DD2258 Additional awards for Mayor’s Entrepreneur competition

Type of decision: 
Director's decision
Date signed: 
24 July 2018
Decision by: 
Lucy Owen, Assistant Director, Team London

Executive summary

The Mayor’s Entrepreneur is a competition which promotes and celebrates student innovation, employability and entrepreneurship and helps reduce carbon emissions.

The project has run for six years, expanding its engagement each year. $425,000 of funding has already been secured to support the project for 2 academic years (2017/18 & 2018/19 approved in MD2138). An additional £55,000 has now been secured from the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP), to fund two additional new prizes for 2018/19.
The £55,000 will fund the 2 additional £20,000 prizes, focussing on the Technology and Creative Sectors, to bring the winning innovative ideas in each sector to market. It will also cover the additional costs in terms of extra marketing materials and larger training workshops.

The corporately sponsored development fund awarded to the winners each year facilitates the creation of new green businesses in London, strengthening the low carbon circular economy.


That the Executive Director of Development Environment and Enterprise approves expenditure of £55,000 to deliver an additional two prizes for the Mayor’s Entrepreneur competition in 2019.

Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

The first Mayor’s Low Carbon Entrepreneur (LCE) Project was held in 2012. The key aim of the project is to inspire the next generation of young entrepreneurs to come up with innovative solutions for solving issues facing cities. Previous approvals related to this project are: DD482 (2012); DD986 (2013); ADD141 (2014); ADD255 (2015); MD1519 (2016 & 2017), MD2138 (2018 & 2019).

The competition offers a £20,000 start-up fund as the top prize. Other benefits to participation include: free skills workshops both before and after applying; 20 paid part time internships to support the delivery of the programme; networking opportunities by attending the workshops and judging and awards events; as well as formal mentoring opportunities for finalists and wider applicants. Applicants must be over 18 and a current student in London or have graduated in the last year from a London institution. The finalists and winners are chosen by expert and high-profile judging panels respectively.

The success of the low carbon award indicated potential for the Mayor to recognise and support student entrepreneurship across other areas. Rather than setting up new programmes, two new awards will be added under the existing Mayor’s Entrepreneur programme. The two additional awards will be focussed on technology and creative industries though the day to day running and management of the competition will be delivered by the Environment Team. Funding for two additional awards of £20,000 each has been obtained through the LEAP. The draft coverage of each of the categories is as follows:

• Environment – The original award will continue to have a strong focus and key judging criteria requiring the winning idea to have the potential to substantially reduce carbon emissions. The categories for entry will remain aligned directly to Environment Team areas of work with the Other category in place to allow for applications which span more than one priority area
• Tech – A new award focussed on technological advances such as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, cyber security, the Internet of Things, and Smart City uses of big data. The student applicants will still be asked to consider the environmental impact of their operations.
• Creative Industries – A new award focussed on London’s cultural and creative industries such as fashion and textiles, design, advertising and architecture. The student applicants will still be asked to consider the environmental impact of their operations.

The expanded competition will further support the Mayor’s ambitious manifesto target to make London a zero-carbon city by 2050. It will also support the manifesto promise to be the most pro-business Mayor yet, working in partnership with industry to deliver on skills, infrastructure, and the growth of the low carbon circular economy through helping London’s students become the next generation of green business entrepreneurs. It achieves this by engaging students and academic staff across London’s higher education establishments on the need to find market-driven solutions to reduce carbon emissions and tackle other environmental, technological and creative industries issues. This also allows engagement with these groups on the work of the GLA.

By creating two additional awards we will be able to attract a wider range of students from much more diverse academic backgrounds. The creation of these additional two awards will also result in the following:

• Increase the number of new “green” businesses the programme is able to support in London by having three winning ideas per year rather than just one.
• Enable the support of great ideas that we have seen in the past but whose prime focus is not low carbon so have lost out on that criteria.
• Broaden the student audience of the Environment Team and the wider GLA to reach disciplines that might traditionally engage less with environmental issues and political organisations.
• Confirm London as a global leader in student entrepreneurship/strengthen London HEI’s competitiveness in attracting talented students.
• Maintain brand strength of the awards by expanding the already existing and successful model rather than creating separate programmes.

