On Friday 27th November, COINS Foundation Director, Abigail Deffee went to Cranfield School of Management to be a judge and panel member at the Social Venture Challenge. The Challenge started on Thursday evening, with some introductory sessions, where participants were encouraged to start engaging in discussions and working to identify real opportunities before getting into groups.

The weekend is designed to offer a concentrated period where students have access to the skills and knowledge that will help them to develop business models for a challenge they’re set. At the end of the course, teams draw on their experiences over the past few days to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges, where a £5,000 start-up investment was available to the winning team.

The challenge this weekend was ‘securing water for food’ where 6 teams of students competed for the opportunity to put their idea into production. One of the most pressing developmental challenges, 2.8 billion people are impacted by water scarcity, with nearly half living in areas where demand is greater than the available supply.

The aim of this challenge is to identify innovative approaches to enabling the production of more food with less water and/or make more water available for food production processing and distribution.

Cranfield Social Venture Challenge

Abigail joined Cranfield faculty members: Shai Vyakarnam (Director of the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship), Dr. Stephanie Hussels (Senior lecturer of Entrepreneurship) and Dr. Maarten van der Kamp (Lecturer in Entrepreneurship) alongside several other successful figures all keen to support the programme and the students.

Presenting on ‘Been there, done that: A social entrepreneur’s perspective’ and ‘Been there, done that: Working with institutions’, Abigail was then invited to be part of the judging panel who selected the winning team.

With ideas ranging from ‘Harvesting Rainwater’ to ‘Pay for Pee’ initiatives, the winning submission, ‘Bottles for Growth,’ scored highly for innovation, delivery and likelihood to succeed. Their proposal incorporated the use of recyclable materials within farming, which would both reduce water consumption whilst simultaneously increasing production.

The winners - 'Bottles for Growth'

Water scarcity worldwide disproportionately affects those living in developing countries. It was brilliant to see Cranfield challenging these talented groups of students. All six pitches were innovative, yet the winning pitch took the simplicity of the humble plastic bottle and developed a unique approach to food cultivation. With the £5000 start-up prize, and mentoring by the Bettany Centre, Bottles for Growth has a genuine chance of success. I look forward to seeing how Bottles for Growth grows from idea to opportunity.

Abigail Deffee

Director of the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship, Shai Vyakernam, was heavily involved in both the workshops and the judging of the Challenge, spoke positively about Abigail & COIN Foundation’s involvement in the process.

Thank you for coming to support the weekend. Your interventions were inspiring for the students and thank you for staying right to the end to help us with judging.

Shai Vyakernam