With a “jugaad” mindset embedded in the culture, India has no shortage of social innovators cooking up solutions to the world’s ills. As a matter of fact, the Greenway Grameen Infra (GGI) team from India has just been announced as the winners of the 2012 Intel Global Challenge at UC Berkeley, receiving $50,000 from the Intel Foundation on their invention of a biomass-based stove that increases fuel efficiency.
Open fires and traditional mud stoves are still used for cooking by nearly 3 billion people around the world. But these are damaging to the environment and lead to premature deaths. GGI’s flagship product, the Greenway Smart Stove, has a unique air-flow generator that saves fuel consumption by up to 65 percent and reduces smoke output by 70 percent. Since commercially launching the product in December of 2011, the team has sold more than 12,000 units.
“This year, we saw impressive innovations in fields including healthcare, mobile app development and energy conservation,” said Shelly Esque, president of the Intel Foundation and global director of Intel’s Corporate Affairs Group. ”These student entrepreneurs from around the world have developed first-class business plans ranging from improved reliability for cancer diagnoses to the production of inexpensive, more efficient solar cells.”
The competition, held at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, drew in more than 150,000 students from more than 50 countries, which were narrowed down to under 30 teams from 16 countries. The competition began in 2005 and was designed to motivate young entrepreneurs to develop technologies that would solve real-world challenges.
A total of $100,000 was awarded to the winning teams. Two Best of Category in Social Innovation awards were given each to Nanoly Bioscience of the United States for developing a protective shield that eliminates the need for vaccine refrigeration, and to Sustainable Agriculture Solutions of Colombia for developing sustainable farming solutions such as enhanced efficiency fertilizer. One Best of Category in Computing 2020 award went to Avetics of Singapore, which invented an autonomous mini-plane (named the Falcon) that takes high-resolution photographs for aerial maps. Each Best of Category winner received $15,000.
Many winners from previous years have gone on to build successful companies and careers. Gravitonus, for instance, won the Humanitarian Award at the 2006 Intel Global Challenge for their Alternative Computer Control System that allows a user to operate a computer using their tongue. As a result, people with disability can gain autonomy by operating their wheelchair and other appliances, and seek employment and education opportunities. Today, the Virginia-based company has a Russian research and development facility for delivering accessibility solutions to people with disabilities around the world.
Photo from Greenway Grameen Infra.
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