By Henry Opondo
Six teams from Africa and seven from Asia will advance their development of promising cleantech solutions through an upcoming Innovation Academy. The teams were participants of the Youth Climate Innovation Labs, a fast paced three-day event that brought together selected youth, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and climate technology experts in Africa and Asia-Pacific respectively to explore innovative design thinking tools, flex their entrepreneurial muscle and create solutions for enhanced climate action.
The programme has been organized by the UN Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), which is co-hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), in partnership with SAFEEM and Seedstars. The project is funded by the European Union (EU).
“It is very important to support young people to engage in climate action, and this programme provides them with the tools and diverse partnerships to create solutions. We were pleased to see such a high level of interest and engagement in the Climate Innovation Labs and look very much forward to working closely with the selected startups as they further develop their ideas during the Innovation Academy,” noted Dr. Rose Mwebaza, CTCN Director.
After receiving over 800 applications from both Africa and Asia-Pacific, 212 participants were selected to join the first stage of the program where 18 teams per region were created.
Working with four key solution themes – Energy/ Sustainable Electricity, Food/ Agriculture/ Deforestation, Environment/ Waste Management, and Infrastructure/ Urban Planning – each team identified, built, and pitched their solutions. Participants took to hear the encouragement of AI artist Cecilie Waagner Falkenstrom, one of the programme speakers, to “be creative! Push the boundaries of your thinking when it comes to creating these solutions.”
At the end of the pitches, 6 teams from Africa and 7 from Asia-Pacific were selected to continue on and develop their ideas through the CTCN/ Seedstars Climate Innovation Academy. The teams advancing for the Africa region are the following:
- Community-Based Smart Microgrids – Democratizes clean energy access for better growth
- RENAF solutions – Leverages the power of communities to bridge renewable energy access in rural communities across Africa
- Afri-Carbon Pay – Addresses deforestation of land for commercial agriculture by connecting woodland owners to paying off-setters.
- Agronovate – Built a smart storage system that will eliminate food waste, farmers’ low income and carbon footprint by leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud technology.
- Namanzi – Supports hydroponic greenhouses through crowdfunding. Their platform connects socially & environmentally conscious people with existing Hydroponic Africa Limited who need capital to up-scale their business to reach more rural communities.
- Simplified Waste – Designed an app for municipal collection routes that uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to deploy and track private waste collectors.
For the Asia-Pacific region, the selected teams moving forward are:
- The Last Mile – Solves challenges in last mile distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by providing a portable, hybrid-powered storage container that meets the technical requirements to safely store the vaccinations.
- CAPI – A platform that acts like Stripe for carbon offsets
- Farm-In-a-Box – Addresses challenges faced by novice growers by providing them starter kits, which can be progressively updated as they learn more.
- BioSol – Solves the improper disposal of used cooking oil (UCO) by fast food chains and restaurants by buying the UCO from them, converting it into biofuel and selling the biofuel to petrol pumps and office complexes to be blended with diesel.
- Organica – Installs decentralized organic waste-to-compost units that would help housing areas manage their waste, thereby abiding by rules and also reducing the waste load on landfills and the government.
- Nirwallna – Turns urban heat islands into refreshing greeneries through effective green walls and green spaces
- Space_era – Provides sustainable and climate responsive refugee shelters
Supported by technology experts, entrepreneurs and innovation facilitators, the academy participants will be challenged to think outside of the box and co-create solutions and business ideas. By utilising design thinking, innovation tools and a people centred focus, the solutions created will support the work of SMEs to develop and adopt environmentally sound technologies.
“We are grateful to the extensive knowledge support that came from all the partners, speakers, mentors, climate and sustainability experts and jury who joined both the Climate Innovation Labs in Africa and Asia-Pacific to encourage participants and their teams by supporting these early-stage ideas and interventions that use technology as the key tool for disruption to solve some of the greatest climate challenges and in taking the first steps into their entrepreneurial journey,” shared Anurag Maloo, Partnerships Lead for Climate and Sustainability innovation programs at Seedstars.