Smart Villages launches energy challenge to address off-grid settlements

Smart Village

Smart Villages is inviting East African entrepreneurs to form teams and come up with imaginative ways of distributing and implementing new or existing energy technologies for off-grid villages. It has also said that each team should at least consist of one science and engineering student or recent graduate from an East African University.

The winning applicants will earn a place in the Cambridge Development Initiative (CDI) summer 2015 entrepreneurship training course based at the University of Dar es Salaam and an opportunity to pitch its ideas for US$3 000 prize capital to help implement their idea.

The competition is a collaboration between the Cambridge Development Initiative and Smart Villages. Applications are already open until 17 April 2015. Training and pitching competition will be between July and August 2015

Kristin Shine Polman, Director for International Competitions at Smart Villages, says that Smart Villages hopes that students will be inspired and enabled to make a difference in the village-level energy space.

“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.”

There is no doubt that Africa, especially the villages, have a big problem when it comes to energy. The current means of dispensing energy are simply not sufficient and a different kind of thinking needs to be introduced to deal with the issue.

Kristin also suggests that the problem does not necessarily lie with innovation but that there needs to be a business model around it.

“Every great innovation starts with an idea, but learning the skills to develop your idea into a successful business are just as important as the idea itself.”

It is the business of innovation that the competition wants to focus on. Applicants are encouraged to include the following in their application:

  • Ideas to implement and/or scale promising new technologies, for example, for cooking, cooling, mini-grids, direct mechanical power, etc.
  • Distribution models for energy products and systems.
  • Innovative payment and financing systems.

According to Project Co-Leaders Dr John Holmes and Dr Bernie Jones, technological innovations have begun to eradicate the problem of off-grid communities but there are still plenty of challenges.

“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 Asian 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.”

Full details on the competition can be found here.

Image: Smart Villages



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