This month, students in the Master in Sustainable Business & Innovation participated in the 3-day Innovation Challenge. During the competition, students worked in teams to produce disruptive innovation business ideas in the area of sustainability. Teams were mentored by successful entrepreneurs from the EADA alumni community as they followed a specific methodology to arrive at their pitch. They progressed through rounds by successfully pitching their ideas to a panel of experts and “investors”.
This year’s winning pitch, SunFridges, was based on a solar powered refrigerator accessible in countries with regular power outages. The team was made up of 5 members: Nina Breitenstein (Switzerland), Abby French (U.S.), Luna Idriss (Lebanon), Erik Moltzen (Denmark) and Katherine Zazueta (Mexico). Together, they set out to find a solution to improve the quality of life of the Lebanese people who regularly suffer from power outages. They focused on the basic need of providing food security during insecure times by designing a solar powered refrigerator accessible to every household in the country.
We interviewed the representative of the SunFridges team, Luna Idriss, to find out what makes a winning idea.
What was the Innovation Challenge like? How did you feel when you won?
It was fun to prepare the whole pitch in such a short amount of time and we enjoyed working together as a team. We were very excited with the result– honestly, we didn’t expect to win!
How did you choose the issue of food security? What motivated you to focus on Lebanon?
This problem in Lebanon is very complex. Lebanon has been dealing with power cuts and outages for years because of the corrupt government and, more recently, because of fuel shortages.
We were inspired to try to tackle this problem, but we of course couldn’t solve the whole energy problem in 48 hours. That is how we decided to focus on providing secure and reliable energy for fridges, one of the main sources of energy consumption in household appliances. We wanted to make fridges accessible for everyone, especially for lower income families that cannot afford high electricity prices and do not have access to a generator.
What was the most challenging part of the competition?
We have done a lot of presentations over the past few months, but this was especially challenging because we had to come up with an idea in a really short period of time.
For me, the most challenging part was just before the semifinals — making the final changes to the presentation, tweaking it to create the best possible pitch for the final presentation.
How important was teamwork?
We worked really well together as a team — being from different backgrounds really helped. I would say that my team was very empathetic, because even though my teammates are not from Lebanon, they understood the problem and we all brainstormed together to find the best possible solution.
What do you think made your team’s idea a winner?
We had a very concrete problem and a clear context, and we collected data right from the source: I asked my parents and we collected data from people living there.
In terms of the solution, it was both innovative and disruptive, because solar powered fridges don’t yet exist in Lebanon. We focused on the financials as well, describing how we could make this product accessible, reliable and feasible in Lebanon.