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The Gandhi Centre for Inclusive Innovatio and Global Action on Poverty (GAP) jointly hosted the ‘Ideas to Impact’ (i2i) Challenge on 23rd May 2017, bringing together UK university student teams to present their innovative ideas to solve some of the BIG global challenges we face in society, to positively impact ONE MILLION PEOPLE.

Teams pitched their solutions to global challenges within the following themes:  Agriculture, Healthcare, Livelihoods & Enterprise, Education & Skills, Water, Sanitation & Energy, and Financial Inclusion, with the top three winning teams set to receive start-up funds and continuous coaching, mentoring and business support from (GAP) and its partners to develop their idea, along with a fully sponsored trip to GAP’s annual event in India in November 2017.

The audience and judging panel got to listen to some exciting and innovative solutions to solve some serious global challenges, and interact with the shortlisted teams as they pitched their ideas.

The judging panel included Art Martinez of the Gates Foundation, Francisco Gutierrez (Startupbootcamp), Sanjay Razdan and Sunil Savara (Head Held High Foundation).

Art Martinez kicked off the event by sharing the philosophy of the Gates Foundation and their ambitious vision addressing problems in the world affecting the poorest people – a recent notable priority being access to vaccines, when innovation in this field is not readily accepted.

Sunil Savara then introduced the work of the Head Held High Foundation and Global Action on Poverty, with a description of 

the benefits of joining their network. He touched on the goals of the foundation, including empowerment and impact for the longer term. Sunil finished with the excellent example of Muhammad Yunus, a hugely inspirational figure who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Grameen Bank and pioneering the concepts of microfinance and microcredit.

Next up were the team pitches. Teams were given a twenty minute time slot each, with seven minutes dedicated to the pitch, followed by audience/panel Q&A.

‘CardioShirt’ began with their team (most of whom has travelled from Milan!) describing their idea to produce a t-shirt incorporating automatic defibrillation technology, enabling it to detect and treat heart attacks, plus an added benefit of also sending a call to the emergency services for treatment.

Next up were ‘DONACO’, who are working on a simple and transparent website extension for use on phones, computers and tablets which by using Artificial Intelligence facilitates charity donations by bringing trustworthy charities to individuals based on the content they read online.

‘SAFA’ detailed their idea of building an affordable water filtration system to address the huge numbers of people who still lack access to safe drinking water across the globe. Their device aims to allow consumers to filter coarse and mineral impurities present in water, followed by a boiling process afterwards.

We then heard from Neil Dhot, who wants to improve sanitation in countries such as India, where 770 million people still lack access to toilets. His idea focuses on harnessing the economic power of human waste through conversion to gas or fertilizer to be used locally, and then re-invest that income to build and maintain public toilets in each area.

Next, we were joined by the ‘Electrify Nigeria’ team, via video call from Lagos, Nigeria! They described how Nigeria is one of the most highly populated countries in Africa, but generates among the least power despite abundant natural resources. Their proposition is to provide clean, affordable, accessible and stable electricity using small-scale solar power panels.

Next, the ‘Velox’ team walked us through their core idea – using behavioral economics insights to develop a mobile app which motivates users to consistently practice outdoor activity, particularly running. Every week the app will charge the user an amount of money, however by using the app and running (verification via GPS tracking system) money will be transferred back to their accounts. Their aim is to motivate the general population to pursue regular physical activity, to spend more time outdoors and have an overall positive impact on both healthcare and urban health in big cities with public parks.

Finally, we heard from the ‘ThinAir’ team, who in tackling the problem of water purification have designed a biomembrane that mimics the ability of the African fogstand beetle to condense water from the atmosphere. They have adapted and improved this process by adding a novel protein catalyst, allowing users to obtain ‘water from thin air’. The team detailed how their product will in time improve in efficiency, enabling them to provide solutions in even lower humidity environments, which could then be distributed by NGOs.

The judging panel convened during the networking session and remarked upon how impressive the calibre of students and ideas were. All teams pitched well, with confidence, and had produced dynamic and informative presentations. They decided on their top three teams, as follows:

First prize: ‘ThinAir’

Second prize: ‘Velox’

Third prize: ‘DONACO’

The event closed with some reflective moments from the panel. This was a really inspiring and exciting competition and we all look forward to watching these ideas and products develop over the next year!