A product design student at York St John University has created a zero technology communication system in a bid to bridge language barriers for refugees.

Global Anthem was founded by Richard Holmes, 52, and has been announced as a finalist in the Engineers in Business Champion of Champions competition.

Richard created Global Anthem following his previous experiences as a support worker for Refugee Action.

He said: “I witnessed the desperate need for displaced people to communicate with support services without language barriers.”

Global Anthem consists of 36 simple hand gestures that are displayed on flash cards in a pack, with the word for them displayed in five different languages.

But the moment Richard found he had made it to the final of the competition wasn’t a time for celebration. He opened the email with the news in Lviv train station, Ukraine, which he was visiting on an invite from a Ukrainian professor.

York Press: Lviv train station

Explaining why he accepted the invite to enter the warzone he said: “I needed to walk in their footsteps, to know what I was doing was right.”

He added: “I was there when there was a huge drone attack and you could hear the anti-aircraft guns firing.”

Richard went on to highlight the true extent of the refugee crisis. He said: “Last year the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) reported 89.3 million displaced people.

"If you lined up all those people shoulder to shoulder it would stretch from York St John University to Australia, and back."

He added: "It (the line) would have stretched 26,000 miles, and this year the number of displaced people has risen to 103 million.”York Press: Richard Holmes pictured in Ukraine

Richard believes that Global Anthem is a long term solution to some of the issues issues, adding: “The principle can be extended into the broader humanitarian and educational sectors and has the potential for wide adoption due to its simplicity.”

The finals for the awards take place on November 3 at the Royal Academy of Engineering, London. Richard will pitch Global Anthem against nine over innovators in competition for a £16,000 prize.

Richard said: “The level of competition is staggering.”

On the prospect of winning the cash prize, Richard added: “It would be staggering. Nobody is throwing a big amount of money at this, I’m just a man in a shed.”

Part of the finals is based on a public vote, with information on how to access that here