On April 12th, Rotary E-Club of Southern Ontario – Western New York (SOWNY) member Howard Weinstein successfully represented his social enterprise Solar Ear at the global Best Minds Challenge’s semi-final event jointly hosted by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the Greater Boston Area.
A panel of expert judges ranked the top 3 finalists based on presentations by 10 nominees on the basis of societal impact, commercial scalability, uniqueness, technical quality and the quality of their presentation.  The 3 finalists chosen are:
  • Cellulike (Tanzania) a pay as you go model for micro-grid solar power distribution systems; 
  • Inquimae (Argentina) a sustainable energy storage project from renewable energy sources (solar and wind) for remote electrification; and
  • Solar Ear (Brazil), focusing on solar powered hearing aids for the most impoverished communities across the globe.
The Bright Minds Challenge was created by DSM together with Accenture (NYSE: ACN); Chinese National Center of Supervision and Inspection on Solar Photovoltaic Products Quality (CPVT), Greentown Labs; U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, University of Oxford; Solarcentury; SolarAid and Sungevity.
The consortium will provide the finalists with a customized package of commercial, technical and mentoring support to help them bring their prototypes to market as rapidly as possible. In June the winner will be announced and will receive 500 hours (an equivalent of more than USD $100,000) of tailored support to fast-forward their solution. The runners up will receive wide global exposure, plus 250 and 125 hours of tailored commercial, IP and technical support equivalent to USD $50,000 and USD $25,000, respectively.
Pieter Wolters, Managing Director Venturing, Royal DSM and chairman of the jury commented: “The Bright Minds Challenge aims to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and unlocking the potential of bright minds around the world. With this initiative we help them to take their scientific solution to the next step for the benefit of society as a whole. These three finalists have shown they are ready to take it to next level and make a difference in turning solar and energy storage into the renewable energy source of choice.”
The Bright Minds Challenge builds on DSM’s “Science Can Change the World” campaign with the release of the short film Unsung Heroes of Science – a celebration of science and the recognition of the fact that scientists are changing our world for the better. The member companies of the consortium are jointly embracing the challenge to capture the power of science in the transition to 100% renewable energy.
A few weeks earlier in March, Howard Weinstein made another successful Solar Ear presentation in Washington, D.C. to Duke University’s Innovations in Healthcare. Innovations in Healthcare (formerly the International Partnership for Innovative Healthcare Delivery) is a non-profit organization hosted by Duke University and founded in 2011 by Duke Medicine, McKinsey & Company, and the World Economic Forum. It aims to improve healthcare worldwide by supporting the scale and impact of promising innovations. It receives support from and collaborates with a global and diverse group of organizations, including corporations and foundations that are committed to strengthening and increasing the scale of healthcare innovations.
At the heart of Innovations in Healthcare is its network of 50 innovators from around the world working to expand access to affordable, quality healthcare. Every year, the organization identifies and recruits entrepreneurs with promising models of healthcare to apply to join its network as innovators. Through a highly competitive process, it then select the best organizations to join. It helps connect these innovators with opportunities, information, and contacts they need to scale up their work.