Update on the Clean Energy Challenge

The Clean Energy Challenge by What Design Can Do called on start-ups, designers and students from all over the world to rethink how we produce, distribute and use energy in México City, São Paulo, Nairobi, Delhi and Amsterdam. The response of the world wide creative industry was mind blowing: out of a total amount of 452 submissions, 20 winners were selected. All the winning teams received a tailor made Impact Development Program to further develop their ideas and prototypes.

STBY is very proud of all winning teams. Their projects are highly inventive, and differ in focus because they are all contextualised to the  local conditions in the five cities. STBY conducted the design research in preparation for the challenge and co-created the design briefs. As the global research partner of WDCD, we scoped the focus of global challenge to trigger creative solutions for local issues that matter most in each location.

From biomimetic coolers in India to the re-purposing of water towers  in The Netherlands

One of the winners, an Indian architect, found inspiration in nature to cool the environment without chemicals. His winning project, Beehive, is a biomimetic cooler and air purifier that is an inexpensive outdoor functional-art alternative to energy intensive cooling and air purification.

One of the Dutch winners, created clean energy storage units while preserving historic landscapes by repurposing the 180 currently functionless water towers in the Netherlands. By re-purposing them as energy storage units the design would need very little adaptation. In this way the concept integrates clean energy storage with another pressing issue: the preservation of water towers that are part of the cultural heritage of the Netherlands.

A multi-staged and highly collaborative process

The Clean Energy Challenge is the second Climate Action Challenge STBY partnered up with WDCD for. Over the past few years we have also run other design challenges, such as the No Minor Thing Challenge and the Refugee Challenge. Before announcing the winners, we go through many different stages together with WDCD and local research partners in the countries where we run the challenge.

Foundational research is the starting point for every challenge

The first step in compiling a design challenge is doing foundational research. The design research in preparation for the Clean Energy Challenge focused on finding out where designers can make a difference in five different cities – Mexico City, Sao Paulo, New Delhi, Nairobi, and Amsterdam. STBY initially explored the topic to set the scope and agenda for the design challenge, and then worked with our local research partners from the Reach network to define the final briefs that are most relevant to each location. These briefs are the starting point for the participants in the challenge.

Running the design challenge and selecting the winning teams

The second phase in a design challenge of this size is creating a challenge platform where the briefings are displayed and a call for submissions is launched. The five different briefings about clean energy were open for everyone on the international online platform of WDCD. While running the design challenge, Design Jams around te world were organised to encourage and support potential contributions. For instance, STBY ran  Design Jams in Amsterdam and Groningen (a city in the North of The Netherlands). After the submission of the contributions to the WDCD platform, they were reviewed and provided with constructive feedback to strengthen the proposals. Subsequently, an international jury of design experts selected the winning projects. Among the jury were Francoise Lavertu (country director of Tesla), Ayush Chauhan (co-founder of Quicksand) and Saskia van Stein (director at Bureau Europa), who judged the selected shortlist on relevance, impact, feasibility, scalability, excitement and commitment.

Tailer-made guidance in the acceleration phase

The twenty winning teams received both a budget and tailor-made guidance to develop their project during the acceleration phase of the challenge. The accelerator is aimed at giving the winners the tools to take their project to the next level. In each of the five cities, a local partner organised sessions to help the teams connect with relevant partners, finances, customers and networks that can help bring their solution to market. Ten of the winners were invited to Amsterdam for a one-week Bootcamp. Here they learned how to strengthening each team’s entrepreneurial skills and what it takes to build businesses that focus on sustainable outcomes.

Make it happen!

After the acceleration phase the winning projects of course should  make it happen, and work towards implementation and go-to market of their ideas and work towards a more sustainable world with less carbon emissions.