The projects will cover a range of issues across the proposed three areas but all ideas submitted must align with the Mayoral aim to deliver good growth for our city - growth that makes London cleaner, greener and ready for the future. Ideas will also be judged on their originality, practicality in achieving progress with £20,000, and clarity in how well they can express their concept.

Previous winners and finalists include:

• Bio-bean: An award-winning green energy company which collects waste coffee grounds and recycles them into Advanced Biofuels. This company is now employing 40 people across two sites in London.
• BLOCKS: A modular smartwatch that is composed of easily assembled and replaceable modules that each carry out a different function.
• Bump Mark: Developed a food expiry label that is bio-reactive, meaning it goes bad exactly when the food inside the package does too, helping reduce waste. The team has grown to five people.
• Aeropowder: developing natural insulation materials from waste chicken feathers. With this, they aim to enable buildings to be insulated in a more sustainable manner.
• Twipes: developed hygienic, water-dispersible wet wipes on a roll designed to fit into existing toilet roll holders. They are free from harsh chemicals and dissolve in water within three hours.
• WithLula: developing zero-waste, fully-flushable sanitary products.


The project has throughout its life been financially supported through a commercial sponsor. In 2012 Berkeley Homes sponsored the project, from 2013 to 2015 Siemens were the sponsor and for 2016 to 2019 the Citi Foundation has been the sponsor.

The additional £55,000 will fund the two additional award funds of £20,000 It will also cover the additional delivery costs in terms of extra marketing materials and larger and additional training workshops.

Objectives and expected outcomes

Objectives of the wider awards:

• To engage with more of London’s higher education students on environmental, technological and creative industries challenges
• To work with lecturers and university staff to deliver workshops to achieve our joint outcomes through pooling resources.
• To grow the low carbon circular economy by supporting the creation of new green businesses
• To provide students with direct employability training by offering paid internships and unpaid mentoring opportunities.
• To hold a high-profile awards event attended by the Mayor and celebrities from the business community with an interest in sustainability
• To continue to expand the influence and scope of the competition building stronger relationships and “brand” awareness across all London higher education institutions.
• To assist students in developing workplace skills.

Expected outputs of the awards

• Employability and entrepreneurship training delivered to 700 London students per year
• 20 paid internships to support the project
• Over 500 competition entries per year from across London’s higher education institutions
• Mentoring opportunities for the 15 finalists
• Two additional £20,000 development funds for the winning student business ideas
• Semi-final boot camps for the top 90 ideas for students
• An annual high-profile event where the top 5 ideas from each category will be judged by a panel of celebrities and an awards ceremony where the three winners will be announced

Equality comments

• The project is open to all students, from any discipline, who are over 18 from any of London’s higher education institutions which includes those with protected characteristics. The project is advertised through various methods including face to face, presentations by the interns in lectures, digital marketing via social media and through leaflets and fliers.
• The student interns are recruited from universities across London and work at their individual universities to encourage students from all backgrounds to participate in the project. Students are more relaxed and tend to pay more attention when they are approached by a fellow student approaching them instead of a lecturer or a member staff.
• We run workshops for students from all universities across London at City Hall as well as smaller targeted workshops at some of the less advantaged universities to actively encourage students who would not usually take part in similar workshops and competitions.
• The only limiting factor for eligibility to apply to the project is that the applicants are or have recently (graduated in the previous year) been students at a London university or college.

Other considerations

Key risks and issues

Two risks have been identified and plans have been put in place to minimise the potential of these situations occurring and their possible impact. The first is the risk of a lack of student engagement which is seen as being a low probability but medium impact risk. This will be avoided using a variety of communication tools and incentives for students to get involved. The strong network of staff contacts at London’s universities and colleges established in previous years also helps to mitigate against this risk.

