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Spotlighting Creative Technology to Help Society

Image Cedits: HKUST, Press Release

Addressing societal issues has become a topic of common interest for the HKUST-Sino One Million Dollar Entrepreneurship Competition this year, with two of the three winning teams proposing solutions hoping to help save the planet.

With Hong Kong striving to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, two winning student groups came up with plans to help reduce the city’s waste by upcycling bread scraps and making cutlery that can be savoured together with the food.

Meanwhile, another team created a real-time, non-invasive, and easily accessible technology to monitor athletes’ stress and muscle fatigue levels to keep them from possible injuries induced by overtraining. All three winning teams have been working with their industrial partners on commercializing the products.

Despite the pandemic, the contest has attracted 185 participating teams this year – the largest number since its inception in Hong Kong in 2011, which has expanded to seven other regions covering Macau, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan, Zhongshan and the Yangtze River Delta for its latest edition. Winners from all the regions including that of Hong Kong will compete in a Grand Final round later.

The Acting Director of HKUST’s Entrepreneurship Center said that in recent years a greater number of submitted proposals not only focusing on technology and a profit-making business model but also on creating values for the society.

The HKUST Entrepreneurship Center actively promotes “social entrepreneurship” to facilitate students’ entrepreneurship development. Students are encouraged to integrate commercialisation with social innovation and are offered advice as to how social innovation projects can attain long-term business sustainability.

The Associate Director (Innovation) of the company that sponsored this competition amid the pandemic, companies of all sizes and from all industries have seen the importance of innovation and technology in driving digitization, efficiency, and new solutions.

The champions of the competition this year started their waste bread recycling business in 2019 when they realized that nearly 1,700 tonnes of unsold bread are discarded by bakeries alone every day. The team came up with a proposal that turns leftover bread and unsold pizza crust into bottles of fruity and flavourful pale ale, which are now available in five stores with ongoing expansion plans.

The company is an incubatee of HKSTP’s STEP Program (The Science and Technology Entrepreneur Program).  They have also won the Platinum Award, Student Gold Award, and Elevator Pitch Award in this Competition.

The winner of the Gold Award (first runner-up), came up with a different approach to realize their same vision of cutting waste. In the light of the surging amount of plastic cutlery being dumped at the landfill as people order more takeaways during the COVID-19 pandemic, the team created a set of edible whole-grain spoons, forks, and chopsticks which can also be consumed upon the end of the meal.

The vegan and biodegradable cutlery are slated to replace 9 tonnes of non-environmentally friendly disposable cutlery, and, in the process, reduce carbon emissions equivalent to planting 11,000 trees by 2023.

Meanwhile, the Silver award winner is an incubatee of HKSTP Incu-Tech Program; they developed a system to monitor human muscle fatigue.  Its core technology involves an ultra-thin antibacterial nano-membrane that could deduce an athlete’s stress level and warn them of overtraining through a connected mobile app. The technology is now under trial with several prominent sports teams and institutes in Hong Kong and Mainland China.

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