GOOGLE HAS ANNOUNCED the UK winners of this years £3m Google Impact Challenge Awards, the campaign that funds initiatives using technology to make a positive difference in lives and the community.
At an awards ceremony at Google's London offices on Thursday, the ten finalists were given a minute each to pitch their ideas followed by cross examination from a panel of judges including Dragon's Den entrepreneur Peter Jones, broadcaster and Comic Relief director Emma Freud and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, along with senior representatives from Google and Nesta.
Before the announcement, Jimmy Wales said, "There's not many more fun ways to spend an afternoon than giving away huge gobs of Google's money."
The group of finalists were surprised as the winners were revealed in a live satellite link to Richard Branson from Necker Island. The winners were Centrepoint, which will use big data to look into ways of beating youth homelessness, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew with a wearable that can detect mosquitos and analyse their sound to warn if they carry disease, and Wefarm, which plans to set up a peer-to-peer communication service to help farmers swap ideas and information, even on the most basic of mobile equipment.
In addition to the judging panel, the Impact Challenge website has been taking public votes, giving the whole affair a hint of X Factor glamour, and possibly making Google's UK head of public relations and host for the day, Stephen Rosenthal, Google's equivalent of Dermot O'Leary.
The public vote was won by the Royal National Institute for the Blind, whose smart glasses magnify the remaining vision of the wearer to allow them to see.
The four winners receive £500,000, while all the finalists receive funding to the tune of £200,000 as well as mentoring from Google and partners including Nesta.
Head of Google.org Jaqueline Fuller said, "The UK has raised the bar on the quality of the pitches and the quality of the projects."
The other finalists were Relate, The Virunga Foundation, Catch 22, Carr Gomm, We Are What We Do, and St Giles' Trust. µ