Do you have innovative ideas to create a more sustainable Sussex? If so, you could win up to £5,000 to bring your ideas to life.

Enter our Pitch for the Planet competition

Our annual Pitch for the Planet student innovation competition gives you the chance to win funding and a coveted spot in our Summer Accelerator programme to help you develop and implement your sustainability idea.

This year’s competition theme is Sustainable Sussex. We want to hear how you would use our funding and support to help us meet our sustainability goals.

This could benefit our campus or the surrounding area, and cover things like:

    • Creating a circular economy
    • Carbon reduction
    • Improving biodiversity

The deadline to apply is Wednesday 3 April 2024. The Pitch for the Planet event will be held at ACCA on Wednesday 24 April 2024.

If you have any questions, email

Support from our entrepreneurship team

If you’d like to discuss the viability of your idea, get feedback on your application or understand next steps in turning your idea into reality, the entrepreneurship team is available for one-to-one appointments.

Book an Entrepreneurship Exploration appointment with a member of our team.

They can help you with specialist advice on everything from funding and finance, to marketing and intellectual property protection as well as explain other opportunities available through the university network.

You might also be interested in applying for the University of Sussex Accelerator. If you're aiming for a place on the Accelerator, we would recommend applying alongside Pitch for the Planet. 

Applications for this close on Wednesday 1 May, so there will only be one week left to apply after the winners of Pitch for the Planet are announced.

The prize

The University is offering up to four prizes, each of up to £5,000, for the best proposals to maximise sustainability at our University and in the local community, in the following areas:

  • Ethical Educators – embedding sustainability in student experience teaching and research
  • Decarbonising the Economy – reducing carbon as we work to creating a net zero world
  • Civic Leaders and Partners – supporting sustainability in the community, including sustainable travel, and supply chains
  • Environmental Champions – creating responsible production and consumption in areas including food, water, waste and biodiversity.

See the Sustainability Strategy for more information on what is included in each category.

The winners of each prize (2023 winners pictured below) will receive up to £5,000 and will be guaranteed a place on the University’s Summer Accelerator, taking place over six weeks in June and July 2024. The Accelerator takes place in the Student Centre and is supported by expert partners. The Accelerator provides a platform to launch and grow your venture, offering coaching, specialist advice, mentorship from founders, intern support and further funding opportunities, including an exciting demo day with investors.

This prize is sponsored by the Higher Education Innovation Fund.

Pitch for the Planet winners 2023

Who can take part

All current undergraduate or postgraduate students can apply, either as an individual or with a team of up to six people, whether you will still be studying at Sussex next year or not. Teams can be made up of students from different schools and subjects.

Winning entrants should be available to take part in the Summer Accelerator and applicants must confirm this to be eligible for shortlisting. Winning teams must meaningfully engage with the accelerator in order to receive the prize money.

If you have a visa

You can’t engage in business activity if you have a Student visa. You are allowed to research ideas and theoretically explore venture creation, but you can’t launch or trade while on a Student visa. Winners of Pitch for the Planet are expected to develop their ideas into trading enterprises, so consider your visa status when entering the competition. If you have a Graduate visa, you are allowed to work self-employed in the UK for up to two years after graduation in the UK. See more about working in the UK with a Graduate visa.

How to enter

Entrants need to submit their application form and complete the 20 Minute Business Plan by 11.59pm on Wednesday 3 April 2024.

If you submit the 20 Minute Business Plan by 11 March 2024, the entrepreneurship team will provide feedback on your idea to help you improve before the competition closes. You can submit the 20 Minute Business Plan multiple times, but the application form only once.

Shortlisted entrants will be contacted by Friday 12 April. If you are not contacted, you have not been shortlisted.

Download the Pitch for the Planet T&Cs [PDF 195.60KB].

What we’re looking for

Winning entries are likely to meet three or more of the following additional criteria:

  • make explicit link to one or more Sustainable Development Goals
  • support at least one of the objectives within the new University Sustainability Strategy
  • produce an economic and/or social benefit, alongside the environmental benefit it provides
  • propose involvement and/or support from a local partner organization such as a social enterprise, business or charity
  • lead to a lasting, viable, financial legacy – such as the creation of a student start-up company, trading enterprise or intellectual property licence.

The competition

Applications will be shortlisted by an independent panel of staff from across the University, based on the application form and response to the 20 Minute Business Plan.

Shortlisted teams will pitch their ideas in-person at a Dragons’ Den style event to a team of panellists and in front of a live audience – with up to four candidates selected to receive funding and incubation support.

The panel includes:

  • Prof Kate O’Riordan - Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education and Students)
  • Dr Andrew Morgan DPhil
  • Lucy Hughes – Founder of MarinaTex, Sussex Alumna
  • Dr Shova Thapa Karki

The Pitch for the Planet event will be held at ACCA on Wednesday 24 April 2024.

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