Imperial College London

Students from around the world unite to tackle global challenges

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An aerial shot of a crowd of people

Students who developed a platform to connect mothers and midwives in sub-Saharan Africa won a global entrepreneurship challenge.

The Global Challenge Lab is a new virtual entrepreneurship programme run by Imperial in partnership with Tsinghua University’s x-lab in Beijing focussed on finding ways to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It is open to students from all over the world. 

Imperial’s Enterprise Lab, the College’s home for student innovators and entrepreneurs, worked with ten global university partners to bring together hundreds of students and alumni to create new ideas that help achieve good health and wellbeing – one of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

This year’s programme, was sponsored by corporate partners Huawei as well as additional sponsorship from Nestle and co-funding from BMS.

The Global Challenge Lab incorporated a 10-day online programme of workshops, guest speakers and mentoring to help students from all disciplinary backgrounds to devise and develop innovative ideas while growing their international network and developing new skills.  

The challenge was split into four tracks:  

  • Mental health & non-communicable diseases 
  • Women and children’s health 
  • Communicable diseases – tackling and improving awareness, early-diagnosis, prevention and treatment of communicable diseases, such as HIV and malaria. 
  • Access to healthcare – how can accessibility and affordability of healthcare be increase globally through technology  

At the end of the programme, the top teams from each of the programme’s tracks had the opportunity to pitch their ideas and win a share of a £20,000 prize fund.  

950 students registered to take part in the programme, forming 58 teams. Each team had to include participants from multiple institutions and disciplines with the aim of developing a technology-driven product or service solution that contributes to advance UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 - Good Health and Wellbeing.

Participants at the virtual Global Challenge Lab

Improving maternal health 

The competition’s first prize of £6,000 went to Team Scarlet, made up of students from four universities – Imperial, the University of Sao Paulo, University of Ghana and University of Toronto. Part of the Women and Children’s Health track, they developed Oba-Pa to connect mothers in Sub-Saharan Africa with midwives, using existing cellular networks on analogue phones. By doing this, they aim to reduce maternal deaths and promote overall women’s health.  

Reducing mosquito risk 

Second place of £4,000 went to team Milky, made up of students from Imperial, the University of Sao Paolo and University of Ghana and part of the Communicable Diseases track. They developed Pherotrap to control mosquitoes using pheromones, a natural mosquito attractor. The trap also incorporates artificial intelligence and automation to use weather data to predict mosquito behaviour and control the release of pheromones to avoid waste. Computer vision will count the number of insects trapped, and when they entered, generating data on mosquito presence in a certain area.  

Delivering medicine remotely 

The programme’s third place prize of £3,000 was awarded to team Healthcare Heroes, comprised of students from Imperial, LSE, Tsinghua University, the Singapore University of Technology and Design and Huawei Seeds for the Future. Their solution Quickmed, part of the Access to Healthcare track, aims to deliver medicine to rural areas. Their platform could allow village doctors to input patient records and submit delivery requests for medicine to nearby village riders. 

Inspiring students

The programme, which was co-designed and supported by Imperial graduate startup Futurize, also featured 32 speakers and six keynotes and panels, including an opening keynote on the Sustainable Development Goals from Professor Mike Templeton, Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and co-chair of the Global Development Hub. Attendees also heard from Imperial alumnus and Director at private equity firm Warburg Pincus Fred Hassan, who gave a keynote: The Future of the Healthcare Industry.  

Speaking about the programme, Sarah Ranchev-Hale, Head of Programmes and Partnerships at Imperial Enterprise Lab said: "We were absolutely delighted to organise and run Imperial’s first ever global virtual hackathon addressing UN SDG 3 Good Health and Wellbeing.

"I would like to offer our heartfelt thanks to all of our university partners and mentors, our sponsors, and most importantly of all our brilliant and inspirational student participants from across the world. These kinds of cross-cultural, international programme have never been more important or relevant and, based on the success this year’s inaugural programme, we look forward to running an even bigger programme next year focusing on UN SDG 13: Climate Action.”

Find out more about how to partner with Imperial Enterprise Lab on Global Challenge Lab 2022 by emailing s.ranchev-hale@imperial.ac.uk 

Reporter

Joanna Wilson

Joanna Wilson
Communications and Public Affairs

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 3970
Email: joanna.wilson@imperial.ac.uk

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International, Comms-strategy-Entrepreneurial-ecosystem, Student-entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship, Enterprise, Comms-strategy-International-university
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