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News 23 June 2021

Efficiency for Access Design Challenge winners showcase clean energy innovations

Today (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. The Efficiency for Access Coalition is coordinated jointly by CLASP and Energy Saving Trust. 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.

The winning teams’ projects are:

  • 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’ and 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.”

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 behaviour 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.

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 COP26.

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.”

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.

Last updated: 23 June 2021