Royals Prince William Meets the 'Class of 2022' as Earthshot Prize Finalists Gather for the First Time The Prince of Wales met the finalists of the 2022 Earthshot Prize, which was held in Boston in December By Simon Perry Updated on January 27, 2023 09:24 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Prince William is meeting his environment heroes. The Prince of Wales, 40, spent time with the finalists of his second annual Earthshot Prize — which aims to promote impactful approaches to the world's most pressing environmental challenges over the next decade — on Thursday afternoon. He did not come face-to-face with any of the 15 finalists at the awards ceremony in Boston in December, as both winners and finalists stayed at their home bases around the world. But on Thursday, he was able to talk to all the change-makers about their progress so far and their hopes for the future as they gathered at Cumberland Lodge, located in a park close to Windsor Castle. The group posed together for a photo, with Prince William taking a spot in the middle. "Class of 2022!" the Earthshot Prize captioned the shot on Twitter, along with a green heart emoji. Kate Middleton and Prince William Ignite the Earthshot Prize! Peek Behind the Scenes with Backstage Photos Prince William — who spoke to PEOPLE in December about how he hopes the finalists will build on the legacy of their predecessors — heard about their groundbreaking plans for this year and beyond. He also took part in two smaller, focused conversations to hear about the opportunities the Earthshot Prize has afforded the winners and finalists so far and what more it can do to break down barriers and accelerate their ambitious plans for the future. Min Wang — whose Desert Agricultural Transformation organization turns desert sand into agricultural land — invited the Prince of Wales to visit the site of one of their projects in China. "If I am passing by, I will be visiting all of your projects. I have made a note to my team," he said, according to the Daily Mail. "So by year 10 I will still be visiting Earthshot projects." Prince William. Jonathan Brady - WPA Pool/Getty The finalists have been taking part in a retreat, which is part of the prize's Fellowship Programme, what the organizers call a nine-month timetable designed to help them grow their solutions by unlocking new routes to market, finance and important partnerships. The inaugural week-long retreat has seen the finalists meet and collaborate, picking up tips and inspiration from leaders and thinkers in the field of innovation and the environment, including Christiana Figueres, former U.N. Climate Chief, and Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, environmental activist and geographer. The finalists are also been taught how to scale up their plans and initiatives. Prince William. Jonathan Brady - WPA Pool/Getty It is all part of ongoing efforts to accelerate and scale the solutions that the 15 finalists have for tackling the earth's environmental challenges. While in the U.K. this week, the Earthshot Prize finalists will travel to London where they will attend a forum hosted by Deloitte and have the chance to meet advisors and potential investors for their projects. Prince William. Jonathan Brady - WPA Pool/Getty Can't get enough of PEOPLE's Royals coverage? Sign up for our free Royals newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more! The netting of each $1.3 million (£1 million) award is only part of Prince William's plans for the Earthshot Prize. A key component is to also help boost and accelerate all the 15 finalists' solutions, and this nine-month program — enabling them to utilize ambitious collaborations with the prize's global connections with 45 businesses, NGOs and philanthropists. Conferences like the one William attended are planned to aide them in moving ahead and having an even greater impact in their communities and countries. Kate Middleton and Prince William. Samir Hussein/WireImage Earlier on Thursday, Prince William joined his wife, Kate Middleton, 41, to visit a local food bank that is distributing much-needed provisions during tough times for many people in the Windsor community. For more on the Royals, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.