Seed pods for forest restoration among winners of Prince of Wales’s latest environmental prize

Pictured: Representatives from each of the four winning initiatives

The Design Lab was first announced last summer, as part of a collaboration between the Prince of Wales and Apple’s former chief design officer Sir Jonny Ive. It was set up at London’s Royal College of Art to encourage students to develop “credible and sustainable” solutions to pressing environmental challenges, including the climate crisis and nature loss.

Today (27 April), the four winners of the initiative have been announced, with each set to receive £50,000 of funding as well as mentoring support from the businesses participating in Prince Charles’ Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI).

The first winner is Aerseeds, a project that has developed nutrient and seed pods that can be dropped from a height onto degraded habitats, aiding restoration. In some cases, the use of the pods enables regeneration to take place ten times as rapidly as it would happen using manual seed distribution. The seed and nutrient pods are made using food waste, making them a contributor to the circular economy as well as to efforts to restore nature.

Also taking a share of funding is AMPHITEX, which has developed an outdoor performance textile that purports to be fully recyclable and carbon negative. The material could be used to make products such as tents and sports gear. Innovate UK has already voiced support for the project.

The third winner – The Tyre Collective – has developed a device that can capture the particles shed by tyres as they are used, thus minimising air and microplastic pollution. A patent is pending for the device. The team behind the innovation point out that, as electric vehicle (EV) adoption becomes the norm, tyre pollution will overtake tailpipe emissions as the main cause of pollution from cars. EVs typically generate more particles relating to tyre wear than petrol and diesel models, as they are heavier.

The fourth and final winner, ZELP, has designed a wearable device for cattle that can neutralise methane emissions. The harness fits around the cow’s head and, as the animal exhales, the methane is oxidised and released as CO2 and water vapour. Agriculture accounts for around one-quarter of global annual methane emissions, according to the IEA. Cutting methane will be crucial to capping the global temperature increase; the UN Environment Programme estimates that it is 80% more potent at locking in warming than CO2 over a 20-year period.

A further 12 projects had made the shortlist of finalists, as covered by edie in January. Winners were selected following a judging process involving representatives from the Royal College of Art and the SMI, including sustainability and technology experts at firms such as Amazon, Octopus Energy and Bank of America.

“All the Design Lab winners have ideas and designs that deserve to be developed,” said Sir Jonny Ive. “The ingenuity and determination of these designers have produced some extraordinarily creative responses, and they now embark on the journey to turn these great ideas into practical solutions.”

He added: “I find it reassuring, particularly facing the overwhelming challenge of climate change, that we can all contribute ideas that could evolve into valuable solutions. I love not only the power of a good idea but how egalitarian and inclusive they can be.”

The Terra Carta Design Lab was named after the Prince’s Terra Carta or ‘earth charter’ – a joint commitment for businesses to respond at scale and pace to the interconnected climate and nature crises while also promoting social equality. The charter first launched in January 2021 and its Seal has been awarded to 47 organisations to date.

Separately, the Royal Family has received much media coverage for the Earthshot Prize, which is providing £50m of grant funding to environmental innovation projects through to 2030. The first £5m was allocated in October 2021.

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