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Do you have an idea that could change the world?

(29 January 2020)

Paul Lindley OBE

We've teamed up with entrepreneur Paul Lindley to launch ‘just IMAGINE if…2020’, a global competition to find a business idea capable of addressing one or more of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Here, Paul explains the project.

What is just IMAGINE if…?

Paul: It’s a social enterprise and innovation competition based on the simple belief that an idea, however small, can change the world. I think ideas are fascinating. Where do they come from? Why haven’t they been thought of before and why do some become reality and others don’t? Many really can change the world for the better.

just IMAGINE if… aims to help good ideas become reality and create real impact. We do this each year by bringing together a world-class university, and the advice and experience of nationally recognised entrepreneurs and social innovators, with people with potentially world changing business ideas that tackle issues like poverty, climate change, education, health and food insecurity.

What’s the prize?

Paul: The ten finalists will be selected by a panel in February and will pitch their idea to a business audience at the grand final on Monday 30 March.

The winner will receive bespoke university research and business support worth £100,000, which includes support from sponsors, to help turn their idea into reality.

All ten shortlisted finalists will also get mentoring from an inspiring business leader, training to pitch their idea before the final judging, and attend a short course at Durham University’s Business School in March. They’ll also get free workshops and opportunities for professional support after the final.

How did the idea for the competition come about?

Paul: I believe the best businesses are the ones which focus on a purpose that is beyond simply making money, but on improving our world - like looking after communities and protecting our planet.

In 2006, as a dad of two, I was frustrated by the lack of healthy, tasty and convenient food for babies and kids. I started experimenting with recipes in my kitchen at home and eventually founded Ella’s Kitchen, named after my daughter, which has become the biggest baby food company in the UK, with countless awards to its name and annual sales of £100 million.

Creating this competition is one way I can pass on my experiences, opportunities and networks to help create a new generation of entrepreneurs and social activists – whose own ideas might just need a little help to one day change the world.

Why have you teamed up with Durham University?

Paul: Each year we look to partner with a world-class, globally recognised British university; and this year we’ve hit gold! I’ve been really impressed by the variety of Durham University’s research and its commitment to improving the lives of people around the world. Durham’s research strengths fit really well with just IMAGINE if… and its Business School has so much experience and talent. I’m looking forward to connecting the winner with the University to start an exciting new venture!

Q: How can people apply?

Paul: All the information is on our website: Applications close on Sunday 9 February.