The Challenge Has Been Taken

Urban issues are gaining more and more discussions now in China as the country has been developing in an incredible speed for over 30 years. Problems such as air pollution, food safety, land contamination, traffic congestion have already influenced people’s life in a very negative way. These challenges are extremely complex and it requires efforts not only from the government but also from the people – citizen empowerment should be part of the discussions and proposed solutions.

Urban entrepreneurs winner picture 1Organized by swissnex China and Lift, on Saturday, November 19, 2016, about 40 people including industry professionals, researchers, and data specialists worked together as teams to contribute their ideas on different topics related to urban development. In the morning, mentors and experts were invited to coach the participants and offer advice to improve their projects. In the afternoon, a small pitch session was also conducted in front of a jury, during which the teams received critical feedbacks to their projects. After two weeks, 7 project proposals were submitted for the final selection.

It is impressive to see participants coming from a wide variety of backgrounds sharing the same motivation and goal to create a better future for their cities. A project planned to recycle the bottles through machines and collect data for commercial use, trying to achieve environmental protection and business profit at the same time; another project wanted to promote traditional Chinese street food while passing down its flavor and culture. There was also a project wanted to improve the map navigation system by adding the most accessible route or the most comfortable route to help people who are physically challenged.

After two rounds of evaluation by our juries, a project called Open Greens was selected as the best project. It proposed to plant fruits and vegetables outside the windows of every household, getting safer food while beautifying the city. Frederik Dolmans, the team leader of Open Greens project, shared that the workshop offered a motivation to develop an idea that had been on his mind since he first arrived in Beijing and noticed the lack of green space within the city and poor access to good food. “I saw this event as an ideal platform to test out the viability of a fledgling project concept. The workshop gave me a chance to present the idea to an audience for the first time. Through discussions with the teams, I could see things through the eyes of people from a variety of professional backgrounds, which helped to broaden its scope. It was wonderful to feel the enthusiasm and support from a pool of minds. The input from the coaches helped me to reflect on the pragmatics of implementing a project like this in China, but also encouraged me to refine my approach and discover practical ways to move forward and prepare for the challenges ahead.” Peng Yang, a team member from the project said that “it is such a wonderful experience to attend this competitive workshop, meeting creative peers, sharing cool ideas and implementing initiatives under professional guidance. I am really looking forward to making it greater and getting it commercially implemented after Lift:Lab.”

urban entrepreneurs winner open greens

The Open Greens team working on their idea

Thanks to the sponsorship of Nestlé China, Frederik and Peng are going to Geneva for prototyping in the Lift:Lab from 1st March to 3rd March. The Lift:Lab is an innovative workplace aims to help individuals and organizations tackle business and societal challenges through hands-on building and experimenting. A 2.5-day program is designed, including keynote speeches on the latest trends in innovation and technology, experts to support the teams in their prototyping journey as well as social events to meet the Lift community.

Congratulations to the winner and we looking forward to seeing the next level of this project!

Watch a recap video of the workshop here.