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Blog Post 9 September 2019 Updated 3 November 2020

Efficiency for Access Design Challenge

Students from around the world have the opportunity to design affordable, energy-efficient appliances as part of a new Design Challenge. Over the next two years, students from universities in the UK, Kenya, Uganda and Bangladesh will rise to the challenge of designing off-grid appliances that will operate in environments outside a developed electricity infrastructure.

Managed by Energy Saving Trust and CLASP, an international not-for-profit organisation that specialises in energy efficient appliances, the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge, with support from Engineers Without Borders UK, puts students and their universities at the forefront of energy access.

Operating under the Efficiency for Access Coalition, the Design Challenge is part of the DFID-funded Low Energy Inclusive Appliance programme (LEIA) which has the objective to double the efficiency and halve the cost of a range of electrical appliances suited for off- and weak-grid settings including households and small businesses. It will help to bring modern, reliable energy services to the 800million people who still have no access to electricity.

Man opening a fridge in small working area in Uganda

Working at the forefront of energy efficiency

We have invited around 200 students from eight universities in the UK, Kenya, Uganda and Bangladesh to participate in the inaugural year of the Energy for Access Design Challenge. The students come from a variety of disciplines including engineering, business, international development and others. They will work together in teams to come up with their design and business concepts.

The competition started at the beginning of September 2019 and will culminate in June 2020 at the Grand Final event. This event will bring together the competing teams to pitch their ideas to a panel of experts. It should prove to be an exciting networking opportunity for all the teams involved, bringing the students face to face with potential investors and industry experts in a Dragon’s Den type experience.

The Challenge is to come up with ideas that are innovative, economically viable and ethical, and there will be awards made at the final event for the best designs. There’s no guarantee of investment in any of the designs, but bringing together investors, experts and innovative design should be a positive recipe for future development, as well as exposing students to the ins and outs of the development process.

Students will benefit from a range of curated support provided by implementing partners and leading companies in the rapidly growing off-grid industry. They will gain experience considering the ethical, environmental, social and cultural aspects of engineering design.

The Efficiency for Access Design Challenge aims to:

  • promote academic research and entrepreneurial interest in the area of off-grid appliances
  • forge beneficial international partnerships between universities, researchers, industry and off-grid consumers
  • inspire student engagement and entrepreneurial interest in the off-grid ecosystem

Group of male and female students

Programme manager, Théo Schuhmacher commented: “This is a fantastic opportunity for universities and their Masters students to work at the forefront of energy access by designing affordable, energy-efficient appliances for people living with no access to the grid in developing countries. We’re all looking forward to seeing the results of the teams’ hard work next summer.”

Find out more about the Energy for Access Design Challenge.

For more information on sponsoring or getting involved with future rounds of the design challenge, contact

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Last updated: 3 November 2020