Announcing the global winners of imaGen Ventures 2022
The winning teams represent the brightest ideas of thousands of young innovators working to improve their communities and address the climate crisis
CAIRO, November 10, 2022 – A new wave of young climate leaders are here and they’re showing that they have the ingenuity, the drive, and the numbers to make a difference for the people and the planet!
Twelve teams of young entrepreneurs have been crowned global winners of GenU's imaGen Ventures 2022 at the youth pavilion at COP27. These young innovators and creators are using their talents to improve their communities and develop new solutions to help protect the planet.
From innovations for biodegradable plastic and green sanitation technologies to solar-powered lighting systems for schools and bio-briquettes, the twelve winning youth ventures represent the brightest ideas of thousands of young innovators across more than 40 countries.
Although imaGen Ventures is open to supporting and developing solutions addressing all SDGs, more than half of the total global projects submitted presented solutions related to climate action. This is a clear statement from young people that climate action is urgent and shows that the youth are increasingly taking matters into their own hands.
With mentoring and seed funding of up to $16,000 USD, the twelve winning ventures will have the resources they need to take their ideas to the next level and make an even bigger impact for their communities.
imaGen Ventures is one of Generation Unlimited’s flagship initiatives which provides young people with access to green and social entrepreneurial skills and brings together partners to nurture a critical mass of young changemakers dedicated to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. This edition was implemented together with UNICEF, UNDP, USAID, Scouts and Plan International.
The winners are:
Soigel, Egypt: Fertilizer and Aquagel made of sugarcane waste
Concerned with sugarcane waste pollution, of which 10 million tons are burned annually in Egypt, team Soigel has created a high-efficiency organic fertilizer made from recycled sugarcane waste that can absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. After conducting 40 interviews with farmers, the team identified the need for more effective fertilizers that help increase productivity and mitigates water usage. The Soigel team is now producing three products: An organic fertilizer called ‘Soilizer’, ‘Aquagels’ that control-release water thereby effectively decreasing water usage in farming, and a ‘Loaded Aquagel’ that control-releases fertilizer into the soil.
“Our team is driven toward achieving Egypt's Vision 2030 and creating a sustainable impact,” said the Soigel Team, adding that their aim is “solving the problems that face the world and being an icon for the youth around the world.”
“Our vision is to become the largest company in the world to produce organic fertilizer and Aquagel from recycling sugarcane waste and focus all its energy to serve the agricultural community by providing products that are competitive in the market, sustainable, eco-friendly, and highly efficient.”
Int-Tech, Pakistan: Biodegradable plastic with sensors that detect the expiry of the foods
Int-Tech is a youth venture from Pakistan that’s working towards replacing conventional plastic with biodegradable plastic that will detect the expiry of foods, help curb global plastic pollution, and improve waste management.
Int-Tech is solving a trio of problems through one medium: plastic pollution, food expiry issues, and waste management. The Bio Plastic is made of organic polymers that can be degraded within three to six months. Sensor sheets deduces the expiry and spoilage of wrapped food by changing the color of the plastic when the product starts spoiling.
“We have a single solution for the problems of plastic pollution, food expiry and food waste management. Artificially intelligent bio plastic is a biodegradable plastic that can be vanish from the environment within three to six months, and monitor the expiry of the perishable food products. A transparent bio plastic is used for wrapping of the goods, and a sensor sheet strip will detect the expiry of the foods.”
“Our project will revolutionize the packaging and plastic industry in Pakistan and later in other parts of the world,” said the team. “We are introducing new technology of plastic having fruitful impacts for humans’ bodies and earth by managing waste of organic food.”
Zambezi Ark Technologies, Zimbabwe: Off-grid lighting using recycled products
Poor access to lighting affects 70% of the rural population in Sub Saharan Africa due to low electrification rates in these areas according to the World Bank 2020. This has reduced productivity in various sectors mainly the education sector where lighting is very crucial. Poor access to quality lighting has left many students relying on lighting sources that have negative impacts on health, environment and economy.
Concerned with the situation, four young entrepreneurs from Zimbabwe have developed an off-grid solar powered Direct Current LED lighting system, which seeks to bring high quality and reliable lighting to schools and residential buildings. The team’s vision is to ensure that students in Africa have access to high quality and reliable lighting that is sustainable, circular and affordable.
