XPRIZE lands to ignite innovation

Tags: News

Tata, others bring non-profit outfit to fire the Indian mind

Ever thought of wireless transmission of electricity or deflecting an asteroid that poses a great threat to humanity? Is anyone thinking of creating a synthetic organism that can be replicated on Mars to help future Martian explorers?

How about a sensor that can map diseases through mobile phones or a mechanism to create organs from human cells to be transplanted in mass scale? And, to beat them all, how about a technology that can help you go invisible? Sound weird, but there are people willing to bet on such ideas. So wake up and start pre­paring.

XPRIZE, the world-renowned innovation engine and facilitator of exponential change, which is planning to hold multi-million-dollar global competitions for such ideas in the coming years, has just set shop in India.

The illustrious board of XPRIZE includes Ra­tan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons; Google founders Lary Page and Eric Schmidt; acclaimed filmmaker and explorer James Cameron; Navin Jain, chairman of Inome, and Paresh Ghelani, CEO of 2020 Company, among others.

The three Indians on the board are instrumental in bringing XPRIZE to India to ensure that the first breakthrough innovation happens from India. The non-profit outfit will also cater to India-specific issues here.

XPRIZE was involved in making space travel a private commercial activity and brought Richard Branson to participate and form Virgin Galactic by licencing the technology involved in making the first private spacecraft under the Ansari XPRIZE challenge.

Aiming to cater to India-specific issues, XPRIZE has invited individuals and companies to innovate and fund projects in myriad areas like clean drinking water, solid waste management, development of micro-nutrients, air cleaning, mass connectivity, mass transport systems and transparency in governance. The winning solutions should be scalable and extremely affordable.

“We are holding the visioneering sessions for the first time in India in Mumbai on April 16 and 18, where thought leaders, academia and individual talents would come together and discuss their innovative solutions and the way ahead,” said Zenia Tata, programme director for global expansion at XPRIZE. “The company may even tie up with some of the companies in the field where lots of them have shown willingnessto invest and sponsor projects.”

XPRIZE hopes to identify at least three sectors by September for India and have a slate of price that would motivate people to improve their skills and impact more than one billion people. “We are looking for ideas for radical change that would completely transform the way people talk and think about these issues. One thought that comes to mind is like changing plastics into petrol,” Tata said. Tata said India needed transformational changes in areas like healthcare and poverty eradication. “An idea like disease identification through non-invasive sensors and scanners can help save lives and reduce fatality in countries where several communicable diseases have similar symptoms and incubation period and lead to deaths if not diagnosed on time,” she said.

Grant Campany, senior director of Qualcomm Tricorder project, said, “Our ongoing challenge Qualcomm Tricorder puts health in your palm. A combination of cloud computing, mobile platform, artificial intelligence and lab-on-a-chip technology will help almost seven billion people use low-cost medical diagnostics at a click of a button. The challenge is funded by Qualcomm Foundation and the prize will be awarded in early 2015,” he said.

There is not an area where XPRIZE is not looking for transformation change. The future challenges would include fighting corruption, securing women from rape, security in homes, affordable housing, desert farming and efficient and high-yield farm productivity to cater to nine billion people — 70 per cent of that in urban areas.

The list also include solar and wind energy storage at mass scale and ocean mapping, among others.

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