A huge congratulations to the winners of the Big Idea Challenge 2021

Read about the innovative ideas which took home the prizes at London Met’s annual enterprise competition.

Date: 1 June 2021

London Metropolitan University hosted its annual Big Idea Challenge awards night on Thursday 27 May 2021 at a virtual event, which saw Sian Stephens announced as the night’s Grand Champion for her idea Hear Me Out, an app for deaf people by deaf people.

The annual competition, run by Accelerator, London Met’s business incubator, looks to find the next big business, social project or creative endeavour. 

The Big Idea Challenge gives winners in eight categories the tools to develop their business, and a shared prize pool of £30,000 to launch their winning idea. Previous winners have gone on to launch businesses which have created hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds in profit.

The winners in each category were: 

Grand Champion, Community and People’s Choice 

Sian Stephens with Hear Me Out,  a mobile app for deaf people, built by deaf people. Sian said: “It feels absolutely amazing, I'm so lucky to have been able to take part in this competition, let alone to win. I signed up with an idea that I’ve had for such a long time and to be able to see that people believed in my idea is just heart-warming.

“Taking part in the Big Idea Challenge has helped me make my idea a reality and help the deaf community. To help people like me. I’m thankful for the support that everyone has shared and those who helped me during my pitches.”

Consumer Product

Diana Sanchez with 5 Hills, fun, affordable and educational STEAM games for children. Diana said: “Since I'm undertaking my studies from China, I am unable to participate in many university events, but with the Big Idea Challenge, I felt like a real part of the university. After sharing my video pitch with people around the world, I found that there are many others eager to contribute to educating children through play,

“When I found out that I had won, I felt fortunate but also anxious due to the responsibility that this project entails and all the opportunities it offers to bring playful learning experiences for children. Now it's finally time to transform this idea into reality.”


Agnes Fouda with African Opera, a new and electrifying African opera experience. She said: “I hail from a big family in Cameroon where singing is a component of our DNA. Singing at dawn with the partridges and singing at night to wish "sleep tight". Singing through joys and woes, singing for celebrations or mournings. My project is a tribute to an upbringing that proved many times the power of singing. 

“The idea of an educative, inclusive, immersive and high-tech African Opera is big, bold and challenging, and to see it validated and praised by the jury of the Big Idea Challenge is so rewarding! The other contestants were all very talented, which makes the victory even more humbling.”

Digital and Technology

Robin Simpson with Open Art, an interactive virtual gallery and museum platform. Robin said: “I’m so happy to have been selected as the winner of this year’s Digital and Technology category. The prize will help Open Art bring the world of galleries and museums to more people than ever before and gives an opportunity to bring real spaces virtually into everybody's homes. The support and advice I received to help turn my idea into a business will be invaluable in strategising the promotion of my idea to prospective clients. Ultimately it will help me and the idea grow more rapidly in line with the need for this idea within its industry. 

“I’m really happy to be a part of this year’s cohort and seeing the passion and excitement the other contestants have had for their projects. I can’t wait to see where the other runners up and winners’ ideas end up going, and I really hope to go to Agnes’s African opera!”

Climate and environment

Dion Mariyana and Monika Rabka with Local Air-Quality Monitoring System (LAMS), a local air quality monitoring system for use in schools and communities. They said: “It was very exciting to find out that we won the first ever award in the Climate and Environment category!  To be honest, we never expected it to happen as the competition was very strong, but we're so grateful for this opportunity and we'll going to make the most of it.

“The whole process for Big Idea Challenge was straightforward and we felt welcome throughout, from the initial Boot Camp to all the Zoom meetings that helped us get better with our pitch. We learned a lot from this experience and we're looking forward to using those skills to further our idea and product. Also, a massive thank you to the whole team at Accelerator, especially [Student and Graduate Enterprise Manager] Natasha Triay and [Director] Simon Boot, for doing such a great job with the Big Idea Challenge.”