Across three days of fierce competition, the Newcastle International Changemakers of Tomorrow (NICOT) final brought students from across the University’s campuses together with one goal – to build a better future. Heading into its third year of operation, NICOT seeks to unite the crème de la crème of forward-thinking students with the aim of addressing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year, the budding social entrepreneurs were tasked with forming a product to tackle one of three key development areas: Absentee in the Classroom (increasing gender equality in education; SDGs 4, 5, 10), Plastic Maniac (reducing plastic waste; SDGs 12, 13, 14, 15), and Voicing Out for the Voiceless (reducing discrimination faced by refugees; SDG 10).
Starting in early 2019, teams were formed to focus on one of these issues and consisted of a blend of students from across Newcastle University’s campuses around the world – a deliberate move to transcend geographical distance and connect NU’s diverse and global student population. Following ‘introductions’, a qualifying round (in early spring) saw the teams defining, then refining, their products, whilst also battling the seven-hour-plus time difference between teammates. Once the product proposals were submitted and judged, the top three teams from each category were invited to NUMed* for the final in June. The nine teams which advanced featured a near-even split of U.K. delegates (pictured above) and their international counterparts.
The three-day final consisted of events and lectures aimed at helping the finalists to build a successful start-up company and strengthen their business knowledge, in addition to tasks such as preparing ‘Elevator Pitches’, financial reports and marketing strategies. Alongside this, a core subtext of the event was to emphasise that cultural diversity is something that the university should be proud of. There were a range of sessions which gave the delegates an insight into traditional Malaysian festivities and pastimes, and the high level of hospitality which participants received from their hosts was widely praised.
The centrepiece of the final occurred on the last day of the competition, and saw the teams present their global sustainability solutions to a combination of industry leaders, high-ranking university officials, charity founders, and U.N. delegates. The products were scrutinised via a thorough cross-examination, before the teams received feedback on areas such as feasibility and potential impact. The final marks showed that the overall standard was high, but the judges reserved special praise for category-winners EqualiD (Absentee in the Classroom), The Environmentalist (Plastic Maniac), and RefugeAid (Voicing Out for the Voiceless). The winners were each presented with a cheque for 1500 MYR (≈£300) and invited by SustNet to partake in either the Muhammad Yunus Young Ambassadors (EqualiD and RefugeAid) or Green Project Management (the Environmentalist) awards. For more information about each of the winning products, click here:
The event has been widely dubbed a triumph by both participants and organisers alike and has provided a platform for Newcastle University’s Changemakers of Tomorrow to unite in their fight for a sustainable future. Whilst this may only be the start for many of these entrepreneurs, we wish them and their companies every success in the future!
*NUMed is the Malaysian campus of the university, based in Gelang Patah (Johor, Malaysia). It is a modern, purpose-built medical school which was opened in 2011.