Bright ideas about how to improve air quality, help people to be more active and career advice for young people could unlock the door to millions of pounds of European funding for Sheffield.

Members of the Sheffield Collaboration Network, which includes Sheffield City Council and Sheffield First, are hoping to put the city’s entrepreneurial flair on the map as well as winning a five million euro – or £4.2 million – prize when the city enters the Mayors Challenge 2013-14.

A range of innovative ideas will be discussed at an ‘ideas lab’ run by the network at Electric Works on Saturday, 11 January 2014. The event will enable participants to develop their five shortlisted ideas before they are narrowed down to the strongest one to enter into the competition.

Councillor Leigh Bramall, Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development at Sheffield City Council, said:

“The Mayors Challenge is a great opportunity to showcase on a much larger scale what bold and creative ideas we can generate when we work together as well as potentially bringing funding to the city.

We have taken a unique approach to developing our entry into the competition by identifying issues relevant to Sheffield and inviting people from across public sector organisations, businesses, social enterprise groups and individuals to help us develop the city’s submission. The event at Electric Works will be crucial in shaping the final entry from more than 40 exciting ideas we initially received.

But this isn’t just about the competition – once we have chosen our Mayors Challenge entry we hope to support and help source funding for some of the other ideas we have discussed and hope the collaborative event at Electric Works will be the first of many.”

The Mayors Challenge is run by Bloomberg Philanthropies with 182 European cities already registered to take part. The competition aims to inspire cities to generate innovative ideas which solve major challenges and improve city life – and which can ultimately be shared with other cities across Europe.

The European version of the Mayors Challenge has been modeled on a successful competition in America and will award €5 million to the grand prize winner and €1 million for four additional cities that come up with the boldest and most transferable ideas.

More than 50 people will be attending the ideas lab at Electric Works later this month to develop the following five shortlisted ideas:

  • Improving air quality by making people aware of levels of air pollution and putting in place hi tech ways of improving air quality
  • Improving physical activity by using technology to record how much people move and holding competitions encouraging people to improve their health and fitness
  • Online, game or app based job advice and work experience for young people
  • A new approach to ‘business incubators’ which embeds new businesses within existing ones and uses their investment and support to create 10,000 new start-ups in three years
  • A web-based community which brings people’s needs and interests, business offers, volunteering opportunities, information and shared resources together.

The final competition entry will be decided by members of the Sheffield Collaboration Network, including members of the Sheffield Executive Board at Sheffield First, partners from IT company Birchenall Howden and Electric Works, who have also funded the project alongside the government’s Public Service Transformation Network.

The deadline for Sheffield’s submission is 31 January 2014 and 20 European-wide finalists will be announced in April. An ‘ideas camp’ will then also be held in April or May where four members from each shortlisted team will attend workshops and seminars to help them strengthen their project. The winner and four finalists will be announced in October.

If Sheffield wins the competition or achieves a runner up prize, it would be initially be awarded to the council who will transfer the funding to other partners or commissioned services responsible making the project a reality.

Last year’s winner was Providence in Rhode Island, which created a coaching programme to help children from lower income families expand their language skills.

The runners-up included Houston in Texas, which planned to provide residents with a single bin, the contents of which would then be sorted for recycling after it collection, and Santa Monica, California, which aimed to develop a way of measuring residents’ happiness.