Tech Corridor hackathon tackles big sustainability challenges

Bright minds from across East Anglia came together to devise innovative solutions to real-life business challenges relating to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the first Tech Corridor Innovation Challenge.

Held at West Suffolk College’s new STEM Innovation Campus in Bury St Edmunds as part of the West Suffolk Business Festival, participants at the event were split into teams and spent the day working on challenges set by local businesses. They all related to the SDGs, 17 goals devised by the United Nations that aim to achieve peace and prosperity for everyone, while respecting and conserving the planet, by 2030.

Linn Clabburn, programme director of the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor, explained: “The purpose of the Innovation Challenge was to bring together people from different backgrounds and perspectives to encourage new ideas, products and concepts to form. We are hoping the event has helped us to strengthen collaboration and to form new connections across the region, as well as highlighting the opportunity presented by the UNSDGs and the sustainability agenda.”

Four businesses set challenges: Southwold brewery Adnams, Antistat, which manufactures anti-static bags, Bury St Edmunds-based e-waste recycling specialist N2S, and Cambridge start-up Seedlink, which works with farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. After presentations from the companies, delegates spent the first part of the day brainstorming potential solutions, before splitting up into groups to develop the most promising ideas.

The participating companies will now take the best ideas from the challenge and try and implement them in their work. We hope to provide an update on this in the next few weeks.

Cheryl Moon, from Adnams, said: “Sustainable success is part of our DNA here at Adnams; we will continue to share what we have done and learnt, we also listen carefully to what others are doing so we can learn and make a bigger difference.”

Abhi Naha, chief operating officer at Cambridge Wireless and an ambassador for the UN Global Sustainability Index Institute, set the tone for the day with a keynote speech talking about the SDGs and the business opportunity around sustainability.

Students from West Suffolk College joined the challenge teams, along with members of the business and academic communities from around the region.

Nadine Payne, director of sciences and computer sciences at the college said: “We are delighted to have had the opportunity to host Bury St Edmund’s first hackathon at our new STEM Innovation Campus. This was a great event where our students got the chance to collaborate with STEM professionals on a set of first class, innovative challenges, allowing them to gain invaluable skills and experience in the important area of sustainability.”

For more information on the topics and outcomes of the Innovation Challenge, download our whitepaper here.