Air Conditioning Solutions

Published Jan-23-10

Innovative air conditioning solutions for old large buildings in tropical climates.

Inter-American Development Bank, Panama

The Story:

Air Conditioning Solutions In the ceaseless search for new ideas, the open innovation landscape offers a planet full of brilliant brains with the skills to generate solutions and novel ways of thinking. Cash-based contests are a cost-effective way of dipping into the global talent pool to come up with solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.

Open Innovation Competition

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) wanted to focus attention on energy efficiency and renewable resources and so it launched the 2009 IDEAS Energy Innovation Contest for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The principal aim was to kick-start the development of new ideas to tackle the problem of energy shortages afflicting the region, which is particularly acute in rural and low-income areas. The incentives to participants were many and included the chance to make a difference, the intellectual rigor of a stimulating challenge, and an award fund of between US $4million and US $6 million which would be dispensed over a three-year period to multiple projects.

Multiple Proposals

The competition was open for three months and more than 1,000 proposals from community groups, individual inventors, universities, companies and foundations were submitted for improving energy efficiency and increasing access to renewable energy sources. The entries came from nearly every country in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 250 were shortlisted to go through to the next stage.

The ideas were adjudicated by a panel of judges from the sponsoring bodies including IDB and GVEP International (a UK-based non-governmental organization) who selected the best ones based on criteria that included degree of innovation, financial sustainability and replicability.

The Winners

A total of twenty-six winners were announced and each was given up to US $200,000. The IDEAS contest sponsors are also providing technical advice and access to experts to each winning team with the ambition of turning the winning proposals into commercially viable solutions to confront the energy problems.

Air Conditioning Solutions

One of the winning ideas came from Zernike America Latina S.A, a Panama-based company that won US $172,000 to develop innovative air conditioning solutions for large size buildings in tropical climates. The main focus will be on old buildings with obsolete systems. Instead of replacing entire units the solution will adopt a technology derived from domotics, which involves the development of smart automated systems. Alessandro Favalli, the managing director of Zernike estimates that this will achieve energy savings of up to 35 percent.

Amongst the other innovative solutions that the open innovation contest yielded were an indirectly charged solar ferry, and the production of bio-ethanol from cheese waste for the small dairy industry in Chile.

The contest organizers believe that by providing clear detailed criteria for the energy solutions required, they have helped to accelerate thinking in the renewable energy field. This in turn should lead to more rapidly-available commercial solutions to tackle the energy problems in Latin American and Caribbean countries.

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