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Efficiency for Access Design Challenge winners 2020 – 2021 showcase clean energy innovations at Grand Final 

On Wednesday 23 June, university student teams from Bangladesh, India, Uganda, and the UK beat teams from around the world to win top prizes in the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge. Delivered by Efficiency for Access with the support of Engineers Without Borders UK, the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge is a global, multi-disciplinary competition that empowers teams of university students to help accelerate clean energy access. It is funded by UK aid and the IKEA Foundation.

Now in its second year, the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge enables students to create affordable and energy-efficient appliances and technologies for low to middle income countries. By inspiring students, the Challenge aims to foster innovation in the off-grid appliance sector. The competition also seeks to improve the job prospects of participating students by giving them experience in designing appliances.

Gold

  • UCL, ‘Design of a Vaccine Refrigeration Unit’

Silver

  • UCL, ‘Solar Powered Oxygen Concentrators in Sub-Saharan Africa’, and University of Bath, ‘Design of an Efficient Kettle for Off-Grid Kenya’

Bronze

  • Independent University, Bangladesh, ‘Solar Direct Drive Vaccine Refrigerator and Effective Cold Chain System’

  • Gulu University, ‘Point of Use Solar Ultraviolet Water Disinfection for Emergency Situations’

  • TERI School of Advanced Studies, Solar Powered Hydroponic Fodder Unit’

  • Loughborough University, ‘Design and Build a Solar Battery Cooker for use in Sub-Saharan Africa’.

Ken O’Flaherty, the UK’s COP26 Regional Ambassador to Asia-Pacific and South Asia, said: “Climate change and its impacts are already having a devastating effect around the world. Innovation and technology is key to tackling this global crisis, so I’m inspired to see the innovative ideas put forward by students to improve global access to clean energy.

“The UK will use our COP26 Presidency to drive global change and help vulnerable communities to access clean energy and build resilience to climate impacts. Ideas like these are invaluable in building a greener, more sustainable and more inclusive world.”

Year two of the Challenge began in September 2020 with students from 21 universities in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Nepal, Sweden, Uganda and the UK participating. Students submitted their projects in April 2021 and presented their projects online to a panel of expert judges in late May. Year two of the Challenge began in September 2020 with students from 21 universities in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Nepal, Sweden, Uganda and the UK participating. Students submitted their projects in April 2021 and presented their projects online to a panel of expert judges in late May.  Participating universities were City, University of London, Green University of Bangladesh, Gulu University, Harper Adams University, Independent University, Bangladesh, Jomo Kenyatta University, Kathmandu University, London South Bank University, Loughborough University, Lund University, Makerere University, Mekelle University, Moi University, Swansea University, TERI School of Advanced Studies, Tribhuvan University, UCL, University of Bath, University of Bristol, University of Nairobi, and University of Strathclyde.  

At today’s Grand Final event, student teams were awarded gold, silver and bronze prizes in an award ceremony held online. 

Jeffrey Prins, Head of Renewable Energy Portfolio, IKEA Foundation said:

“Tackling climate change is no mean feat. Reducing carbon emissions requires everyone to join forces and take action, small and big. It requires new ideas, innovations, and behavior change. A sustainable future is one enabled by renewable energy. The IKEA Foundation is proud to support the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge, as it is an important and effective way to work together with innovators and talents to make renewable energy more accessible to many communities more quickly, reducing carbon emissions.” 

Throughout the year, the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge team ran webinars, networking and interactive events for students, which aimed to enhance their understanding of the off-grid appliance sector. Student teams were also paired with mentors who provided them with structured guidance to create their projects.  

Emma Crichton, Head of Engineering, Engineers Without Borders UK, said:

“In the second year of the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge, we've been incredibly inspired by the students’ determination, creativity and approach. Even with the disruption caused by the pandemic, the ideas the students have produced have been truly excellent. As a result, many are graduating this year with real-world experience and future-fit skills, including a creative ability that will aid progress towards meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Congratulations to the award-winning teams and all the students who took part in the competition."

Today’s Grand Final event showcased participating teams’ innovations to an audience of 150 representatives from aid agencies and foundations, private sector representatives, academics, and the broader civil society. In the following months, Efficiency for Access will disseminate students’ projects through digital and social media channels and at various events including in the lead up to COP 26.

