Longitude Explorer Prize opens for entries!

  • Maddy Kavanagh

20 Sep 2019

With the support of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Nesta Challenges are re-launching the Longitude Explorer Prize for 2019, in search of the tech innovators of the future. 

What is the Longitude Explorer Prize? 

Following the success of pilots in 2015 and 2017, Longitude Explorer is returning for 2019/20. Based around a different STEM theme each time, Longitude Explorer aims to demystify innovation and entrepreneurship, while encouraging young people to be the driving force in the future of tech for good. 

Run across the academic year, the Prize challenges young people to come up with ideas for products or services that will help tackle the issues they care most about. For 2019, the STEM theme is Artificial Intelligence (AI). We’re inviting 11-16 year olds across the country to submit their ideas for how AI can be used to help us Live Longer, Live Better, Live Greener and Live Together. 

Entries are open now until 29th November.

Following the closing date:

  • 60 Semi-Finalist teams will be invited to a Development Day event in January 2020, to network with their peers, hear from expert speakers and role models in the sector and learn how to further their idea. 
  • 30 teams will then be selected in March 2020 as Finalists and will be provided with hardware, software and mentors to help build their business case and create a prototype – turning their idea into a reality 
  • The Prize will end with an exciting Dragons Den pitch event, where Finalists will present their prototypes to a panel of expert judges and the winning team will win £25,000 for their school or youth group, with £10,000 available for 3 runners up. 

We’ve seen some truly incredible ideas develop through previous iterations of the Prize:

  • The  2015 winners, an all-girl team from Gloucestershire, developed an app which helps charities coordinate the logistics of supporting vulnerable people across the world.
  • A runner-up team created a data collection and navigation tool for ambulances, which allows crews to check live data about nearby hospitals, such as available beds. 
  • The 2017 winners created a wearable device for people on the autistic spectrum, which changes colour based on sensory information to reflect the emotions of its wearer, allowing teachers to be alerted to the anxiety levels of their students without verbal communication. 

We’re hugely excited to find out what kind of ideas we’ll get for 2019, and we’re calling on all 11-16 year olds across the UK to get involved. 

“From working together as a team and coming up with solutions, to then being supported by expert mentors and meeting other schools with exciting ideas, the whole learning process is great.”

Why are programmes like Longitude Explorer so important?

Across the UK, schemes that focus on providing young people with the opportunity to participate in innovation and invention are currently only reaching 1.5 percent of the total pupil population. In an innovation landscape that already struggles with diversity and representation, this increases the risk of missing out on vital progress and positive societal change. If some groups of young people can’t gain access to the fields of STEM, entrepreneurship and innovation, we could be stopping an infinite number of brilliant ideas from becoming reality – leaving us with a generation of “Lost Einsteins”

Nesta’s recent Opportunity Lost report set out stark realities for the field of innovation. The data shows us that among the founders of innovation startups, women are outnumbered by men by 4:1 and that over the last 15 years, only 7% of UK patent applications were made by women. This is a problem not only because a narrow subset of the population are generating ideas which will become products for the wider population, but it also suggests we’re missing out on the talent of people who are currently underrepresented in the field.

Schemes like the Longitude Explorer Prize aim to bridge the gap between young people and innovation. The prize offers positive intervention, enabling students to discover innovation and entrepreneurship early on, while also learning the foundations of establishing a marketable product from business mentors.

How can you get involved?

The prize is open to secondary schools and youth groups across the UK, to enter teams of 2-5 young people aged 11-16 years old.

To submit your idea, visit our applying and support section and fill in an application form.

The site is packed with current uses of A.I to inspire teams’ creative thinking, and there are resources to help deliver the prize as part of group work. The Prize is free to enter and, for teams that progress through to our events, travel costs will be subsidised.

If you have any questions or enquiries email us on explorer@nesta.org.uk