Smart Villages launches energy challenge for East African entrepreneurs

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The global Smart Villages initiative has launched its Energy Innovation Challenge for young entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers in East Africa, aimed at coming up with innovative ways of distributing or implementing energy technologies for off-grid villages.

Smart Villages is inviting applications from teams including at least one engineer or scientists, with the winning applicants gaining a spot in the Cambridge Development Initiative (CDI) summer 2015 entrepreneurship training course based at the University of Dar es Salaam and the opportunity to pitch for US$3,000 prize capital to help implement their idea.

Project co-leaders Dr John Holmes and Dr Bernie Jones said technological innovations for providing electricity services, lighting and cooking were changing attitudes towards off-grid energy in the developing world.

“However, despite decreasing costs and increased consumer demand for these technologies, their distribution and implementation remain challenging. We have already held a series of workshops in Africa and Asia confirming this and demonstrating that finding the right business model for an off-grid energy solution can be tricky and sometimes comes after a lot of trial and error. To address this issue, we have therefore decided to trial this first Energy Innovation Challenge in East Africa,” they said.

Kristin Shine Polman, director for International Competitions at Smart Villages, said every great innovation starts with an idea, but that learning the skills to develop these ideas into a successful business is just as important.

“We are delighted to have been able to collaborate with the Cambridge Development Initiative to run a competition focused on introducing students with a science and engineering background to the skills necessary to turn a great idea into a successful real world innovation. We have already had an enthusiastic response to the competition and are looking into running a similar one in India,” she said.

“This competition is a great opportunity for current and recent students to get the chance to work with outstanding local and international organisations including Global Village Energy Partnership, Practical Action, The Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) and E.ON Off-Grid Solutions. By running this competition, Smart Villages hopes that students will be inspired and enabled to make a difference in the village-level energy space.”

The closing date for entries is 12pm EAT on April 17.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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