The HCT-Wharton Innovation Tournament, held this past Monday and Tuesday in Dubai, challenged entrepreneurs to produce innovative solutions to enhance sustainability by reducing the effects of greenhouse gases, or controlling consumption of non-renewable energy resources.
An initial 118 applicants were winnowed down to 12, which were invited to attend the Tournament, for a full day of mentoring sessions followed by a full day of presentations and judging panels. Five made the final cut.
The winning team, KarmSolar, won AED 40,000 (~$10,800) for their innovative solar energy-based water pumping solution. By helping farmers pump and conserve water through a solar-powered management system, it aims to transform economies by reducing dependence on diesel as well as food imports, founders Ahmed Zahran and Lumna Madi explained to Wamda at the MIT Enterprise Forum workshop in Abu Dhabi this March. (More detailed information on their product is available here).
In second place, the PAK-Energy Solution team of Lahore Pakistan won AED 30,000 (~$8,100) for their Natural Gas Digester, which uses cow dung to generate "clean" gas for cooking, heating and lighting, as well as fertilizer, making it ideal for rural communities.
In third place, the judges, who apparently agonized over the decision, decided to list three teams in a tie, rather than two. Those teams, each of which received AED 10,000 (~$2,700), were the WUDU Project, a device that conserves water by controlling its flow during daily ablutions (Wudu) in mosques, GreenSpark, which uses plants to generate electricity, and the Ballerina Energy System, which uses a combination of wind and solar energy to produce hot and cold water for household consumption.
"The quality of the applicants was very impressive," says Walid Mansour of Middle East Venture Partners, who served as a judge at the event. "While they were at various stages- some at the design stage, some post-prototype, all had put a lot of thought into the technical side of their ideas."
This diversity made it very difficult to choose a winner, however. "We assessed the teams based on innovation, impact, feasibility, and sustainability," he says. "In the end, some were great ideas but actually used up another resource to achieve their goals, so they weren't all very sustainable. We liked KarmSolar because it has a high impact, was highly innovative, reduced dependency on diesel, and would be quick to roll out."
What set the winning teams apart was that "they all met the core challenge well,'" said Pankaj Paul, the Managing Editor of Knowledge@Wharton, referring to the event's inspiration by the United Arab Emirates Vision 2021 planning document, which sets forth a vision of a "competitive and resilient economy" in a "nurturing and sustainable environment" in the UAE.
When it came to KarmSolar winning, despite having to conduct their pitches over Skype, says Paul, "it was heartening to see them start display enthusiasm for something that they believed in. They answered the judges' questions very clearly, and the answers that they provided demonstrated that not only did they know what they were doing, but they believed in what they are doing."
KarmSolar team CEO Ahmed Zahran said at the event that the prize money would assist to make the project commercially viable over the next 12 months. Although he was traveling back from Beirut today, I had a chance to speak with the rest of the KarmSolar team about the win. It's an exciting time for them, and this win will help them start the next phase of development: launching a pilot in Jordan or Egypt, says co-founder Lubna Madi. Meet the rest of the team and see their responses below. [All 12 teams are listed below as well].
|Md Saimum Hossain||Greennovation||Bangladesh|
|Khaled Mouats||Modern Wall||Algeria|
|Ali Raza||Pak-Energy Solution||Pakistan|
|Asal Ibrahim||SolarLens Collector||Jordan|
|Naji Chamieh||Ballerina Energy System||Lebanon|
|Mouza Al Khyeli||Sensor Controlled Lighting System||UAE|
|Khalid Al Ali||Barjeel||UAE|
|Ali Al Shehhi||Water Saving Ablution Automated Machine||UAE|
|Faraj Al Mehairbi||Earth Saluts You||UAE|