“No one should be left in the dark,” the team said. “We are a team of motivated young technology enthusiasts who really believe education is the key to a more prosperous continent and that our solution will improve the education sector.
The system eliminates the use of inverters, LED drivers and also uses less wiring per lighting point. This reduction in components and wiring gives us a 30% cost reduction.
“We are empowered to light up Africa in a more sustainable way and leave no student behind with our Off-grid lighting system and Chigubhu lantern.”
Saniwise Toilet, Kenya: promoting health and agriculture fertilizers in informal settlements
Concerned with the lack of proper sanitation facilities in the Kisumu County, which leads to open defecation, five young entrepreneurs have ‘Saniwise’, an ecological and financially feasible modern sanitation technology that aims to address low accessibility to proper, safe and affordable sanitation.The toilet super structure is made up of 90% recycled plastics, reducing the material cost as well as environmental plastic footprints. It converts both urine and feces into bio-fertilizer.
“While several sanitation solutions have been adopted in response to the fecal sludge problem, their large scale applications in the low income areas have been ad downsides due to the high cost of installation and maintenance, no returns, and high ecological footprints,” the team told us.
“Our technology tackles the problem of poor sanitation among the urban and peri-urban low income areas who can't afford the cost of constructing a decent toilet facility or subscribe to monthly paid container based toilet facilities.”
Quebrada Agroecológica, Brazil: Natural Resources Management and Access to water
The Maria da Penha settlement in Brazil suffers from a lack of access to basic services and many residents struggle to lead decent lives. Access to clean water and sanitation, in particular, remain challenging for the community—residents are forced to spend a significant amount of their already small income on purchasing water—and many struggle to afford it. Team Quebrada Agroecológica is working to democratize a sustainable and lower-cost alternative minicistern model designed to lower the cost and maintain a sustainable capacity of water in the Maria da Penha settlement.
“Two thousand families will directly benefit from the cisterns in the Maria da Penha occupation,” said that team. “We intend to expand this project in other communities, occupations in São Paulo and all through Brazil, being able to impact thousands more families with water storage and its direct and indirect benefits.”
The team’s aim is to make use of rainwater to solve the problem of water scarcity and its impacts on the lives of community residents.
“We are already facing a catastrophic scenario caused by climate change (…) whether in the lack of drinking water or in the frequent flooding caused by rain, generating material losses to the residents and also in the proliferation of diseases,” said the team. “We feel obligated to change this situation and create alternatives to mitigate this effect. Today we are in the most important part of this process, which consists in the construction of cisterns.
Bio Briquettes, Uganda: Averting Deforestation
Uganda has experienced a 63% decline in forest cover over the past 25 years due to tree cutting for firewood, timber, and charcoal. The loss of trees in Northern Uganda has led to irregular dry seasons and drought, as well as unpredictable heavy rainfall.
Determined to help avert deforestation, five youngsters have teamed up to create a venture producing bio-briquettes from organic waste to be used as an alternative to charcoal.
The team’s solution uses organic by-products and household waste including peelings of cassava, potatoes, bananas, maize and beans stocks; groundnut and rice husk, cow dung, and saw dust, with clay soil, paper and cassava flour act as binding agents. These items are mixed in standard quantities, molded, compressed and sun dried. The final product is a black solid in multiple shapes.
“Providing a substitute for fuel for daily use by households will reduce deforestation, save trees and restore the productivity of land,” the team said. “There is abundant household waste from farm and animal products that can be circled and used to make alternative fuel. Making bio-briquettes affords the youth of Lacor to a make a significant contribution and social impact in our community.”
The bio-briquettes produce more heat, burn three times slower than charcoal, are reusable when not fully burned and can be used in any kind of charcoal stove.
Electric Bike, Jordan: Facilitating access to water in refugee camps
Two youngsters from Jordan have developed a solar-panel-powered electric bike to improve the quality of life for refugee camp residents and allow them to transfer water to their tent in a way that is fast, convenient, and requires less labor and effort. The bike can run for more than 10 hours on a single charge.
Transporting water in refugee camps is often a long journey and commonly done by women and children, the team tells us. “Our electric bike will address the lack of transportation options and means to carry water in Azraq Syrian refugee camp.”
“People in the camp had to suffer a lot fleeing their homes and coming to live in the camp, and getting water was always one of the main challenges for the families. “Our primary motivation is to come up with a solution that will help to make life better for people living in the camps, and we are constantly working to direct our energy, creativity, and hard work into the improvement of our community.”
