AN acclaimed competition that turns schoolchildren’s creative flair into market-ready business ideas has launched, with judges looking for a product or service which could change the way we live or work. Future Business Magnates (FBM) – run by Business Durham, the economic development company for County Durham working on behalf of Durham County Council – has put the world of commerce under the spotlight and brought it to life for dozens of schools, pupils and businesses over the past decade. More than 30 leading lights from the business world including Thorn Lighting, Dyer Engineering, Ebac, Hydram, Steelcraft, Atom Bank and Durham University are supporting this year’s competition, partnering the 20 school teams and judging the six challenges of the programme. Launched on November 3rd at Newton Aycliffe’s Xcel Centre, the theme for this  year’s FBM competition is Connecting County Durham, whether it’s thinking how County Durham connects to the rest of the world or connecting up ideas to come up with amazing inventions. Over the next eight months, pupils aged 12 and 13 will work with their business mentor to turn their bright ideas into producing a service or product, with a glittering prize ceremony awaiting the winners in July next year. Sarah Slaven, Business Durham Business Development Director, said: “We want to get across the idea that connections are really important in business – sometimes connecting up ideas in different ways or applying them to different scenarios can lead to great inventions.  We also want to demonstrate how businesses operate in a global marketplace and encourage teams to think about how County Durham connects to the rest of the world. “We are looking for the teams to fuse ideas together to come up with a product or service that could change the way we live and work and we look forward to seeing the end results.” Cllr Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic development, said: “Future Business Magnates is a brilliant scheme that sees some of County Durham’s globally recognised companies help to inspire, and shine a light on the talents of, the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs in our schools. We’d like to wish the pupils the best of luck in this year’s competition and look forward to seeing another crop of amazing new ideas.” FBM focuses on the skill sets demanded by the STEM subjects as the basis for pupils’ ideas. Last year’s FBM theme was ‘The Home of Manufacturing’ with two eco-friendly ideas taking the top prizes.  The winners were from Durham Johnston School with their wheelie bin docking station and were closely followed by King James I Academy, in Bishop Auckland, and their plastic recycling shredding device.