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The Change 7 Hour Challenge is a collaboration between Aston Enterprise (a department at Aston University) and the Birmingham Enterprise Community (a student/graduate-led enterprise support organisation). They invited Aston students to develop an idea that could change the world in 7 hours.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals formed the basis of the challenge. Each multidisciplinary team had to choose a goal to work towards from the 17 goals and create an idea that focuses on that goal. The solution could take the form of a physical product or digital solution. At the end of the challenge teams were given five minutes to pitch their solution. Teams were encouraged to include a technical view of the solution, an associated plan of commercialising the solution and comment on the potential social impact of the solution.

Winner: Lifetime Housing Team - Khadijeh Rahmani, MBA; Hussain Shabbir, MSc Entrepreneurship; Nimesh Patel, BSc Business & International Relations; Elliott Wadsworth, BSc Mechanical Engineering, Chen Fu, MBA - £1,500 Engineers in Business Prize

Team member, Khadijeh Rahmani explained the winning concept: “Housing is a major issue faced by our generation and a large issue facing society. We felt we could engineer a solution and develop a business model around this issue. Our solution involved providing modular homes as a large scale and rapid solution to the housing crisis, while providing a home that can be accessible to a large proportion of the population and offer a carbon neutral solution to housing.

“Our business model involved offering 3 categories of homes: Bare Bones, Basic Build and turnkey Build. Three models of homes allowed for a variety of price points and for different levels of customisation of the homes.

“Behind the core business model are the social considerations behind the product; the homes will provide low skilled worker jobs and allow for job progression and training through apprenticeship schemes and on-the-job training. The model will also enhance the quality of lives of workers and the community through lower cost of living. Sustainability considerations were taken into account throughout the conception of the business model and development through the 7-hour challenge, this is shown through research into materials and production process and ways to reduce the waste throughout the production. Initially we would market the homes to local councils and highlight the benefits and secure a pilot development with a local authority.”
Second Prize Winner: Project Atlantis - Hang Ha, MSc Smart Telecom & Sensing Network; Shiaoling Wang, MSc Business Analytics; Shivam Jaspal, MSc Business and Management; Mohammed Ali, MSc Business and Management; Filipe Sarmento, MSc Supply Chain Management - £1,000 Engineers in Business Prize

Project Atlantis focusses on the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SGD), Clean Water and Sanitation – to create an effective means of providing clean water within countries lacking a clean supply of water. With 71% of the earth covered in water, 97% being saltwater, we delved into how we could best exploit this abundant resource. The team explored techniques in how to best turn saltwater into consumable water, and how to make it at a large enough quantity.

The team found an existing buoyant pod which would distil salt from seawater via evaporation and condensation to produce drinkable water. In order to increase production, the students looked at increasing the size and efficiency of the individual pod and increased their numbers forming clusters of pods. They were inspired by off-shore oil platforms and asked themselves whether this could be mirrored to produce an off-shore water factory. Using pipelines leading in-land from these off-shore platforms, the distilled water would be transported to where they are needed and distributed accordingly.
Third Prize Winner: The Community Restaurant - Ravi Ranjan, MBS; Saeed Ali, MSc Entrepreneurship; Cinzia Petio; MSc Information Systems and Business Analytics; Romiel Douglas, BEng Design Engineering - £500 Engineers in Business Prize

The Community Restaurant is a digital platform which reduces food waste and brings people together over fresh, good value communal meals.

This is a collaborative and open-access platform that facilitates connections between private individuals, organisation and companies coming together to facilitate the development and implementation of The Community Restaurant. It builds community by allowing everyday people to eat together at a communal table reducing loneliness and creating community ties.

The Community Restaurant empowers by providing training opportunities for volunteers to increase employment opportunities. Furthermore, it helps the planet by using food that farmers cannot sell, made up of local, seasonal ingredients and only preparing vegetarian meals to reduce the negative agriculture impacts on the planet.

Positive Feedback

The prize funding provided by Engineers in Business enabled us to attract more participants to the event – the prizes on offer, combined with the mission of ‘changing the world’, made for a high-energy, creative day of problem solving.

Kath Rice, Enterprise Consultant at Aston Enterprise – part of Aston University


The support from Engineers in Business in the form of prize funds for the Change 7hr Challenge added a great deal of value to the overall event. The competitive edge provided by the knowledge that a prize was on offer drove those who took part to step up and engage with the challenge - pushing themselves to put their skills to the test and develop a high standard of solutions to the problems being explored.

Daniel Evans, Founder of the Birmingham Enterprise Community