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Efficiency for Access Design Challenge celebrates university students promoting clean energy access in emerging economies

Winning teams from Kenya, Uganda and the UK have been announced at the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge Grand Final.

Efficiency for Access Design Challenge celebrates university students promoting clean energy access in emerging economies.

University students from Kenya, Uganda, and the UK beat teams from around the world to win the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge at today’s Grand Final event. Delivered by Efficiency for Access, with the support of Engineers Without Borders UK, the 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.

The Efficiency for Access Design Challenge invited teams of university students to design affordable and energy-efficient appliances and technologies for low to middle income countries. By bringing together and inspiring university students, the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge’s goal was to foster innovation in the off-grid appliances sector. The competition also sought to address barriers limiting market expansion in this area.

The winning teams’ projects are:

  • Gold: University College London, ‘Off-grid electric pressure Cookers for Sub-Saharan African communities’, and Makerere University, Uganda, ‘Standalone solar load management system’
  • Silver: University of Strathclyde, ‘e-Cook for developing countries’, and Makerere University, ‘Solar energy efficient fish dryer’
  • Bronze: Strathmore University, ‘Kijiji, a solar powered container with essential services for empowering rural communities’, and University of Bath, ‘Off-grid refrigeration systems (ACE)’

International Environment Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith said:

“Climate change is one of the biggest global threats we face, so it’s fantastic to see students from around the world helping us to achieve a greener future by finding innovative solutions to improve access to clean energy. This not only protects the environment, but also people’s health.

“UK aid has already given 26 million people in the world’s poorest countries improved access to clean energy and we will continue to drive through such global change, including as hosts of COP26 next year.”

The Challenge began in September 2019 with students submitting their projects in April 2020 and presenting their projects to a panel of expert judges on 17 and 19 June. Given COVID-19 restrictions, the pitching sessions were delivered online. Participating universities were Durham University, Independent University of Bangladesh, Loughborough University, Makerere University, Strathmore University, Swansea University, University College London, University of Bath and the University of Strathclyde.

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

“The IKEA Foundation is thrilled to celebrate the outstanding work of the winning teams in the inaugural year of the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge. If we are serious about delivering renewable energy access for all by 2030, we need innovative ideas from creative people today. The University College London team has done just that.”

Today’s Grand Final event provided a platform for the winning teams to showcase their submissions to over 150 leading academia, students, companies and investors in the off-grid sector. In the coming months, Efficiency for Access will promote students’ projects across its digital and social media channels.

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

“We've been incredibly inspired by the students’ creativity, passion and approach to the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge, developing their learning through this real-world design challenge and further support from the off-grid industry mentors. Congratulations to the winning teams and all the students who took part in the competition.”

840 million people around the world live without access to electricity or appliances that enable them to earn a living or provide essential services including clean cooking, irrigating agriculture and communications. To develop markets for these appliances and enhance clean energy access, products need to become even more efficient and affordable.