In tough economic times, agencies are increasingly relying on new innovations that will save them time and money to counterbalance their shrinking budgets and resource pools. Every year one of the highlights at AidEx is the Dragons’-Den style pitching session and ultimate unveiling of the winner of the coveted Aid Innovation Challenge, a competition in which innovators reveal their newest inventions for the aid and humanitarian sector.
Here we take you through the archive of past winners of the Aid Innovation Challenge to help understand what the judges are looking for from the winning entry.
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2011 – MedAlert: The HIV-medication reminder
A medical dispenser that emits a reminder alert to HIV sufferers prompting them to take antiretroviral medication. That was the first product to ever win the Aid Innovation Challenge. Over 5 million people receive treatment for HIV but often fail to take their medication either because they forget or illiteracy or innumeracy means they’re not sure when to take the drugs. Cue MedAlert.
Inventor Claire said, ‘I came up with the idea during the final year of my product design degree at university after reading a heartbreaking BBC article on AIDS orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa and the difficulties in ensuring they take their medication on time. It seemed astonishing that despite having the power between life and death, something so seemingly straightforward as time keeping could be a real problem for these people, and I wanted to do something to help.’
2012 – India Impex: The ultimate solar powered lamp
In order to create a product that would be truly useful for refugees, India Impex founder, Divyesh Thakkar spent time with large aid agencies visiting many of the refugee camps in Africa to better understand what their beneficiaries needed from their solar lamps. And rather than just providing the lamps, India Impex actually trains refugees to use the lanterns. What’s more, the lamps can last up to 3 years without needing to change the batteries.
According to Divyesh, ‘If we technically train women and girls to manage the lamps, it becomes a win-win situation for everyone.’ Following winning the accolade, Divyesh noted that orders streamed in so fast, they could hardly keep pace!
2013 – Wakati: The sterile food conservation tent
United Nations statistics show that 45% of fruit and vegetables never reach market because they go bad before they get there.
Arne Pauwels, the founder of Wakati, believes it is not always using the newest technology that makes something innovative. Instead, it is a case of understanding how current practices can be modified to cater for the users’ needs and processes with the least amount of interference. And that’s how the Wakati One technology came into being. The small solar-fuelled fan and tent creates a sterilised micro climate meaning smallholder farmers can increase the shelf life of their crops. According to Arne, winning the Aid Innovation Challenge gave him ‘some great contacts and also a strong recommendation which opens doors in a lot of international organisations’ as well as the drive to push forwards.
2014 – Hope: The blood donation mobile app
In 2013, judges at AidEx praised winner Hope for the creation of a mobile app which builds a fast and reliable channel between blood donors and those who require blood, a gap that was identified by founder, Amgad Morgan when he was browsing social media one day. ‘I wondered if in addition to people on Facebook and Twitter, there might also be people on the streets who would need a faster and more accurate way to get this information,’ he remarked after winning the title.
The judges commended Morgan for the simple but community driven impetus behind the project, as well as its potential to help a huge number of people. Judge Arne Pauwels, winner of the 2013 Wakati entry explained that the fact that Hope had the ability to influence the lives of thousands of people was one of the standout features of the invention. Michael Pritchard of Lifesaver said, ‘Hope didn’t just have a concept, but delivered something about blood donation, not by trying to create a new platform – which many might have done – but using existing ones, like Twitter and Facebook, and using clever bots and algorithms to search those. This has fantastic applicability to this world.’
2015 - Shaun Halbert, ReciproBoo Shelter
The ReciproBoo shelter is an innovation in shelter construction that can assist refugees worldwide. Aid agencies distribute hundreds of thousands of tarpaulins every year to these refugees but do not provide a frame to make a shelter. People then struggle to build a decent shelter for their families. It is in response to these poorly constructed shelters that the ReciproBoo shelter has been developed. The shelter is unique in that it is the only shelter to use a reciprocal frame roof. This reciprocal frame is a self- supporting structure that provides the exceptional weight bearing strength of the roof. By using a four pole reciprocal frame it has now been possible to refine and develop this design into a shelter kit; the ReciproBoo Shelter Kit (RSK). The final RSK design, in either bamboo or tubular steel, has been developed with strength and simplicity in mind.
2016 - GreenCo Water: The flat-packed water tank solution
The Pak Flat Tank is a simple, practical and cost-effective global solution to cumbersome water tanks and water aid inefficiency. Storing 1,000 litres of water at a lightweight of just 23kg, the Pak Flat arrives neatly flat-packed in a 1155 x 1130 x 125mm cardboard box, requiring no specialist tools or technical knowledge to assemble. The Pak Flat reduces logistic costs by 85% and can deliver 400,000 litres of water via one shipping pallet. Assembly onsite is easy with the Pak Flat and is designed for transportability as it is light enough to be carried by one to two people. This means that there are very few places in the world the Pak Flat can’t go.
The product endeavours to provide a solution to address the growing need for improved access and storage of clean water across the developing world. The simplicity of the design, affordability and the ability to be delivered to just about anywhere in the world, represents a micro solution with macro impact. Pak Flat provides an immediate water storage solution to humanitarian development projects, drought relief and climate change and disaster relief.
2017 - Zephyr Solar: The solar balloon
After a disaster, providing access to electricity brings a tangible solution to powering a makeshift hospital, supplying water-pumps and creating telecommunication networks to synchronise rescue. There must be energy that is quick to install, easy to set up and reliable.
To do this, French start-up Zéphyr Solar developed lightweight solar panels and integrated them on top of solar balloons. They produce enough energy to power ground activities and supply on-board equipment, such as communication antennas or cameras. The electricity is transmitted through a cable to a technical box where it is transformed and stored to further power various equipment at all hours.
These solar balloons help to bring energy and services quickly to isolated sites.
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