The Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition Challenges

The Mayor's Entrepreneur competition is looking for student business ideas to help deliver good growth for our city – growth that makes London cleaner, greener and ready for the future.

Are you looking for some inspiration for your business or for an idea of a problem that needs solving? To give you somewhere to start, we've identified some challenges facing London for each different award.

These are only some of the issues that we face in London, so we still welcome all other ideas to make London a better place to live.

There is one £20,000 prize available for the winner of each award and each idea can only be entered into one award.

Environment Award

The environmental award is looking for innovations to reduce carbon emissions in London.

  • Do you have an idea about how communities at a local scale can better share resources such as gardening tools or spare food?
  • How would you help communities to look after plants without the use of tap water?
  • How would you improve air quality in London both indoors and outside?
  • Do you have an idea to make London’s economy more circular? Particularly in the textiles, electricals, packaging, the built environment and food industries?
  • Do you have an idea to produce more renewable energy or reduce energy use?
  • Do you have an idea to improve, add to or change transport in the city?
  • How would you reduce water use in London in our homes, at work and at play?
  • Can you come up with an innovative and sustainable packaging design that delivers better consumer experiences with less environmental impact for some of the most frequently used consumer products. For example; food products, e-commerce or cosmetics.
  • In the UK we throw away 7.1 million tonnes of household food waste a year, 70% of which could have been eaten which costs us £70 a month. How can we waste less food and make sure that the food that is being thrown away is truly inedible?
  • Buildings – Do you have an idea or an innovation that could help us to avoid the GHG emissions from the city’s buildings.
  • Green space makes up almost 50% of London and has got many proven health benefits. How would you increase this percentage and make sure everyone has equal access? This could be in terms of making green space more accessible, engaging underrepresented groups or greening areas of the city which have poor access to public green space?
  • London’s green infrastructure is made up of all our parks, gardens, street trees and green roofs which promote healthier living, improve air quality and improve bio-diversity. How would you re-imagine green infrastructure for a future London? Particularly in relation to the challenges of climate change, public health and increased urbanisation?
  • Climate projections predict that London will experience warmer and wetter winters, as well as more frequent and intense rainfall events. Approximately 165,000 residential properties and 25,000 commercial properties are at risk of surface water flooding. Population growth will further exacerbate the situation with an increase in hard surfaces which reduces the amount of rainwater that can reach the soil. Thames Water estimate that the gap between supply and demand for water will grow to over half a billion litres a day if we don’t act soon. Almost a billion tonnes of rain falls on London every year. Using rainwater rather than letting it go down the drain can help to relieve pressures on the drainage system, reducing flood risk and the demand for treated water. We want people to see rainwater as a valuable resource and not something to be mixed with sewage and got rid of. Can you create an innovative solution that will mitigate the impacts that intense rainfall events have on London’s communities?

  • How can Londoners reduce their single use plastic waste?  Government is taking action on plastic bags, plastic straws and the Mayor is installing drinking fountains and promoting Refill London to tackle single-use plastic bottles but what else can be done to reduce or replace our reliance on single use plastic in our everyday lives?

  • Food waste makes up a significant proportion of London’s waste.  Some new ways of redistributing edible food waste (like apps from Olio) are being developed and the Mayor has set a target for all boroughs to provide weekly food waste collection services.  What other measures can be taken to reduce the food waste London produces or manage that which is produced in a more sustainable way?

  • Can you come up with an innovative idea to increase on-the-go use of public fountains and refill points for those who don’t have a refillable bottle on them?

Smart Cities Award

The smart cities award is looking for technological innovations to help make London a better place to live and work.

