Open Innovation Contest Seeks Novel Bike Designs for Africa
A search for novel bicycle designs for Africa illustrates how open innovation competitions can make a difference in the world.
Cycling out of Poverty, Netherlands
The Wiki-Bike African Design contest was an open innovation project to create sustainable bicycle designs made from environmentally friendly and locally sourced materials. The principle aim was to support the African continent instead of just throwing resources at it. The environment would also benefit with reduced CO2 emissions.
The contest was the brainchild of Netherlands-based charity Cycling out of Poverty. In the Netherlands, as in most countries, bicycles are predominantly used for leisure and commuting. However, as the charity pointed out, in Africa they can be a tool to reduce poverty and improve access to healthcare, education, and potable water.
Participants were invited to submit their designs to wiki-bike.com, an online platform for everyone who believes that bicycles can make a difference in the world.
For a six month period students, designers, engineers and other interested parties submitted their concepts for durable and sustainable bicycles.
The judging panel paid attention to six criteria in particular:
• Technology – is it rigid, reliable, cheap and easy to use?
• Target group – is the product suitable for African people, market and
• Overall design – what are the innovative concepts?
• Business case – will the product sell in Africa? What is the overall ROI?
• Sustainability – how sustainable is the product?
• Affordability – is the relation of price and quality acceptable?
During this first phase of the competition 63 ideas were sent in. The judges whittled them down to five winning designs.
These contributions were given their own design team to help turn the ideas into prototypes and develop business models in preparation for a final round of judging.
The winning team came from the University of Technology Delft in the Netherlands. They developed a simple bicycle trailer design. The jury members didn't think the concept particularly novel, however, they did believe it best met competition criteria in providing African families with the most suitable, durable and affordable solution.
One of the trailer's most important features is the ability to configure simply, safely and quickly, a variety of add-ons to meet the needs of various types of users.
The multi-purpose trailer keeps different cargo loads, such as fish and crops separate with a modular container system. The team developed their idea based on research of the needs of local farmers, fisherman and bodo-boda (bicycle taxi) drivers.
The team’s prize was a 10-day visit to Kisumu in Kenya to continue to improve the prototype, train local mechanics, and start local production.
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