The second risk relates to the external sponsorship of the project being discontinued or withdrawn. This is a low probability but high impact risk. Planned continual communication with the sponsor over the next year will minimise this risk to ensure their expectations and performance indicators are understood and met. To further reduce this risk other potential sponsors will be investigated and representatives invited to attend the high-profile events. This also raises the profile of the competition and the student ideas.

Links to Mayoral strategies and priorities

The links are:

• The project supports the Mayor’s ambitious manifesto target to make London a zero-carbon city by 2050.
• The project also supports the Mayor’s manifesto promise to be the most pro-business Mayor yet, working in partnership with industry to deliver on skills, infrastructure, and growth.
• This competition also links to the Mayor’s pre-manifesto commitment to establish a ‘Bazalgette Award’ for Londoners to come up with innovative solutions to solve the environmental problems facing London. http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2015/06/sadiq-khan-interview-lon...

Financial comments

Executive Director of Development Environment and Enterprise is asked to approve the expenditure of £55,000 to deliver the additional prizes for the Mayor’s Entrepreneur competition in 2019. This is funded from 2018-19 GLA LEAP Core budget.

Spend of £15,000 on marketing and training will happen in 2018-19 before the two prize awards are given in 2019-20. This will mean £40,000 budget is expected to be re-profiled into 2019-20 as part of 2019-20 budget setting process.

Planned delivery approach and next steps

Previously London’s university/college students and recent graduates were encouraged to submit existing, or develop new, innovative business ideas to help drive the low carbon economy. This year to increase engagement we have added two additional awards that focus on specific industries. This will encourage students, who may have not previously been interested, from different academic backgrounds to apply. We will develop a three-prong communications campaign involving social media, printed fliers and university staff and lecturers, and a series of workshops serve to attract entries.

The initial stage of student engagement, which has been running for the last three years, is the recruitment of 20 paid part-time interns from universities across London. These students are trained in the aims of the project and in how to pitch it to other students within their institution.... Interns form a valuable link between the students and staff at the universities with City Hall.

With the addition of the two new awards, we will run additional idea development workshops at universities across London and City Hall that will allow students to gain a better understanding of the competition, the two new categories and the opportunities it opens for them to create their own commercially viable business in different fields.

All applicants are offered an additional training workshop to help them gain confidence in communicating, marketing, and pitching their ideas. In addition to applicant training 90 semi-finalists will be selected by expert judging panels and attend half day boot camps to develop their ideas and improve their pitching. These 90 will then submit additional information on their ideas allowing another expert judging panel to select the top five from each category. The 15 finalists will then be provided with specialist advice, pitching training, ideas development support and training tailored to their business idea.

15 finalists invited to pitch, Dragon’s Den style, to a panel of celebrity entrepreneurs (past judges have included Dame Vivienne Westwood, Jo Malone MBE, Dame Ellen MacArthur, Richard Reed and Deborah Meaden). The pitching and awards ceremony takes place at a high-profile event at City Hall, with 1 or 2 winning business ideas selected to receive a share of each of the three £20,000 prize funds to start-up their business. In addition, these businesses, and other selected finalists, receive ongoing support and mentoring.

Last year a mentorship programme was introduced where finalists, students who have applied to the competition or who have been employed as interns are selected to be mentored by staff from the sponsors Citi and other Mayor’s Fund for London corporate partners. With the two new awards this initiative will be expanded to include the 15 finalists. This provides students with valuable techniques and advice from professionals and industry experts to help them develop their business ideas as well as giving the students a clear focus and helping them to achieve their objectives. It will also strengthen the message being sent to universities about the wider competition and its ability to support students into careers.

Activity table



Receive funding

Aug 2018

Recruitment of student interns including for the two additional prizes

Aug-Sept 2018

 Competition launch

Sept 2018

Competition opens

Sept 2018

Training workshops

Nov 2018 – Jan 2019

Competition closes

Feb 2019

Share this page