  • Data centres. What processes, efficiencies, energy source or energy recycling systems would you put in place to reduce the environmental impact of data centres?
  • Data Privacy Rights and Security. How would you make it easier for individuals to securely identify, audit and reduce their digital footprint, taking control of their personal data and reducing their risk profile online?
  • Electric cars are rising in popularity but are limited by battery capacity. Cities have been slow to install public charging stations due to cost as well as limited space. Can you come up with an innovative solution to make EV charging stations more accessible with minimal visual and physical impact on the environment.
  • Keeping roads in good condition is a challenge. Detection, monitoring and filling of potholes is crucial for the safety and driving experience of commuters. The current approach is slow and inaccurate. Can you come up with a way to detect, track and report potholes on roads so commuters know which roads to avoid and authorities can focus their efforts on the most severely affected areas.
  • Londoners increasingly rely on technology for journey planning and navigation. The digital tools available for cycling are not as accurate and up-to-date as those for other modes of transport. It should be fast and convenient to start and end a cycle trip, with easy access to cycles with more places to store and park them. How would you create new digital wayfinding and journey planning tools to make it easier for people to navigate the city by bike?

Creative Industries Award

The creative award is looking for innovations to make the creative industries more sustainable.

  • Is there an innovative idea to help people get outside and enjoy the great outdoors?
  • Green Fashion. How would you make fashion greener?
  • Lighting for theatres and live events venues. Can you find a suitable alternative to live venue lighting that meets EU regulations while providing the same quality and innovation that current options do?
  • Cultural tourism How would you make tourism more sustainable in the city?
  • Theatre and Film. Is there an innovative product or service that can support the theatre or film industries in London in logistics like reusing costumes and scenery?
  • Supporting night time workers. Is there an innovative product or service that can support London's night time workforce and bring commercial benefits to businesses?  
  • The changing retail landscape. The sale of second hand fashion is due to outsell first hand sales within a decade so to keep up brands are expressing an interest in rental schemes.  If UK sales are around £5bn garments today only 1% are bought as used in traditional outlets (Camden / Brick Lane etc). Are buyers more willing to go to a physical store / outlet when buying used vs new? How can London best address this challenge to give independent retailers a share of tomorrow's fashion retail?
  • Data drives reuse rates. Many clothes recycling schemes encourage us to clear out our wardrobes but that often results in replacement purchases. On disposal we expect the charitable cause to benefit significantly from our donations. We effectively discard all our useful knowledge about our items & pass on to the next person to gather that data. A wasted opportunity! Inevitably textile recyclers (inc charities) cannot afford to process in the UK & once exported items often end up in other countries landfill. How can we change that? If every data variable adds value can we automate ways of capturing data? for large volumes of apparel?
  • Logistics: As e-commerce continues home deliveries are rising. With courier sales volumes increasing there is little demand for creativity and the delivery mechanism remains as it was decades ago. Transport is often at least 1/4 of the product price which is unsustainable. How can we re-think traditional logistics without costing us the earth?
  • How can you help cultural organisations become dementia-friendly?
  • How can we best promote and advertise venues that are dementia-friendly, supporting London to be the first Age Friendly city?
  • How can packaging in the creative industries be more sustainable?
  • What innovative recycling solutions can be explored to help cultural productions become more sustainable?
  • How can creative entrepreneurs make our high streets and town centres thriving places after 6pm?
  • How can we support cultural organisations and individual practitioners to find innovative ways of fundraising? 
  •  How can we reduce the environmental effects of festivals/concerts (ref to travel, tents, drinks and food packaging, power, etc. )
  • How can we work with international artists in a more sustainable way?
  • How can we better enable/facilitate the sharing of expensive equipment for artists (pottery spinning wheels, printing presses, machinery etc.)?

Health Award

The health award is looking for innovations to reduce waste and make the health sector more sustainable

  • How can you communicate in real time the health benefits of physical activity without the need for smart personal devices?
  • How would you use data, mobile technology, virtual reality or augmented reality to enable communities to re-design streets to make them more healthy?
  • Do you have an idea about how to get adults to be more active?
  • AI and London’s ageing population. How would you use data, AI, chatbots, machine learning or cognitive technologies to help support London’s ageing population?
  • Digital technology and mental health. How would you use data, mobile technology, virtual reality or augmented reality to create solutions to support the mental health of Londoners?
  • Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and London’s health and creative industries. How would you use immersive technologies to help make London the most active city in the world?  Could you also use immersive technologies to support the creative industries?

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