Traditionally, the infrastructure industry has been slow to capitalise on digital innovations. With global megatrends like urbanisation and population growth, climate change and digitisation the time is ripe for infrastructure issues to be disrupted by digital ideas.
Last year, Global Infrastructure Hub launched InfraChallenge and invited applicants from around the world and across sectors to pitch big ideas to drive digital transformation in infrastructure and solve economic or social infrastructure issues. The impressive number of applications we received from over 30 countries demonstrated a passion to innovate, disrupt and transform infrastructure. After closely reviewing all the applications, the Top 20 were selected by GI Hub in April 2020. These 20 teams were then matched with an innovation or infrastructure expert and received eight weeks of mentoring and support to help further develop their entries and pitch for a place in the Top 10.
Next week our Top 10 finalists will pitch live at the InfraChallenge Final for the top spot. In the lead up to the Finals we asked the teams a few questions to find out what makes them tick, key learnings from their start-up journey and what drives them. This is Part One of the interviews, you can view Part Two here.
Q. What is your proudest impact through your innovation to date?
"Our proudest impact has been gaining full validation of our product and solution from a major global infrastructure company. This has led to a multi-year contract that will enable us to use our technical solution to solve infrastructure problems whilst employing thousands of people. Being able to solve both a social and technical problem is very empowering."
"The mentoring phase of InfraChallenge prompted us to consider the market and the direct and indirect benefits that our project could generate. Researching sanitation provision in India showed us how we could accelerate the planning of wastewater networks and potentially help the lives of millions by reducing the risk of infectious diseases. This will in turn attract business, create jobs and help develop the local economy. This has persuaded us to offer our high-level planning tool as a free service to selected Indian Government clients to test the market, obtain feedback and demonstrate the benefits."
Q. What drives you?
"We are passionate believers of social transformation through knowledge, the empowerment of citizens and a multidisciplinary approach. The gap that humankind can go through to recover the pathway into conscious sustainability shall be hard but not impossible, we aim for it, we go ahead."
"Look at the billions that are invested in apps and technologies that do little to enhance our lives or the physical world around us. If a small fraction of that money was invested in technologies that can transform the way infrastructure is designed, built and operated then the societal gains in developed and developing countries could be enormous. We think that new technologies like ours can help others to unlock some of these gains and start galvanising governments and investors to invest more in AI that both delivers improvements in our physical environment and a return on investment."
"I like pushing the limits of what’s possible to impact the world with game changing technology solutions that improve livelihoods and our environment. I like to imagine the future of cities, the future of industry, and the next stage of humanity as it co-exists with increasingly smart and augmented technologies. Being able to take control on some of that evolution, turning vision into reality, then seeing that reality unfold – has been driving me the past 17 years of my entrepreneurial career."
Q. If you had the ability to do it again what would you do differently?
"Possibly employ more staff so we could share the workload - however this is not always possible with start-ups with resources being a bare minimum! We have been fortunate many of our team members have the ability to multi-task, coding one day, marketing the next!"
"Three main ideas. To gather more people that think out of the box like us; support the incoming ideas and teams that may create the future and understand the value of time."
Q. What attracted you to apply for the InfraChallenge?
"The winners get exposure to the G20’s Infrastructure Working Group and Multilateral Development Banks and that really excites us. While these stakeholders are unlikely to be the end-user for the new technologies proposed through the competition, they can drive industry adoption by creating stronger incentives to use them. An industry supply chain that gets paid for time and materials does not have a good reason to aggressively adopt new tools that massively cut down resources and effort needed to deliver infrastructure projects. We want to influence that discussion and make sure the supply chain is rewarded for taking risks."
"It was rather a speculative entry to see how we would compare with others on the global innovation stage. In that respect we were delighted and somewhat surprised to get shortlisted in the Top 20 and now to be in the Top 10 is fantastic. We were keen to obtain industry and market insights to develop our idea and accelerate the route to market, which now has the added benefit of hopefully being able to help improve the lives of those in developing countries, where Creating Networks would deliver the most benefit."
"We wanted to be part of a global event to showcase concrete digital transformation initiatives, which we hope can inspire others. As our solutions converge various technologies in Robotics, 5G, IoT, Cloud, and Artificial Intelligence, we felt that the InfraChallenge was a strong fit with our vision and solutions. We also like the high level of credibility associated with GI Hub and MIT Solve."