Unlocking Innovation: Meet the finalists of the Verizon / Unloc Young Entrepreneurs Challenge

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Finalists will compete in this year’s Young Entrepreneurs Challenge showcase on March 7, 2024, in a bid to win £10,000/€12,000

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LONDON, U.K. - Five young entrepreneurs have been named as finalists in the latest Verizon/Unloc Young Entrepreneurs Challenge to encourage and attract the dynamic new business leaders of tomorrow.

The challenge, now in its sixth year, tasks young people between the ages of 16 and 25 to devise a tech-led business idea that enriches and benefits the planet. This year’s top challenge has uncovered solutions, including a new bladeless hydro generator, a hybrid sunlight system that utilises advanced optics with a sun-tracking mechanism, and Generative AI technology to improve eye disease screening programs.

“Over the past six years the Young Entrepreneurs Challenge has uncovered amazing young talent from across Europe, with increased engagement and bolder business concepts year on year,” said Sanjiv Gossain, General Manager and Head of EMEA for Verizon Business.

“With the current challenges in the technology sector and reduced startup funding across the EMEA region, dragged by inflation, higher interest rates and geopolitical events, programs like the Young Entrepreneurs Challenge are even more important to ensure we continue to support and nurture budding entrepreneurs.”

The year saw 100 competitive entries from a broad range of countries across Europe including the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Finland and Greece. These entries were narrowed down to five finalists.

“As the reputation of the competition grows, we're seeing that reflected in the sheer standard of applicants, not only that, we're delighted to have such an amazing panel of Judges,” said Hayden Taylor, Managing Director of Unloc. “It’s inspiring to see so many new and innovative business concepts in the areas of sustainability, climate change and healthcare, and we’re proud to play a key role in helping scale these ideas.”

The five finalists now compete for the grand prize during a live event on March 7, where they will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges that includes former winner Jamie Bankhead, as well as guests in business and education. The grand final will be live-streamed on LinkedIn.

The top winner receives £10,000, mentorship, a technology support package to help kickstart their business proposal, and a trip to the One Young World 2024 Global Summit in Montréal, which brings together many of the brightest young leaders from over 190 countries and more than 250 organisations.

Each runner-up will receive £1,000 to fund their start-up business, a personalised development plan that focuses on key priorities, and access to a series of masterclasses over the next year that will pair the finalists with various industry experts.

Judges for the Grand Final include:

Sanjiv Gossain, Head of EMEA, Verizon Business | LinkedIn

Ella Robertson-McKay, Managing Director, One Young World | LinkedIn

Piers Linney, Former investor on Dragons’ Den, Co-founder: Implement AI, Adviser & Speaker| LinkedIn

Jamie Bankhead, Previous YEC Winner & CEO of Konglomerate Games| LinkedIn

John Williams, Marketing Director & CMO - EMEA, APAC & LatAm, Verizon | LinkedIn

Here are the 2024 finalists:

Devi Pathak (19), UK | LinkedIn

Lung cancer accounts for over a fifth of cancer fatalities annually. With approximately 38,000 new cases diagnosed annually, it is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. This is due to ineffective screening processes and delayed symptom recognition associated with lung cancer detection. Devi’s solution, PulmoGuard ProScan, is a novel breathalyser intended for both routine GP exams and high-risk individuals (e.g. smokers, exposure to environmental pollutants) to determine lung cancer susceptibility. It analyses volatile organic chemicals and biomarkers in exhaled air, such as miRNAs, isoprene or NNK, which are linked to lung cancer risk. Early detection is aided by the device's rapid and non-invasive results.

Due to PulmoGuard ProScan's user-friendly design, this facilitates widespread, seamless integration into standard GP procedures. Healthcare providers and patients can take proactive preventative steps that align with the evolving nature of personalised medicine. The PulmoGuard device stands out by offering a distinctive solution that tackles the challenge of detecting lung cancer at an early stage and reducing NHS costs associated with lung cancer, which currently costs the UK economy £2.4 bn each year.

The relatively low production cost, its mobile nature and its ability to be re-used makes PulmoGuard a device which is accessible to healthcare workers around the world, including doctors, and can be easily introduced into routine checkups. This will promote good health and well-being and reduce inequality as individuals from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds would have access to preventative care.

Kolatat Phaiboonnukulkij (20) UK | LinkedIn

Phytavaren Technology, a Proptech startup in London, specialises in building thermal dynamics R&D with passive design and developing eco-friendly building materials and other low-energy construction materials by integrating architectural solution design to address thermal regulation, carbon sequestration and structural integrity in construction.

The Interlocking Semi-Calcite Passive Brick (ISCPB), Phytavaren Technology’s flagship product, has been recognised by prestigious and global awards in innovation, sustainability, and real estate of a product that is making a significant impact on the industry transition. ISCPB is a sustainable construction material with eco-design integrated with thermal dynamics to use less electricity to regulate building temperature.

The ISCPB reengineers common waste from the ocean as a sustainable construction material that can make the building temperature independent from the outside temperature. ISCPB helps consume less electricity by regulating the building temperature through its insulator properties. This enables the company to save more energy and makes the construction process faster, safer, and more eco-friendly. With thermal properties benefits, Phytavaren Technology is lowering the workload of the HVAC system and energy consumption in buildings through passive and eco-design to make the building energy efficiency more resilient.

Theodor Blomberg (23) UK | LinkedIn

Introducing "The Swirl." – one of the first truly bladeless hydro generators that harness the power of the vortex effect, setting it apart from conventional generators. Crafted from recycled plastics using 3D printing technology, Swirl. operates without rotating blades. The innovative bladeless design of Swirl. eliminates perpendicular obstacles for passing biomass, and its rotating system follows the water stream - creating a safe passage for fish and other biomasses through the middle section, all while generating sustainable power.

Designed for easy assembly by a single person, Swirl. requires no heavy machinery, featuring components compressed into flat packages for convenient transport. Swirl. is an ideal choice for individuals seeking a greener future through their own sustainable energy source - requiring only a small stream of water.

The Swirl. is sustainable as it aims to support the commercialisation of clean energy sources for eco-conscious individuals or those in need of a green backup source. Furthermore, the product is made of recycled materials, aiming to support the current green shift and make green energy more accessible worldwide.

Ethan Waisberg (23) UK

Eye disease screening programs worldwide are not performing well enough, which is causing millions around the world to go blind.

From his research work with NASA astronauts, Ethan found a way to use Generative AI to allow the eyes of astronauts to be better monitored while in spaceflight, where limited imaging equipment exists.

Ethan is bringing this same technology to Earth with AngioGenius, an app where anyone can take a photo of their eye at home to help detect and monitor eye disease progression.

Mariia Alipatova (24) Ukraine | LinkedIn

Solar Optic is a hybrid sunlight system that utilises advanced optics and a sun-tracking mechanism to provide natural illumination indoors. The system concentrates sunlight on the surface of the lens and the light beam is guided through a polymer optic cable.

Similar to normal lamps, Solar Optic diffuses sunlight from cables inside the building. Solar Optic does not convert heat into electricity like solar panels do, which is how the solution avoids losses of energy and achieves high-efficiency illumination inside the building. The Solar Optic system works together with artificial light, compensating for the missing light when there is not enough sun outside.

High electricity prices and carbon taxes are forcing organisations to think about the implementation of sustainable solutions. Solar Optic technology has a potential application in various markets such as schools, warehouses and supermarkets.

For more information on The Young Entrepreneurs Challenge visit: youngentrepereneurschallenge.com

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