Mayor launches search for London’s young green entrepreneurs

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has launched a competition for student entrepreneurial talent with ideas for ‘green’ business projects to help tackle urgent environmental problems facing the capital.

Entrants to the Mayor’s Entrepreneur 2017 competition will pitch projects that take on London’s green challenges, from tackling pollution and boosting air quality to lowering carbon footprints.

Mayor launches search for London’s young green entrepreneurs
Aeropowder, a company that turns waste feathers into new materials, won the award this year
Following the application deadline on 12 February, business experts will mentor shortlisted applicants, before they pitch their final projects to a panel of investors at City Hall. The winning project will then be given £20,000 in start-up funding by Citi Foundation, which works to promote economic progress around the world.

When elected this May, Khan promised to make the capital ‘one of the world’s greenest cities’ through measures including ‘reinvigorat[ing] efforts to increase the amount London recycles’.

His pre-election manifesto highlighted several priorities relating to the environment, including restoring London’s air quality to ‘legal and safe levels’, making travel greener, and protecting the green belt. He also set an ambitious goal of making London a ‘zero carbon city’ by 2050 through reviving the city’s clean-energy sector.

Alongside the announcement of the Mayor’s Entrepreneur competition, Khan’s office revealed that he is consulting on a ‘bold and wide-ranging’ package of measures to clean London’s air and that he has also urged producers, retailers, restaurants and consumers to take collective action to reduce food waste, among other initiatives.

‘London is the best place in the world to launch a business’

Commenting on the competition, Khan, said: “From cleaning up our filthy air to boosting recycling and cutting food waste, our student entrepreneurs could help solve some of the serious challenges our city faces.

“London is the best place in the world to launch and grow a business and a leading centre for green technology. With our many world-leading universities in the capital, I’m sure this competition will generate some truly innovative solutions to help boost London’s environment.”

Citi’s Head of Climate & Sustainability, Niels Kirk, said: “Sustainable solutions to urban challenges are critical for the future competitiveness of global cities like London. Young people have a vital role to play. These awards encourage innovation and an entrepreneurial mind-set, not only unleashing young people’s potential to solve major challenges, but also helping them develop vital skills for their future careers.”

Previous winners – from waste to wonders

A previous winning project was bio-bean in 2015, which turns London’s coffee waste into advanced biofuels for use in heating and transport so that you can ‘heat your building with coffee’.

From the company’s foundation in 2013, it grew to a team of 25 and then to a facility in Cambridgeshire capable of processing 50,000 tonnes of coffee waste per year, which the company equates to around one tenth of cups drunk in the UK. Speaking to Resource for a feature interview earlier this year, the company’s Founder Arthur Kay, who came up with the idea whilst at University College, London, said that he hopes to increase this to a quarter of a million in the next few years. 

Mayor launches search for London’s young green entrepreneurs
Coffee waste reprocessor bio-bean is a previous winner of the award
Using a combination of processes developed internally and some existing technologies and machinery, the factory turns used grounds – collected from coffee shops, offices, transport hubs, shopping centres and coffee stores, as well as instant coffee factories – into biofuel.

Another previous winner, Aeropowder, which took home this year’s award in March, turns waste feathers into a range of new materials like building insulation. Feathers are excellent thermal insulators as well as being water-repellent and sound-absorbing, and thousands of tonnes of feather waste are produced by the poultry industry each week and are usually sent to landfill or incinerated.

Founded by former Imperial College students Elena Dieckmann and Ryan Robinson, after they focused their research on biomaterials, the company’s technological innovation transforms thousands of tonnes of these waste feathers into functional materials, such as thermal insulation blocks, which are all sustainable and biodegradable.

The award kick-started the company, and since then, the material has evolved significantly. The original mix was focused on using up a waste product, but it has now been transformed into a biodegradable material, and the company is looking to integrate it into the wider supply chain.

More information on the Mayor’s Entrepreneur 2017 award can be found on the Mayor of London’s website.

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