Negavatt, the organiser of NEXPO Youth Day, is a green ideas competition targeting young people aged 18 to 30. Its 11th season is scheduled to kick off in February 2024. Written in lowercase, “negawatt” represents a conceptual unit measuring saved or unused energy. For example, switching from a 1,000 W light bulb to a 15 W LED bulb results in 85 negawatts of energy saved. We spoke to the competition’s organisers about fostering a resource-saving, green future and inspiring young people to make a positive impact on the world.
Great ideas take flight
Negavatt invites early-stage companies dedicated to environmental preservation to participate in the competition. Submissions can be innovative products or services that promote resource conservation or initiatives aimed at raising awareness about resource-saving practices. Negavatt provides a nurturing environment for young entrepreneurs to test their ideas, offering training sessions and mentoring meetings to equip them with knowledge, skills and valuable contacts.
The top prize at Negavatt is €10,000, earmarked for bringing the winning idea to life. Second place secures €5,000, while the third-place finisher receives €3,000. Additionally, there are special prizes sponsored by the competition’s partners.
Kadi Kivimäe, project manager at Negavatt, highlights a distinctive aspect of the competition: “Negavatt is a rather unique competition in that we don’t only provide financial rewards to the winners. The top ten teams at Negavatt receive €1,000 each for development purposes, allowing them to test, experiment, build prototypes, seek consultations or rent laboratory facilities – whatever they need to do for the initial testing of their idea.” The programme welcomes young participants with or without prior experience or financial resources, aiming to level the playing field for testing and exploring green ideas, ensuring that a lack of expertise, skills, or funding doesn’t hinder turning ideas into reality.
Turning big dreams into sustainable realities
Kivimäe stresses the importance of empowering young people to think ambitiously and take action, all while championing a cleaner environment and sustainable management. “Through the Negavatt competition, we aim to provide them with a safe, supportive and encouraging environment to embark on their world-changing journey,” she says. Negavatt serves as a solid foundation for their future endeavours, whether related to their Negavatt project or other pursuits in life.
The main goal of Negavatt extends beyond just the creation and continuity of participant-owned companies. Organisers emphasise the value of the competition experience and the environmentally conscious mindset it fosters, which can have a lasting impact even if a team disbands. In most cases, this occurs due to the participants’ youthful age and the multitude of other opportunities that life presents to them. Even if their business projects are abandoned, the knowledge acquired through the competition endures, continuing to benefit them in their various pursuits. “What matters most is creating opportunities for new environmental initiatives to emerge and thrive. A valuable green idea can trigger significant changes in service and product consumption, as well as in people’s perspectives,” Kivimäe notes, highlighting the ultimate challenge of translating these ideas into action.
Delving deeper into green topics
Both the competition itself and the ideas submitted have evolved over the years. “In the early years, our focus was primarily on university students, and projects revolved around making campuses more eco-friendly. The main initiatives included turning off lights, drinking tap water, producing cloth bags or replacing disposable coffee cups. In recent years, we’ve witnessed a clear shift towards more profound subjects, like inventing smart green technology solutions and developing alternative materials,” observes Kivimäe. She adds that the competition and young people’s awareness have made remarkable progress compared to the past.
However, each season brings the challenge of effectively engaging young people and motivating them to take those initial steps. In a world flooded with information, standing out and inspiring action becomes increasingly complex.
NEXPO’s special programme for young people
According to Kivimäe, the success of a startup hinges on collaboration, and alongside a well-crafted journey, a strong support structure is crucial during the early stages of an idea’s development. Negavatt welcomes green ideas in their rawest and freshest form, providing a nurturing environment. “Leading NEXPO’s Youth Day is a true honour for us, and NEXPO serves as the perfect platform – it’s challenging to find a more inspiring environment that brings together the industry’s top players,” Kivimäe says. Organising NEXPO Youth Day allows the Negavatt team to shine a spotlight on critical topics, further piquing the interest of young people in green technology and nurturing their entrepreneurial spirit.
To tailor the Youth Day programme to the right age group, it is developed in collaboration with the Youth Environmental Council of the Ministry of Climate. The day’s activities, curated by young people themselves, commence with morning yoga led by Yoko Alender, followed by a presentation by Estonian youth climate delegate Anna Celine Kraus regarding her plans for the UN climate conference COP28 and the messages she will convey from young people to the conference. In the afternoon, experts from the cleantech industry will take the stage to discuss the significance of clean technologies in the future of business. Immediately following the lunch break, young attendees will have the chance to engage in open discussions on climate, the environment, and entrepreneurship with experts hailing from journalism, science, politics and business. To conclude the day on a lighter note, there will be an enjoyable group painting session guided by an artist.
“Participation in NEXPO should be a must for anyone seeking to understand the trajectory of our world and those eager to make a difference,” Kivimäe notes, highlighting that meeting others already active in the field provides invaluable inspiration.
Negavatt Youth Day will be held on 15 November as part of NEXPO Tallinn, located in the pop-up exhibition hall outside the Tallinn Creative Hub. The event will be conducted in Estonian and is open to all visitors.