Mike Thornton, Chief Executive, Energy Saving Trust said:

“It is encouraging to see such innovative and inspiring entries to the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge.  I offer my congratulations to the winning teams who demonstrate an outstanding ability to tackle the climate emergency through exceptional and inventive designs.

Through ideas like those presented today, we both address the mission of reducing global carbon emissions in the race to net zero and affirm our continuing commitment to providing access to renewable energy and efficient appliances in Global South countries.”

With 770 million people lacking access to electricity and appliances that will support their efforts to earn a living and maintain agricultural productivity, the development of affordable and energy-efficient solar-powered technologies can also help accelerate the clean energy transition and help vulnerable communities around the world address the effects of climate change. 

ENDS 

Summaries of the winning projects

GOLD 

 

Team 19 - Daniel Hetzel, Kushma Thapa, Safia Whitwham and Simran Nair, UCL, Design of a Vaccine Refrigeration Unit 

 

Increased vaccination rates can help improve the health of communities around the world. However, vaccination deployment in Sub-Saharan Africa is challenging due to limitations in cold storage facilities, particularly in rural areas. COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to arrive in some parts of Sub-Saharan Africa until 2022 or 2023, and many vaccines are not administered due to wastage and improper storage. Existing cold storage chains are mostly designed for areas with access to electricity, which means that they are unsuitable for areas without access to power. 

 

To help address this problem, students from UCL designed an active cool box for vaccines. The proposal aims to bridge the gap between cool boxes and vaccine refrigerators and uses thermoelectric cooling technology. First, it has an appropriate temperature, making it a more reliable solution than the conventional cool box. Its small size and portability mean that it can be transported easily to vaccination outreach centres in remote and rural areas, reducing the distances people need to travel to receive a vaccine.  

 

SILVER 

 

Team 20 - Reid Ashby, Alice Chave, Salome Laviolette, Keyur Roula and George Young, UCL, Solar Powered Oxygen Concentrators in Sub-Saharan Africa 

 

In Sub-Saharan Africa, many healthcare facilities lack access to reliable electricity. As a result, life-saving appliances, such as oxygen concentrators, cannot be used effectively. In addition, healthcare facilities in these rural areas often use solar power, but many appliances are incompatible with solar systems.  

 

To help address this, students from UCL designed a solar-powered oxygen concentrator for use in Sub-Saharan Africa. They aimed to ensure their concentrator matched the performance of commercially used oxygen concentrators. To achieve this, the team added a motor controller, which helped control the motor speed. Students also reduced demand for power and made improvements to energy efficiency. All these features were successfully prototype-tested. To ensure that the design was suitable for its setting, they recommended adding a pre-filter before the bacteria filter to tackle dust issue and maintenance, and a two-stage evaporation cooling system to help deal with both humidity and temperature which hinder the concentrator’s performance. The innovations in the design and implementation could help make access to oxygen therapy more affordable in resource-strained locations and improve survival rates from respiratory infections.  

 

SILVER 

 

Team 28 - Paul Lavender-Jones, Luke Peacock, Luke Evason, Nicole Wan and Cameron Everist, University of Bath, Design of an Efficient Kettle for Off-Grid Kenya 

 

In Sub-Saharan Africa, it is advised to treat water to improve health outcomes, but only 22% of households currently do this. Households who treat their water often rely on burning solid fuels to boil their water, resulting in household pollution, carbon emissions and associated health risks.  

 

To help address this, students from the University of Bath, designed an efficient and water-purifying kettle for use in rural Kenya. Their design consists of a dual-node insulated kettle with an integrated water filtration system. By having a secondary mode that only heats the water to 70°C, the design can help save energy when the user does not require boiling water. The insulation not only increases efficiency, but also means that water stays warm for longer. Within the region of focus in Kenya, 17 million people out of a population of 53 million people lack access to clean water. By making clean drinking water more accessible, this design could reduce the number of people drinking contaminated water. 

 

BRONZE 

 

Team 3 - Md. Sadik Abdal, Nafiul Alam and Md. Toufiqul Islam Bilash, Independent University, Bangladesh, Solar Direct Drive Vaccine Refrigerator and Effective Cold Chain System 

 

Cox’s Bazar, the region in Bangladesh where most Rohingya refugee camps are located, is thought to be suffering severely from COVID-19 related impacts. However, there is limited testing, and infection rates may be underreported. In Cox’s Bazar, many people lack access to electricity to power refrigerators and keep vaccines cool.  

