Got a great start-up idea? You could win a cash prize

The 2019 winners created an app called Stress Buddy

The 2019 winners created an app called Stress Buddy - Credit: Simon Arnold

Join the annual Hackathon in Ipswich and pit yourself against some of the country’s top tech minds.

The Hackathon will take place from 27-29 March 2020

The Hackathon will take place from 27-29 March 2020 - Credit: Simon Arnold

Big challenges can only be solved with big ideas. This is the concept that underpins Hackathon events around the world. Taking its name from a portmanteau of "hack" and "marathon", a Hackathon event sees people come together to use their tech skills and creative thinking to solve a real-world problem. Forming teams around a certain concept or idea, solutions can take many forms, be it a mobile app, a chatbot or an augmented reality experience. Normally lasting between 24 and 48 hours, Hackathons are fast paced, collaborative events, producing some extraordinary ideas.

Next month, creative minds from across Suffolk and beyond will be taking on a variety of fresh challenges at a 48-hour Hackathon at the University of Suffolk. Held across the weekend of March 27 to 29, the theme for this year's event is "the outdoors and agriculture", and will see participants taking on a number of challenges relating to crop cultivation, outdoor exercise and much, much more.

"When coming up with the theme for this year's Hackathon, we wanted to do something that was typically Suffolk, but that also engaged with technology," says Simon Arnold, Director at Innovate Suffolk - the group behind the annual Hackathon event. "We landed on the theme of the outdoors and agriculture as agriculture is a key pillar of the Suffolk economy, and we believe that tech is too. So, why not marry the two and see what the possibilities are?"

Event sponsor Agent3 has set participants the challenge of using technology to get people growing their own fruit and veg, while fellow sponsor StrategiQ is asking Hackathon teams to design a tech solution that encourages people to get active outdoors. There will also be an open category, which allows people to get creative and to think of their own challenge and a solution to match.

The Innovate Suffolk Hackathon is now in its second year

The Innovate Suffolk Hackathon is now in its second year - Credit: Simon Arnold

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Last year, Innovate Suffolk held its very first Hackathon at the University of Suffolk, which was based around the theme of improving mental health. After pitching ideas, forming teams and coming together to start work on a tech-powered solution, five teams made it through to the final round of judging, with one imaginative team scooping the top prize of £500.

"The winning idea was called Stress Buddy, and was an app for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which would help people through anxious moments and when they are struggling," Simon explains. "The team actually reinvested the £500 prize money back into the app, and they are still working on that project a year on, and are looking at ways they can launch it."

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Following on from the success of last year's event, this year's Hackathon promises to be even bigger and better than the last. On the opening evening, participants will be invited to pitch an original idea in 60 seconds, mentioning both the challenge they want to overcome and the solution that they have in mind. Then, participants can get themselves into teams and start work on bringing their idea to life.

Over the course of the weekend, teams will have 24-hour access to private workspaces, speedy WIFI and other materials, and will also be treated to breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. While the regular event is open to over-18s, the Innovate Suffolk team has partnered with the Creative Computing Club to open the Hackathon up to young minds, with junior participants able to compete for a separate "Junior Innovation Trophy".

"We are now encouraging people to come up with their ideas - that could be a dog walking app, it could be drone technology to survey cows, it could be a self-watering plant pot - it could be anything," says Simon. "People have just got to come here for the weekend to share their idea and then have a go at creating it over 48 hours."

Along with the £500 cash prize, the winning team will also be given fast-track access to the Innovation Martlesham incubator, which will help them to develop their idea once the Hackathon weekend is over.

Tickets for the Hackathon are on sale now. For more information, or to book your tickets, visit

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