Over 800 million people across the planet still don’t have access to electricity.

Whilst the deadline for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals grows ever nearer, the unpredictable climate calls for the essential and ubiquitous use of sustainable and renewable energy. It is time for inspired innovators to take the lead in truly understanding the challenges people are still facing, whilst also considering the environmental consequences.

Off grid renewable alternatives have become one of the most sort after solutions to bridge the energy deficit, as it is reported that 500 million people in sub-Saharan Africa will need to be served by these very solutions to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 7, in just over ten years time. The International Energy Agency has estimated that off-grid solar home systems and mini-grids, rather than other renewable or non-renewable solutions, are the most economic ways to reach around 60% of those still not connected to the grid.

From September 2019, we are launching the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge in partnership with Efficiency for Access, to empower and educate future innovators to improve critical energy services such as cooling, cooking and refrigeration. Students from Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda and the UK will be supported by nine off-grid industry partners through webinars, mentoring and feeding back on submissions. This challenge not only creates innovative designs, but fulfils a larger purpose by creating networks between students, academics and industry leaders in the hopes to accelerate progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 7.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for universities to work at the forefront of energy access by designing affordable, energy-efficient appliances for people.  We’re all looking forward to seeing the results of the teams’ hard work next summer.”

Théo Schuhmacher, Energy Saving Trust

As part of the DFID-funded £18 million Low Energy Inclusive Appliances Programme, the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge is embedded within curriculum and is open to students from all disciplines who are in their final year of their Bachelor or Master’s degree. The students are encouraged to collaborate with other individuals, teams and universities before they submit their final work on the 15th of April 2020.

Participating universities for our first year include Durham University, Independent University Bangladesh, Loughborough University, Makerere University, Strathmore University, Swansea University, University College London (UCL) and University of Strathclyde. Our industry partners include Azuri Technologies, BBOXX, BURN Manufacturing, D.Light, Innovex, M-KOPA, Renewit, Sun Culture and Solaris Off-Grid.

“The Efficiency for Access Design Challenge is an exciting opportunity for us. We want top talent to join the off-grid industry and bright students to think about the problems we are facing.”

Jon Ridley, Director M-KOPA

Once designs have been submitted, finalists will be selected to present either remotely or in person at a Grand Finals in June 2020. This event is an opportunity for academics, industry professionals and investors to judge how well the students have approached the challenge, technical feasibility, whether it is a scalable solution, if they have a strong business model and critically, and most importantly how the end user has been considered throughout.

We look forward to seeing how the challenge progresses and the innovation it creates. Interested in finding out more about the challenge? Be sure it email us at
[email protected].