 

To help tackle this, students from Independent University, Bangladesh, designed a smart solar-powered vaccine refrigeration and storage system. Their design converts solar power into ice banks that help keep vaccines at an optimum temperature throughout the night and on cloudy days when irradiance levels are low. The design also uses solar direct drive technology, which removes the need for traditional batteries. Increasing the availability of vaccines in remote and off-grid locations could help save more lives in rural areas and safeguard economies. Additionally, the lack of battery and use of solar can help ensure lower carbon emissions compared with a traditional vaccine refrigerator. 

 

BRONZE 

 

Team 10 - Mayanja Andrew, Alicwamu Moses, Adong Peace, Tamale Raymond Kiggundu and Ogwal Moris, Gulu University, Point of Use Solar Ultraviolet Water Disinfection for Emergency Situations 

 

To purify water in Ugandan refugee settlements, many people boil water by burning charcoal or firewood, which are expensive and emit harmful pollutants. This is inefficient, unreliable, and time-intensive, leaving many people without access to clean water.  

 

To help address this challenge, students from Gulu University proposed a low-cost and easy to use solar-powered ultraviolet water disinfection system. This could help improve water purification rates in refugee settlements and rural areas in Uganda. The system consists of a raw water tank plus a bio-filtration unit where raw water is filtered at a flow rate of 10L/hour and then fed into the ultraviolet disinfection chamber.  

 

Unlike existing purification methods, this design uses renewable energy and a bio-filter to eliminate any pollutants. The students ensured that their design would be inexpensive by using affordable and durable materials.  

 

BRONZE 

 

Team 12 - Souryadeep Basak and Lavkesh Balchandani, TERI School of Advanced Studies, Solar Powered Hydroponic Fodder Unit 

 

Around 60% of India’s population relies on agriculture for their livelihood. However, while the country boasts the world’s biggest livestock population, Indian farmers depend on income from crops. Many smallholder farmers living in rural areas cannot afford to feed their livestock and their animals have nutritional deficiencies.  

 

To help tackle this, students from TERI School of Advanced Studies designed a community level solar-powered hydroponic fodder unit for rural areas. The design uses the hydroponic method to grow green fodder quickly, which can help increase crop yields by sixfold compared to traditional approaches. This method is soilless, requires up to 95% less water than conventional fodder production, and takes up less space, as it is vertical. This could help boost livestock productivity and income generation for smallholder farmers.   

 

BRONZE 

 

Team 22 - Tommy Ross, Loughborough University, Design and Build a Solar Battery Cooker for Use in Sub-Saharan Africa 

 

In Sub-Saharan Africa, many people cook food on open fires, which use solid biomass fuels such as coal, charcoal, and wood. It is estimated that household air pollution linked to cooking with traditional stoves causes around 4 million premature deaths each year. Using traditional, fossil fuel powered stoves can also increase pollution and deforestation. In addition, clean, electric cookstoves are often too expensive for low-income households.  

 

To tackle this, Tommy Ross from Loughborough University has designed an affordable, solar battery-powered, cooker for use in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cooking in this way could help empower women, by freeing up their time spent collecting fuels. It could also provide a safer and more reliable alternative to dirty cookstoves and help reduce carbon emissions.


About the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge

  • The Efficiency for Access Design Challenge is a global, multi-disciplinary competition that empowers teams of university students to help accelerate clean energy access.

  • To provide sustainable energy for all, we urgently need to enhance the efficiency and affordability of high performing appliances. The Challenge invites teams of university students to create affordable and high-performing off-grid appliances and supportive technologies.

  • By bringing together and inspiring students, the competition aims to foster innovation in the off-grid appliances sector. It also seeks to help address barriers that limit market expansion in this area. Furthermore, the Challenge seeks to forge beneficial partnerships between universities, researchers and industry partners at a global level. In this way, it will further strengthen academic capacity within the off-grid sector

  • The competition started in September 2019. Teams included Durham University, Independent University, Bangladesh, Loughborough University, Makerere University, Strathmore University, Swansea University, UCL, University of Bath and the University of Strathclyde.

  • The Efficiency for Access Coalition and Engineers Without Borders UK are delighted to collaborate on the delivery of the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge. 

  • The Challenge is funded by UK aid and the IKEA Foundation.

  • The Efficiency for Access Coalition is coordinated jointly by CLASP and UK’s Energy Saving Trust.

