Solar energy solution wins inaugural Innovation Tournament 2021

8 years

A Solar Water Pumping device from Cairo, Egypt is the inaugural winner of the HCT-Wharton Innovation Tournament 2021, which concluded yesterday in Abu Dhabi.

The devise is an Off-Grid High-Capacity Solar Water Pumping Solution, applicable for use in the agriculture sector and large water pumping stations, and provides agri-businesses with a cost-competitive alternative to “unreliable & polluting diesel generators” used to pump underground water.

KarmSolar, of Egypt, was one of 12 teams vying for the Tournament’s first prize of AED40,000 and the honour of being named inaugural winner of the prestigious competition. The second prize of AED30,000 was awarded to the PAK-Energy Solution team, of Lahore Pakistan, which devised an eco-friendly and affordable Natural Gas Digester. The devise uses cow dung to generate ‘clean’ gas for cooking, heating and lighting, as well as a bio fertilizer.

Ali Raza of 2nd placed team Pak-Energy Solution, from Pakistan, receives a cheque for AED30,000 during the Innovation Tournament 2021 finals

In a suspenseful twist to the 2-day event, the judging panel spent considerable time during the second day of the competition, deliberating over the merits of 12 semi-finalists. Because of the high quality of presentations from the finalists, the judges decided to short-list five rather than four of the semi-finalists. This resulted in five teams being invited to undergo a final round of questions and answers from the judging panel.

The five teams to advance to the final round were: GreenSpark of Bangladesh; Pak-Energy Solution (Pakistan); Ballerina Energy System (Lebanon); KarmSolar (Egypt) and Water Saving Ablution Automated Machine (Wudu) (UAE).

Naji Chamieh of Ballerina Energy System presents his project to the judges

The Wudu team represented the Higher Colleges of Technology’s Ras Al Khaimah Men’s College and was the only finals team who were undergraduate students. It was also the largest team represented.

The six mechanical engineering and Mechatronics students from RAK created a devise which can be installed in mosques and can potentially save millions of liters of water each year, as it controls the flow of water during daily ablutions (Wudu).

The HCT RAK Men's College team showcase their invention to Dr. Tayeb Kamali, Vice Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology.

After protracted deliberations, the judges found it difficult to separate the teams and eventually awarded a joint third position to the GreenSpark; Ballerina Energy System and Wudu teams, each of which received AED10,000 in prize money.

KarmSolar team CEO Ahmed Zahran was thrilled with the win and vowed that the prize money would assist to make the project commercially viable over the next 12 months.  “We believe our project will help modernize the agriculture sector & support a sustainable increase in food production by providing agriculture farms with an affordable & efficient solar energy solution,” Ahmed said.

Pak-Energy Solution CEO/Founder Ali Raza said the inspiration came from wanting to help the millions of rural inhabitants in his native Pakistan receive a better quality of life through adequate heating and lighting. After receiving the award he was already planning the next stage of the venture – a goal to make it commercially viable for a mass market.

The RAK Men’s College Wudu team was ecstatic with their third prize and AED10,000 prize money, saying their entry was a college project with a practical approach. “I have performed Wudu using only 500 ml of water and it can be done, so we know our project can save water,” team member Ali Al Shehhi said.

GreenSpark representative Sadman Safat said the project used the leaves of the prolifically growing Bryophyllum plant in his native Bangladesh to be pulped and used as an alternative source of power, contained in batteries, for homes. “This was a great experience and all the final presentations were excellent,” he said.

GreenSpark member Sadman Safat with Wharton School's Professor Karl Ulrich, Dr. Tayeb Kamali and Wharton's Bulent Gultekin

Ballerina Energy System of Lebanon devised a combined solar-energy/wind power devise for installation on roof tops throughout the MENA region, to access abundant solar and wind sources as alternatives to conventional electricity supplies.

Dr. Tayeb Kamali said the inaugural competition was the start of a wonderful competition to promote innovative practices in the UAE and surrounding region.

“At the Higher Colleges of Technology we aim to provide our students with the ideal environment so that they can create and develop innovative concepts which can help society in different ways and this competition is one way in which we can help nurture that talent at the Higher Colleges and in the region,” Dr. Kamali said.

“We thank all the 12 finalists who have done so well and who have come from many regions to participate – you are all winners here. We also thank our good friends at the Wharton School for helping make this happen. It is the first of this Tournament and it will keep growing in strength in the future.”

The Innovation Tournament 2021 judging panel

Professor Karl Ulrich described the judging as a very onerous task, with the standard of the finalists very high.

“Although seven of the 12 semi-final teams did not make it to the final judging round they are to be congratulated for their entries in making it to this stage. We had over 100 entries and to get to this stage shows how high the quality was of those entries,” he said.

Innovation Tournament 2021 competitors preparing for the fnal presentations


The inspiration for the Tournament title came from the Vision 2021 Plan which is designed to reinforce the UAE as one of the best countries in the world by 2021. It is based on the acclaimed book Innovation Tournaments: Creating and Selecting Exceptional Opportunities, by Wharton Professors Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich.

The Greennovation presentation to the judges

The worldwide tournament was designed to encourage and nurture innovators and entrepreneurs to devise concepts, of an environmentally friendly or sustainability-focused nature, which can be implemented globally. The first day of the Tournament, on May 6, saw the 12 semi-final teams working closely with a group of mentors assisting them to fine tune their projects for the final presentations and for future investment opportunities.

Sharjah Men's College entrant Khaled Al Ali during the presentation ceremony for his Barjeel entry.

The Innovation Tournament winners were as follows:

  • First Place – KarmSolar (Egypt) = AED40,000
  • Second Place – Pak-Energy Solution (Pakistan) = AED30,000
  • Third Place – GreenSpark (Bangladesh), Ballerina Energy System (Lebanon), Wudu (UAE) = AED 10,000 each

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