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North Atlantic youth challenge winners announced

Published: 24/03/2021

A virtual award ceremony was held last night (Tuesday 23) to celebrate the winners of ‘Think Rural, Think Digital!’ digital competition.

Kateryna McKinnon, HIE

An app providing a digital health coach for irritable bowel syndrome and a digital platform for sustainable tourism were the top two prize-winning ideas developed by teams from Scotland, Norway and Canada.

The 48-hour hackathon, held over 19-21 March was aimed at 18-30 year olds in the north Atlantic region (Scotland, Coastal Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Maine and Ontario).

Their task was to identify digital solutions to help ease the provision of essential healthcare services and promote a sustainable recovery for the tourism industry.

Young participants with a variety of backgrounds including coding, design, marketing, health and social care or tourism and hospitality took part in the event.

The winning team under the ‘digital health’ theme was made up of participants from Scotland, Ontario and Norway. In the team was Angela Davidson who is from Inverness and lives in Edinburgh, Farinaz Fallahpour from Ontario, Canada, and Wenxuan Sun from Norway. The team developed an app called ‘BRENT’, which provides people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome with a personalised digital health coach.

The successful winning team in the ‘rural tourism’ theme was developed by a team drawing members from Scotland and Norway. Brady Stevens – originally from Buffalo, NY, USA, and studying in Edinburgh; Yuzhi Zeng, from Dazhou, Sichuan Province, China and studying in Edinburgh, Gaia Marini from Milan, Italy and studying in Edinburgh and also Tommy Kristoffer Nilsen from Norway.

They developed ‘Rural Roots Network’, which is a digital platform for sustainable tourism, connecting environmentally conscious consumers with rural entrepreneurs who want to contribute to climate adaptation in the North Atlantic.

Eleven mixed international teams were created from 40 applicants from the regions. Eighteen people from Scotland took part and each team was allocated an expert mentor to coach and guide idea development throughout the weekend.

The Scottish Government has worked with the Nordic Council of Ministers and the State of Maine to support Highlands and Island Enterprise (HIE) and the Nordic Atlantic Cooperation (NORA) to deliver the international competition on rural sustainability. The Cooperation Council of Ontario is also among the organising partners.

The two winning teams will each receive £4637 (DKK40k) to develop their project further. In addition, the successful participants under the digital health theme will have the opportunity to attend an entrepreneurship programme run by a California-based hackathon specialist - AngelHack's HACKcelerator. This is a 12-week mentoring programme that incorporates AngelHack's proven curriculum with coveted mentorship, speakers and workshops to offer the best in start-up education.

The accelerator prize starts at the end of April 2021 and takes place online. The rural tourism theme winners will be invited to attend the Rural Tourism conference in the Faroe Islands in Autumn 2021 to meet potential buyers and investors from the tourism Industry. This prize has a total value of up to additional DKK 40.000, which will subsidise the team members' transportation to the Faroe Islands and accommodation during the tourism conference, as well as the conference fee.

Kateryna McKinnon, European manager at HIE, said: “We were really pleased to see such great interest from creative young people from across the North Atlantic in this second successful online event. All the teams delivered very exciting innovations, which address our region’s specific preconditions. This was a fantastic opportunity to generate great ideas and prototype solutions which could be developed into commercial products, but also help accelerate the sustainable recovery of our regions.

“It was great to work with NORA and the Scottish Government on this initiative and connect our young people from Scotland with like-minded young people in other rural areas in the north, to bounce ideas and exchange experiences. I was delighted to see this extended to Maine and Ontario and I hope the success of this event would mean more collaborative initiatives between our North Atlantic partners and Scotland to follow.”

Øystein Andresen, Advisor from NORA, said: “’Think Rural, Think Digital, Think Ahead!’ was a great way for NORA to bring forth the best of our youth. It was great to work with Scotland have participants not only from European Nordics but also from Maine and Ontario. The sparsely populated areas in the north Atlantic are not exempt from the crisis. We wanted to inspire the young generation to work together to combat the pandemic and we were blown away with their amazing ideas.”

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