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Institute of Applied Data Science



Queen Mary researchers launch new competition on low-cost innovation for African scientists and entrepreneurs

25 August 2020

Professor Kaspar Althoefer, Professor of Robotics Engineering and Turing Fellow, and Dr Stoyan Smoukov, Reader in Chemical Engineering, at Queen Mary University of London have launched a new competition in low-cost technologies that aims to identify and develop the next generation of young scientists, leaders and entrepreneurs in Africa.

The Pan-African Competition in Low Cost Instruments and Entrepreneurship for Development is co-organised by the African Spectral Imaging Network, AFSIN and sponsored by IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, and Uppsala University International Science Programme. The competition is open to all countries in Africa and will look to build technical and entrepreneurial skills in young scientists, through the design and manufacture of low-cost instruments that address real-world challenges. Low-cost innovation creates affordable products and solutions by adopting innovative ways of using existing technologies in to.

Applicants are asked to submit design proposals across the following themes: COVID-19 or malaria-related innovation, robotics and/or automation in the fields of agriculture, energy and medical use, and entrepreneurship in the upcycling of computer hard drives into centrifuges for field diagnostics.

An international panel of experts in applied physics and engineering will select six finalists from the submitted proposals. The finalists will receive some funding and remote training in Arduino and other low cost automation tools to help them design a fully functioning prototype over a period of three months. Three prizes of 1,200 euros will then be awarded for the best prototypes in early 2021.

Dr Smoukov said: “As electronics become better, smaller and cheaper, there is lot of opportunity for engineers to develop low-cost innovative solutions that will help change lives across the world." and added: “Through this competition we hope to unlock scientific and entrepreneurial potential across Africa, and provide training and support to help these talented individuals to develop cheap and effective solutions for the countries and communities that need them.”

More information:

• Apply for the 2020 Pan-African competition in low-cost technologies here. The final submission deadline for proposals is 30 September 2020.


Updated by: Michal Filus