LONDON, U.K. – Five young entrepreneurs have been named finalists in the latest Verizon/Unloc Young Entrepreneurs Challenge program to attract and empower Europe’s young business leaders of tomorrow.
The challenge, now in its fifth year, tasks youths between the ages of 16 and 25 to devise a tech-led business idea that enriches and benefits the lives of other people and the planet. This year’s top challenge ideas ranged from groundbreaking new sustainable fibers and low-cost green energy provision, to sectors such as agriculture and pharmaceutical health tech.
“Every year this challenge uncovers amazing young talent from across Europe and this year is no exception,” said Sanjiv Gossain, General Manager and Head of EMEA for Verizon Business. “It’s inspiring to see new innovative business concepts in the areas of sustainability and green energy across a diverse range of industries.”
The response to this year’s competition was bigger and more competitive than ever, featuring 130 entries from a broad swath of countries across Europe including the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Finland and Greece. These entries were narrowed down to five finalists.
“The sheer standard of entries this year is just simply phenomenal,” said Hayden Taylor, Managing Director of Unloc. “Young people are really showing that they have what it takes to think for themselves, carve their own futures and forge their own enterprises. Shortlisting this year was very, very difficult, our five finalists are all so impressive – it’s going to be a really close competition!”
The five finalists now compete for the grand prize during a live event on March 9, where they will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges that includes former winner Rowan Armstrong, as well as invited guests in business and education. The grand final will be live streamed on Twitter and LinkedIn.
The top winner receives £10,000, mentorship, and a technology support package to help kickstart their business proposal. Each runner-up will receive £1,000 to fund their start-up business, a personalised development plan that focuses on key priorities, as well as access to a series of masterclasses over the next year that will pair the finalists with a variety of industry experts.
Judges for the Grand Final include:
Antony Tompkins, Associate Director Global Integrated Solutions, Verizon Business
Lorraine Stockle, Associate Director, EMEA Talent Acquisition, Verizon
Ella Robertson McKay, Managing Director One Young World
Sara Diegoli, Unloc Advisory Board
Rowan Armstrong, CEO and Co-Founder BioLiberty
Here are the 2023 finalists:
Marion Cantillon (24) Ireland
Marion’s business idea is for Pit Seal, an edible spray-on-solution for silage pit coverage that creates a zero-waste circular economy in agriculture. Existing plastic sheeting and tyre methods are a challenge and a hazard to farmers, and the environmental damage of plastic and tyres are renowned in the industry, and cause many accidents in agriculture. Pit Seal reduces the time spent covering the pit and subsequently fixing and adjusting the sheeting after harsh weather during the winter months. Numerous research studies have shown the positive effects of decreasing methane emissions by adding seaweed to animal feed as the biofilm is seaweed based – it reduces the methane emissions once consumed by livestock. Pit Seal’s long-term aim is to be a leader in sustainable farming products particularly in Beef and Dairy farming.
Anjali Benny Devadasan (20) UK
Anjali’s company Synergy aims to decrease greenhouse emissions from rail transport by generating low-cost renewable energy. 80% of the motion resistance trains face is caused by simple air resistance, leading to large portions of energy on railways being uselessly dissipated. Due to this, rail traction currently produces almost 3 mega tonnes of CO2, the same as 2019-20. This does not align with the railway’s net-zero goals. Synergy provides efficient, recyclable, vertical-axis wind turbines, which rotate due to the turbulent airflow of passing vehicles. The modular design is low-cost and easy to install and maintain, uses available land and has negligible noise pollution. The turbines have high energy efficiency of 40% and are made using recyclable and/or upcycled parts from the automotive industry. Also, they have safety mechanisms and wildlife prevention sensors to protect animals from both turbines and transport.
Evan Gwyne Davies (25) UK
Evan’s business Scrapp is a mobile app and tablet station that separates waste. With a quick scan of a barcode, Scrapp shows exactly how to dispose of a product’s packaging correctly according to local authority recycling rules. Scrapp has built a database that knows the recycling rules across all of the UK, USA and Canada, servicing 400 million people. Businesses can license tablet stations to position above their waste streams. Using the same technology as the app it turns any bin into a smart bin. Scrapp services reduce contaminated recycling in their corporate office buildings, conferences and events spaces or customer-facing venues. The tablet stations allow customers to track waste in their vicinity and report CO2 emissions for their Scope 3 analysis.
Idan Gal-Shohet (22) UK
Fashion brands face a significant challenge in finding truly sustainable, affordable, and scalable materials. The industry is a major contributor to global emissions and water consumption, accounting for 8% and 215 trillion litres respectively. Idan’s company Fibe aims to revolutionise the industry using cutting-edge technology to extract cellulosic fibres from potato harvest waste. This waste, which amounts to 250M tonnes annually, cannot be fed to livestock or compost, and has the potential to provide 160% of global clothing demand. Fibe purchases this waste from farmers and transforms it into fibres that are compatible with conventional textile machinery. Despite being a novel process, using waste as a raw material allows Fibe to sell their fibres competitively with cotton and polyester. Fibe’s fibres use 99.7% less water, produce 82% fewer pollutants, and require no land compared to cotton. Sustainable and meeting several SDGs. Every shirt made from Patacel saves 2,700 litres of fresh water , 2 square meters of land, and over 225 kgs of CO2 from being emitted, as well as providing additional income to farmers and their rural communities.
Olivia Simpson (21) UK
Olivia’s company Symbiotex have a mission to create sustainable materials for global health. In the medical industry single-use plastic is everywhere, with a mere 5% of it recycled- equating to roughly 10,000 London buses of medical plastic waste going to incineration or landfill annually in the UK alone. Symbiotex use waste cooking oils and algae to create the first range of home compostable 3D printable filaments. Their materials match the functionality of plastic but are compostable. The filaments can be used for 3D printing or made into pellets for injection moulding. Their medical products include pregnancy tests, diagnostic tests and inhalers. Symbiotex’s home compostable bio-based pellets can easily substitute the current plastic pellets used in manufacturing without the pharmaceutical company even needing to change their machinery or process, ensuring an easy and quick transition and maximum sustainability.
For more information on the Young Entrepreneurs Challenge visit: youngentrepereneurschallenge.com