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Experimenting with innovation prizes

Solar fridge

Experimenting with innovation prizes

Prizes have long been used as a way of stimulating technological innovation. More recently, governments have started to use innovation prizes to tackle social issues.

The Ideas to Impact programme, funded by DFID, was set up to test the application of innovation prizes in a development context.

The programme aims to help deliver effective solutions in the areas of climate mitigation and adaptation, energy access, water and sanitation. Energy 4 Impact leads the work on energy access. The team has designed two prizes to drive innovation in the solar refrigeration market: the Global LEAP Off-Grid Refrigerator Competition and the Off-Grid Cold Chain Competition. 

The first competition aimed to identify products that are efficient enough to run economically on solar panels, and can also be suitable for small retailers. The winning fridge manufacturer Palfridge, a Swaziland-based company, was awarded US $200,000 from the competition. Their model demonstrated market-leading advancement during field testing, was energy efficient, easy to install, use, and maintain. Feedback from entrepreneurs will help manufacturers develop the market for off-grid refrigerators.

The second competition is focused on larger, off-grid cooling technology for use in agricultural businesses. 10 off-grid energy-efficient, sustainable and cost-effective technologies, which have the potential to meet the needs of African farmers and food suppliers, have been shortlisted. Finalists were awarded £10,000 to get their off-grid cold storage units to Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia where they will be tested in the field. The winners of the second round will be announced in the summer of 2019, and will receive cash prizes up to £25,000.