose in life, and the Big Idea Challenge is a fine example of this. I’d like to thank London Metropolitan University and all of those involved in this project for the positive difference they are making.”

Professor John Raftery, Vice Chancellor of London Met, added: “London Met exists to meet the needs of our time, and it is through projects like the Big Idea Challenge that we realise this goal.

“More than 90% of graduates from London Met are in employment or further study six months after leaving us. I am convinced that this is due to the positive relationships we have with the enterprise world.

“I’d like to congratulate all of those who have taken part in the Challenge. They have all inspired others with their Big Ideas.”

Toby Kress, Head of Accelerator at London Met, said: “Innovation is at the heart of the Government’s industrial strategy and we feel universities have a major role to play in this area, from upskilling young people to inspiring their sense of entrepreneurialism. The Big Idea Challenge is all about introducing young people, who may never have considered setting up their own businesses, to the possibilities and opportunities that enterprise can bring.

“I’m really impressed with the ideas that these students have come up with and developed, and I hope this experience will inspire them to look at the startup world as a viable option for their futures.”

The full list of winners from the evening include:

Big Idea – College Edition

Grand Champion: Tracklet from City & Islington College

The People’s Choice AwardNeighbourhood Social Platform App from Norlington Sixth Form

Runners Up: Scrinkey from Hackney Community College and Speak To Me from Redbridge College

Staff Hero: Steven Kern from NewVic


London Met’s Big Idea Award winners

Grand ChampionValeria Kormysh, Jesus Diaz & Oriol Iglesias Grau from Fresh Start

The People’s Choice AwardFariah Nanhoo from City Box

Commercial CategoryNathan Maalo & Darren Tenkorang from Trim It

Social Impact CategoryValeria Kormysh, Jesus Diaz & Oriol Iglesias Grau from Fresh Start

Creative CategoryJames Rogers & Song Eng from Two Fold

Staff CategoryProfessor Jameel Inal & Dr Dan Stratton from Microvesicles Against Cancer


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