Visionary Ideas to Change the World

Published Apr-13-15

A touch-free smartphone for paralyzed people, an eco-friendly charcoal and a vaccine that doesn’t require cold storage are among the winners of a year-long global open innovation challenge.

Verizon, United States

The Story:

Visionary Ideas to Change the World Broadband and telecommunications company Verizon created a $10 million challenge for smart brains to come up with ground breaking concepts in the healthcare, education, transportation and sustainability sectors. Like other companies with similar challenges, Verizon went beyond its traditional sources of ideas. The company was attracted to the prospect of fresh eyes and diverse thinking to help it achieve its innovation goals in this endeavor.

World-Changing Ideas

The second ever Powerful Answers Award was held in 2014 and consisted of three rounds:

• Round 1 was for open submissions
• Round 2 sought more details and full proposals for those ideas that made it
through the first stage
• Round 3 invited a small group of finalists to make in person pitches to the
Verizon judging panel

There were first place winners in each of the four categories who all received $1 million dollars to further their ideas. Runners up and third place winners in those categories received $250,000 each.

Open Innovation Winners

The winner of the Education Sector was a touch-free smartphone and tablet technology for paralyzed children and adults. Users can operate the smartphone by head movements, which is particularly useful for people who have little or no use of their hands. It was developed by Sesame Enable, a company based in Israel.

The Healthcare Sector winner was the New York-based non-profit Organize for its simplified organ donation system. It aims to provide a more joined up donor system that allows US states to easily find donors across the country. This should cut the waiting list for organ transplants because until now the coordination has been fragmented with each state operating a separate database.

The $1 million winner of the Sustainability Sector was Uganda-based Eco-Fuel Africa for its green charcoal. This is a carbon neutral cooking fuel made from biomass waste such as rice husks and sugarcane waste. The innovation is a response to the massive swathes of forests that are cut down to provide wood-based fuels. The company’s green innovation is 65% cheaper than charcoal from wood and burns clearer and longer. Use of the fuel can reduce the rate of deforestation.

The winner of the Transportation Sector was US-based Vaxess Technologies for a soluble silk-stabilized vaccine that can be shipped without refrigeration. Millions of people die each year because they do not have access to the proper vaccinations, and part of the reason is the lack of a cold chain infrastructure. Most vaccines require cold storage.

“By creating stable vaccines that can withstand heat, our technology will extend access to vaccines to developing countries,” said Vaxess co-founder Patrick Ho.

Further Innovation

The open innovation contest continues for a third year with the Powerful Answers Award 2015. It is inviting more innovators to come up with ideas that have the potential to change the world.

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