On 18 January, the Provost and the Environment Society hosted the participants of the Earth Prize, a global competition where teams of up to five pitch an idea to solve a pressing environmental issue. The winner is awarded $100,000 to bring their idea into reality.

Following the success from last year, when two teams advanced to the Scholars Round (the top 35 globally), five groups of students brought forth a myriad of innovative solutions to a range of global problems.

We were extremely fortunate to welcome Stuart Taylor from JustDiggit to the event. Having transitioned from the commercial industry, he plays an important role in an organisation that pushes forward very simple but effective strategies towards rewilding, seeking to benefit local farmers as part of the process. His advice towards pitching was incredibly useful: an idea doesn’t need to be revolutionary, those are ubiquitous around the world. Instead, to be successful, ideas need to be thorough and clear, presented in way that evokes the emotion of the judge.

The five teams then presented. Ideas were diverse and interesting, ranging from mycofiltration for heavy metals to enzymic degradation of PET. Furthermore, the utilisation of computational techniques, especially machine learning, was common. For example, neural networks were used to predict water quality and optimise crop yield. Projects were different in ambition. Some, such a decentralised internet hosted on spare GPUs, were theoretical – with huge scope for impact. Others were simpler but saw a lot of work done on prototyping and demonstrating the idea.

Each presentation was followed by rigorous questions from Mr Taylor as well as from other boys. These questions were insightful and preceptive, some requiring detailed responses that further bolstered the idea. Indeed, this presentation evening was more of a learning experience.

Any holes pointed out by the crowd will need to be filled before the final and the external deadline at the end of January. Therefore, our sincerest gratitude must be extended to the Provost and Lady Waldegrave for the evening, Mr Taylor for his invaluable advice and Ms Herbommez for her mentorship throughout the initiative.

The select few finalists will get support from the Earth Foundation to implement their ideas, but all five presentations showed great promise as initiatives in themselves.