Other non-climate-related winners are:
Team Lorem, Sierra Leone: Easy STEM Server
Some 84% of households in Sierra Leone lack internet access, limiting children and young people’s ability to connect and learn. Three young social entrepreneurs under the name ‘Lorem’ have developed ‘Easy STEM Server’, an offline database server that provides quality Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) content offline, enabling children and young people in Sierra Leone without internet access to learn, grow and develop their skills.
The venture provides various learning materials through Massive Open Online Stem Contents (MOOCs) to students without them needing internet data. The team is doing this by storing offline materials such in mini portable database servers.
“With passion, determination, and the dream to improve livelihoods through innovations, many students enter into STEM fields. But this is often cut short by the hard realities such as what it costs to have quality and practical STEM education. We aim to solve the problem so that these dreams can be actualized,” said the team.
“Our vision is to provide affordable, reliable, and quality access to organized STEM learning content for every STEM learner in the world.”
The team has tested the server with 273 engineering students from Fourah Bay College, one of Sierra Leone's main colleges with a top engineering program.
Techno Blind, Syria: Smart cane for people with visual impairments
Inspired by a friend who is visually impaired, this youth venture has developed a smart cane that can detect horizontal and vertical obstacles, inform the cane’s holder of their location and guides them to their desired destination. It also has a currency reader and an SOS feature.
“Our project aims at improving the blinds’ quality of lives by providing them with the ability to access more opportunities safely and independently and scale-up their engagement in their communities eventually,” said the team. “Our vision is a world where blind people have equal access to education, learning, and employment opportunities, as well as to practice various activities and sports just as their sighted peers.”
The a smart cane, dubbed “Echo White Star”, boasts multiple features including:
-Detecting horizontal obstacles with a field of 150 degrees including holes and stairs,
-Smart navigation features
-Currency reader that facilitates cash transactions, shopping, and bill payments.
“We are motivated by our passion to apply our knowledge, experience, and innovative ideas in developing solutions to address the needs of the most vulnerable, supporting, empowering, and integrating them into their communities.”
MeDialog, Armenia: Media Literacy Education
Aiming to address the lack of media literacy and in the face of a proliferation of false or misleading information online, the MeDialog venture from Armenia will incorporate VR, board games, a mobile app, a cartoon, and courses in formal education institutions to create a learning package designed to instill critical media literacy skills among young people. The venture will also teach young people about cyberbullying, cybercrime and personal online data.
“Our main motivation is to (…) educate and economically develop not only ourselves, but also individuals, communities, cities, the state and, if successful, the world,” the team stated. “The main idea driving our team is to have a media literate society, in which people will not indirectly provide their personal data to strangers or succumb to provocations.”
EDUCANDO, Nicaragua: Didactic materials to facilitate the development of hearing impaired children.
Made up of three twenty-four-year-old members from Nicaragua, ‘Educando’ aims to connect hearing impaired people using educational materials.Using graphic design techniques and a digital toolbox, Educando has created four teaching materials and an animated video to encourage boys and girls, with and without disabilities, to learn and fully develop their potential.
“Hearing impairment is an educational need because it affects children’s cognitive and socialization process, limiting their intellectual development,” the team told us. “The main motivation is that we have seen the happiness in the faces of the children and we would like to be able to help more children in the country and why not in different parts of the world.”
Khutwa, Lebanon: Sexual education awareness and hotline
Two young entrepreneurs from Lebanon have created ‘Khutwa’, a tool that aims to help prevent sexual exploitation and violence by providing appropriate educational program for adolescent girls and boys. These programs focus on sexual awareness, legal guidance, and culture.
The team aims to cover 70% of high-schools in the north of Lebanon by the end of 2023 by collaborating with civil society organizations, ministry of education, psychologists, educators, social activists, and other experts in their related fields. The team have been working on several programs and events with many local CSOs in Lebanon such as Teach For Lebanon (TFL), and Pafcad.
“We are the first educational program in north Lebanon that includes sexual awareness, legal guidance, societal culture, cognitive listening, with a hotline for reporting and referrals to specialists both virtually and physically,” the team told us. “Education is power, knowledge is power! And the khutwa team dreams about a better future where every youth is safe.”