Students have been tackling some of the most serious challenges facing rural Northumberland, and their best ideas could transform the future of remote communities in the region.
It was all part of the Flux competition, run by Newcastle University in conjunction with the Glendale Gateway Trust.
Glendale, a small rural area of 5,000, is struggling to survive as a balanced community.
There is little to hold young people due to poor transport links, limited affordable housing and few employment opportunities.
The 20 teams of six students were given the challenge of developing a business plan to help solve these issues, after taking advice from top business experts.
And it is hoped that some of their ideas will be implemented in the Wooler area.
The winning team came up with a plan to set up a cooperative for organic farmers, which would plough profits back into the community.
Other ideas, which could also be implemented if they meet with approval by the trust and local community, included developing more services and activities in Wooler’s Community Centre, building extra housing targeted at young people and organising music festivals.
The challenge guided contestants through the entire process of solving a real-world business problem, with advice from experts from some of the biggest names in the business sector, such as Aldi, Unilever, Santander, Deloitte and others.
Patsy Healy, chairwoman of the Glendale Gateway Trust said: “Glendale faces lots of challenges and encouraging young people to stay in our area is among the most important.
“If the younger generation moves away, this puts the future of our communities in doubt.
“For that reason it was great to work with Newcastle University to hopefully come up with some solutions which could make the long-term future of Glendale more secure.”
The event, which will become a regular part of the university calendar, is for students from all stages and all courses in the university. No prior knowledge of business or business management is required, as all contestants will be thoroughly briefed before they start working on the problem at hand.
Marc Lintern, director of the careers service at Newcastle University, said: “Everyone was impressed by the ideas and enthusiasm of those who took part. It was a bit like a crossover between The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den.”
There was a £500 prize for the winning team and the chance to represent the university in the National Final of Flux in Lancaster, which will take place in spring 2014.
Engineering student Josh Levine, a member of the winning team, said: “This was a great experience for so many reasons. It was good to be given a real-life scenario and have to come up with solutions working as part of a team.
“The advice from the experts was hugely useful and gave a real insight into the business world.”