Brilliant young minds recognised for their efforts to make a greener West Yorkshire

Winners have been invited to attend the annual West Yorkshire Innovation Festival that will take place later this year.

21 June 2023

Young entrepreneurs from across West Yorkshire have been named as the winners of the first ever Mayor’s Innovation Prize, after developing business ideas to help tackle climate change, it can be announced today (June 21st).

The five winners, who each secured a share of £10,000, were among the 78 applicants, aged 16 to 26, who entered the competition. This cash prize can be used to help each winner take forward their idea and develop, start or grow their business.

The overall winners were three youngsters from Leeds - Michail Marinakis, Maria Papageorgiou and Elpida A. Dima – whose ambitious “TeamRecuppa” reusable cup system that aims to end the use of disposable cups.

There were also four other winners from different age groups and for the most developed idea category.

Speaking after meeting the winners, West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said:

“I’m so proud of everybody who took part in our innovation prize. These brilliant young minds are the future, and I’m confident that we will create a greener West Yorkshire with their help.

“We were presented with so many wonderful ideas, which is a testament to how much talent we have here in our region. It’s important that we continue to empower young people as we create a green and inclusive economy to tackle the threats posed by climate change.”

Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK, added:

“Congratulations to everyone who was involved in the first ever Mayor’s Innovation Prize.

"Innovate UK firmly believes that the innovations of tomorrow are going to drive forward our economy and society. I am pleased to work with the Mayor on this programme and was impressed by the quality of the entries. We look forward to seeing what this inspiring group of young people do next with their ideas.”

Michail Marinakis, 21, from TeamRecuppa, said:

“The Mayor’s Innovation Prize was a great experience. It helped us put our ideas into a real business and develop the steps of innovation. After winning, we registered the business.”

The Mayor’s Innovation Prize was launched in October 2022 and invited young people from across the region to use their unique experiences and perspectives to generate new ideas to address the challenges that are affecting them and their communities. 

The winners ranged from biodegradable straws made of wheat that are an alternative to paper straws, a reusable cup system that aims to end use of disposable cups, and an online platform that makes it easier for households to compost food-waste.

Other entries included ways to turn rainwater into energy for homes, as well as an app that provides real time updates on the traffic flow through cities in West Yorkshire – offering users with alternative, less congested routes in a bid to reduce emissions.

In the lead up to the winners being announced, finalists were supported by leading experts and businesses, who helped them develop their ideas through workshops and mentoring.

Thomas Elliot, from Wakefield, who was in the 16-18 year old category, created a new type of garden fence that provides a home for insects and plants.

Matthew Hannah, from Leeds, was in the 19-21-year-old category. He created Straw Straws, a retail and marketing business selling biodegradable drinking straws made from wheat. The University of Leeds student launched the business in April this year after taking part in the Mayor’s Innovation Prize.

Speaking about his experience, Matthew said:

“The Mayor’s Innovation Prize was fantastic. I’ve never learnt so many practical skills in such a short time. I have an academic background, but having the opportunity to speak with people who actually run businesses and learn things that make businesses function is such a valuable thing to do and an incredible thing to know.

“Straw Straws contain absolutely no traces of deforestation so they’re completely carbon neutral and they use straw which would otherwise be discarded and unused.”

Team CompostIt, from Leeds, were in the 22-26-year-old category. The group includes Husain Alogaily, Jarrad Redhead, Mitchel Green and Simrun Punjabi. They created an online platform called CompostIt which connects households to local composters in a bid to reduce food waste.

Rebecca Ames, from Wakefield, won the award for the most developed idea. The 17-year-old created a marketing business that will help reduce flooding by connecting landowners, construction companies and other buyers with road surface suppliers who could provide paving that is penetrable by water.

Winners have been invited to attend the annual West Yorkshire Innovation Festival that will take place between 13-17 November 2023. Returning for its third year, the festival brings together businesses, entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds, and experts to showcase and celebrate innovation across the region.

You can find out more about West Yorkshire Innovation Festival here.