ENTERPRISING students impressed a panel of industry experts with their innovative and ecological thinking in an annual challenge to find the next generation of business leaders.

Reading apps to boost learning, a bike-mounted, self-projecting cycle lane and a dual-purpose gum massager and toothbrush were among a host of novel ideas as the Emmanuel Schools Foundation harnessed the power of Year 9 thinking.

For the first time, the ESF Business Game brought together students from the recently enlarged trust, which now includes Emmanuel College and Grace College, Gateshead, Bede Academy, Blyth, The King’s Academy, Coulby Newham, Christ’s College, Sunderland, and Trinity Academy, Thorne, near Doncaster.

Hosted by Emmanuel College, 12 teams of up to five students, two from each academy, pitched their ideas to a panel of industry experts after spending a week off curriculum to research and hone their presentations.

The panel comprised Ian Dormer, of Rosh Engineering Ltd, Gareth Kane, of Terra Infirma, Simon Goon, of Umi, and Matthew Lumsden, of Connected Energy.

The competition was open to Year 9 students across the trust with the best ideas being put forward for the final. Teams had just eight minutes to impress judges with their innovations, business plans, costings and marketing strategies.

Five of the 12 teams were then invited back for further questioning before the judges retired to consider the winners.

These included Christ’s College’s Read.app, which analysed literacy rates and recommended appropriate books to improve reading; Trinity Academy’s recyclable cutlery made from husk for the fast food industry; The King’s Academy’s Chewgella, a dual purpose gum soother/toothbrush moulded into a variety of animal images with corresponding gels; Emmanuel College’s Eco-analyser, which identified recyclable plastics; and Grace College’s Hat-Nav, a hi-tech cycle helmet.

Judge Ian Dormer told students: “We have been enthralled by everything we have heard, particularly the maturity you have shown, your innovative ideas and the disciplined and thorough manner with which you have followed the brief.”

First place went to Christ’s College’s Read.app. Team member Charlotte Miller said: “We are delighted to have won, especially as it is the first time our school has taken part in the ESF Business Game. We really enjoyed every aspect of it, especially being off-diary for a week.”

Runners-up were students from Trinity Academy with their disposable cutlery, with their classmates gaining a special mention for their idea for a self-projecting bike lane for cyclists.

Competition organiser Stephen Robson, who is head of business and community at Emmanuel College, said: “All the teams produced some very good work and a host of great ideas which they presented competently and confidently.

“They have gained so much from the experience in terms of being able to structure their own time, work as a team, improve presentation skills and gain a huge amount of confidence and self-esteem.”