  • The panel of judges included Robert MacIver, Infrastructure Adviser at Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Jeffrey Prins, Head of Renewable Energy Portfolio, IKEA Foundation and Jordan Broadbent, Business Manager, Shell Foundation.

The judging panel evaluated students’ projects based on the below three criteria: 

  • How designs improve on currently available solutions for end-users
  • Their ability to enhance users’ quality of life.
  • Feasibility to get to market at scale.  

The following private sector organisations were industry partners in the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge:

  • Acciona Foundation

  • Adili Solar Hubs Limited  
  • BURN MFG   

  • Cesal   

  • Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI)   

  • ColdHubs Ltd  

  • CREATIV Energy   

  • Cygni Energy   

  • Devidayal Solar Solutions Pvt Ltd   

  • ennos ag   

  • Equatorial Power   

  • Gham Power Nepal   

  • Grino Water solutions GmbH   

  • Harness Energy   

  • Innovex Uganda Limited

  • MECS   

  • M-KOPA   

  • Nadji.Bi Group   

  • Neopenda   

  • People, Energy and Environment Development Association (PEEDA)   

  • Promethean Power Systems   

  • Renewit   

  • SELCO Foundation   

  • Sofies Consulting   

  • Solaris Offgrid   

  • SunCulture   

  • SunFarmer   

  • S4S Technologies   

  • Village Infrastructure Angels Ltd

About Efficiency for Access

Efficiency for Access is a global coalition working to promote high performing appliances that enable access to clean energy for the world’s poorest people. It is a catalyst for change, accelerating the growth of off-grid appliance markets to boost incomes, reduce carbon emissions, improve quality of life and support sustainable development. Efficiency for Access consists of 16 Donor Roundtable Members, 17 Programme Partners, and more than 30 Investor Network members. Current Efficiency for Access Coalition members have programmes and initiatives spanning 44 countries and 22 key technologies. 

The Efficiency for Access Coalition is coordinated jointly by CLASP, an international appliance energy efficiency and market development specialist not-for-profit organisation, and Energy Saving Trust, which specialises in energy efficiency product verification, data and insight, advice and research. 

Find out more at www.efficiencyforaccess.org  

Engineers Without Borders UK

Engineers Without Borders UK engages and galvanises the engineering community to serve all people and our planet better than ever before. Part of a global movement of over 60 Engineers Without Borders organisations, to inspire, enable and influence the engineering community and together take action to put global responsibility at the heart of engineering. An example of their work is the award-winning Engineering for People Design Challenge. Every year they educate over 7,000 students to understand their responsibility and develop the skills to act on this. Find out more at www.ewb-uk.org    

UK Aid 

UK aid from the UK government, through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) which leads the UK’s work to end extreme poverty. It tackles the global challenges of our time including poverty and disease, mass migration, insecurity and conflict. Its work is building a safer, healthier, more prosperous world for people in developing countries and in the UK too. Find out more at https://www.ukaiddirect.org/ 

IKEA Foundation  

The IKEA Foundation (Stichting IKEA Foundation) works to create a better everyday life for the many people. As the philanthropic arm of INGKA Foundation, the owner of the IKEA Group of companies, we focus on improving the lives of vulnerable children by enabling their families to create sustainable livelihoods, and to fight and cope with climate change. Find out more at www.ikeafoundation.org 

To request the press package with profiles on the participants, images, and videos, please contact:

Sarah Hambly, Energy Saving Trust

sarah.hambly@est.og.uk

Jasmine Brand-Williamson, Energy Saving Trust

jasmine.williamson@est.org.uk


About Efficiency for Access

Efficiency for Access is a global coalition working to promote high performing appliances that enable access to clean energy for the world’s poorest people. It is a catalyst for change, accelerating the growth of off-grid appliance markets to boost incomes, reduce carbon emissions, improve quality of life and support sustainable development. Efficiency for Access consists of 16 Donor Roundtable Members, 17 Programme Partners, and more than 30 Investor Network members. Current Efficiency for Access Coalition members have programmes and initiatives spanning 44 countries and 22 key technologies. 

The Efficiency for Access Coalition is coordinated jointly by CLASP, an international appliance energy efficiency and market development specialist not-for-profit organisation, and Energy Saving Trust, which specialises in energy efficiency product verification, data and insight, advice and research. 

Find out more at www.efficiencyforaccess.org 


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