University of Sussex announces Pitch for the Planet winners 2023

From L-R: Sussex’s Allan Spencer; Lucy Hughes - founder of MarinaTex and S
From L-R: Sussex’s Allan Spencer; Lucy Hughes - founder of MarinaTex and Sussex alumna; winner Alizee Compson; winner Katya Jeppesen Frank; winner Rosa McKenzie; Sussex’s Dr Shova Thapa Karki; - Darren Tenkorang - Founder of TRIM-IT

University of Sussex students and budding sustainability entrepreneurs took part in the University’s Pitch for the Planet event yesterday (25 April).

Students pitched their proposals in a Dragon’s Den style competition, which has led to three individuals winning a share of the £30,000 funding pot to bring their ideas to life.

Taking place at the University’s Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, the competition saw eight students go head-to-head and pitch their innovative initiatives to help build a more sustainable world.

The competition asked for students to propose ideas to help maximise sustainability at Sussex. This could include ideas to embed sustainability in student experience, reduce carbon emissions , develop responsible production and consumption in areas including food, water, waste and biodiversity and support sustainability in the community.

The panel - which included former Sussex student Lucy Hughes, founder of MarinaTex , and Darren Tenkorang , another former Sussex student, founder of TRIM-IT and a Sussex Entrepreneur in Residence - grilled the students about their ideas in order to select the three winners.

Product Design student, Katya Jeppesen Frank, has been awarded £13k to develop the biomaterial mycelium from hair trimmings collected from hair salons and barbers. Mycelium-based composites can be used to replace polymer-based materials, used in packaging, insulation and construction. Katya has proven that a cardboard and hair trimmings mixture can be grown into mycelium, and now aims to use the funding to scale up this design idea.

Law and International Relations student, Alizee Compson, has been awarded £9k to introduce laundry detergent, hand soap and washing up liquid stations on to campus. The idea is to provide every student accommodation with reusable bottles, allowing students to easily and more cheaply re-fill on campus. Long-term, the goal is that this will not only result in less packing waste, but encourage first-year students to use reusable items, instilling new behaviour patterns when leaving home for the first time.

International Development student, Rosa McKenzie, has been awarded £8k to develop ’Eco-shields’. Helping to protect seawalls, Eco-shields provide protection against the impacts of climate change. By using native plants and organisms, this type of seawall not only looks more aesthetically pleasing, but also has the potential to promote biodiversity and provide habitat for marine species, while also reducing wave energy and stabilising the shoreline.

Sam Waugh, Sustainability Manager at the University of Sussex says :

" Congratulations to our finalists and winners at this year’s competition. It’s fantastic to see so many creative students put forward their ideas to help address some of the sustainability issues we face at Sussex and within our community.

"The ideas shared at this year’s competition were incredibly inspiring and shows how passionately our students want to make the world a better place. I look forward to seeing how our winners work with the community to further develop their ideas."

of the winner s , Katya Jeppesen Frank says:

"Pitch for the Planet is a great opportunity offered by the University of Sussex, and it encourages students to solve real-life problems. I’m really excited to have been awarded this funding and to have the opportunity to develop my idea.

" I’ve met some inspiring people already and look forward to meeting many more along the way who can help to get my idea off the ground. "

Funded through the Higher Education Innovation Fund, the winners will share the £30,000 prize pot and a place on the University’s summer accelerator programme, taking place over four weeks in June and July 2023. The programme provides a platform to launch and grow their ventures, offering coaching, specialist advice, mentorship from founders, intern support and further funding opportunities.

Previous Pitch for the Planet winners include Sustainable Fashion Collective , who have held several Thrift Fairs on campus to reduce clothes waste, and Trees for Graduates , a business that enables friends and family to purchase trees as graduation gifts which are then planted locally.