After a day of live pitches before a packed audience of over 300 attendees and questions from a judging panel, the category winners and overall national winner of the annual MSDUK Innovation Challenge were announced.
Simon Ighofose, courtesy of Pyrogenesis.
Simon Ighofose, CEO of PyroGenesys, a clean energy company dedicated to offering off-grid communities access to consistent, reliable, affordable electricity won Sustainable Futures category of the 2019 MSDUK Innovation Challenge.
PyroGenesys was born after Simon left a career in local government to pursue a business venture in West Africa. He quickly realised, however, that the entire Nigerian population lacked access to consistent, reliable, affordable electricity. Having read an article published by two Aston University academics showing how pyrolysis can convert cassava peel into diesel to run generators, Simon decided to enrol on the Chemical Engineering masters degree at Aston University to further understand this technology, before forming a company to develop an improved pyrolysis technology based on what he had learned whilst conduction research at the European Bioenergy Research Institute at Aston University.
“Being an MSDUK Innovation Challenge finalist couldn’t have come at a better time for PyroGenesys” said Simon, speaking after his win. “Just having the opportunity to reach out to such a distinguished audience is a prize in itself, to win this category, well that was just phenomenal! Many rural communities in Sub-Sahara Africa lack access to electricity yet the crop waste they produce can be converted into renewable electricity, heat and smokeless solid fuels using the PyroPower system developed by PyroGenesys. PyroGenesys secured a place on the Climate-KIC Stage 1 Clean-Tech 4 Acceleration programme in 2017 and this helped us to develop the initial business plan. I am also using my previous experience of managing a £4.5 million local authority grant programme and the experience I’ve had delivering a capital project at the Dow chemical plant in Barry to ensure the engineering deliverables in this project are fully realised. Providing these off-grid communities with access to consistent, reliable, affordable electricity will enable them to develop essential services that promote health, education and economic growth and prosperity. That’s why we do this.”
Headline sponsor and Challenge judge Denis Ford, International Sourcing Leader EMEA, NE/SE Asia and S. Pacific at Cummins, added that the quality of the pitches was superb and the finalists did a great job in this pressured situation. Their innovations covered an enormous spectrum of sectors ranging from space technology to portable dishwashers, from pressure-sensing technology to bio-renewable tech that coverts agricultural waste into electricity, and from digital marketing innovations through to cutting edge developments in machine-translation for the medical sector. This year’s finalists were based across the UK including Manchester, Leicester, London, Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Hatfield and 31 percent are female founders. They also came from a wide spread of ethnic backgrounds including Pakistani, Persian, Indian, Caribbean, African, Chinese and Asian. Each year this Challenge grows and becomes more and more vibrant and important to innovation generally and diversity specifically.
The national finalists for the 2019 MSDUK Innovation Challenge were;
Motics – category winner: Healthcare & Wellbeing
Pukket – category winner: Social Innovation and overall MSDUK Innovation Challenge winners
£5,000 cash prize for the Innovation Challenge winner plus introductions to MSDUK’s investor network and workshops
£40,000 worth of business school scholarships at Ivy League Tuck School of Business for the top four finalists
£100,000 worth of corporate mentoring delivered via a 12 – 18 month corporate mentoring programme with Accenture and Digital Catapult
Two-year MSDUK Premium Membership with unlimited access to MSDUK Hub Programmes and events for all 13 finalists
Sponsors for the MSDUK Innovation Challenge 2019 included Headline Sponsor, Cummins and Sponsors Johnson & Johnson, Accenture, EY and Digital Catapult. The 2020 MSDUK Innovation Challenge opens for entries in January.