The Earth viewed from space

just IMAGINE if… 2024

Solving the world’s problems, one business at a time. That’s what the University of Reading’s flagship business innovation showcase is striving to do and applications are now open.

just IMAGINE if... logojust IMAGINE if… is a biennial business innovation initiative, offering a sponsor-funded research grant and business support package worth £100,000, to support entrepreneurial ideas designed to address the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

It was co-founded in 2019 by the University of Reading and Paul Lindley, entrepreneur, social campaigner, best-selling author, and – since July 2022 – Chancellor of the University.

Ambitious in its desire to make the world a better place, the University of Reading has for many years supported and run projects related to global challenges such as poverty, inequality, disease, climate change and natural disasters.

just IMAGINE if… is a further demonstration of the University’s commitment to promoting environmental sustainability, combatting climate change and our desire to bring University-led research and business initiatives together to work for social good.

As Paul Lindley put it:

“Just imagine if one brilliant idea could change the world. Then just imagine if we could combine the transformational power of quality education and research to turn that great idea into a life-changing reality.”

How to apply

The 2024 process is now open and the closing date for entries is 23:59 BST on 7 January 2024. Anyone aged 18 or over, anywhere in the world can apply. Your application should include:

  • A written proposal of your idea in no more than 1,000 words which demonstrates that the idea has a sustainable business model, both scalable and self-supporting;
  • A written outline of the type of research provision you require from the University to bring your idea to life and make it viable;
  • A short video (no more than 60 seconds) explaining how your idea will make a difference to society and what impact the research prize will have.

Successful and eligible applications will be matched with appropriate schools in the University according to the type of research they identify that they need, and will be marked against a matrix of criteria to create a list of finalists.

Dave Okech, Paul Lindley, and Shreya Aneja
Chancellor Paul Lindley with just IMAGINE if… 2022 finalist Dave Okech, and winner Shreya Aneja from Nostos Homes.

Finalists will then develop their proposals during a three month incubation period with mentors, each a successful entrepreneur in their own right, and the Henley Business School Centre for Entrepreneurship, which will provide business support.

Shortlisted ideas will be showcased on 20 and 21 March 2024, with a two-day event at Henley Business School Greenlands campus, where each finalist will present their proposal, with a question-and-answer session, to a panel of business specialists.

On the final afternoon each finalist will again present their proposal to an invited audience including event sponsors, finalists’ mentors and local business people. Voting on the proposals will then take place, with a gala dinner in the evening at which the recipient of the £100,000 research grant will be announced.

Individuals, not corporates

It can be easy to assume that the answers to the world’s problems lie with established corporates, but this is often not the case. The solutions often lie with individuals who have lived experience of the issues and fresh ideas for their solutions – people who recognise that the best businesses not only make money, but also deliver tangible social and environmental good. It is those individuals that just IMAGINE if… is looking for.

Do you have an extraordinary idea that could help change the world for the better? Find out more and apply now.