Designing Cities that Work

The Urban Works Innovation Challenge 2019-2020, a project of Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai, supports innovators and entrepreneurs who are passionate about producing viable and interdisciplinary tech-based solutions for transforming 21st century cities in India into sustainable and safe work environments.  Selected teams receive mentorship from faculty and alumni of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University as well as distinguished entrepreneurs and academics in India. Winning teams can also avail of unrestricted capital from a total annual fund of Rs. 1.2 crores, and peer networks and infrastructural support from a tech-first collaborative workspace at The CoWrks Foundry for a six month period. Startups with successful on-ground pilots will have opportunities to pitch their solutions to leading investors and corporations in the field. 


The winners for the Urban Works Innovation Challenge 2019-2020 from India are:

Almost 600 million Indians will live in cities by 2030. Rapid urbanization poses serious environmental and societal challenges, including degrading air quality, rising plastic waste, hindered mobility, mental health problems, and reduced safety for women. In this evolving landscape, there is growing recognition that the country’s urban workforce requires workplaces and city-wide ecosystems to become more productive, innovative, and inclusive. Solutions that make use of contemporary technology can play a critical role in addressing these needs, thereby making work environments sustainable and safe for all. Relevant designs and solutions are needed, given the diversity of India’s workforce and the complex ecosystem that a typical city represents.

The 2019-2020 challenge will support tech-based solutions to transform 21st-Century cities into sustainable and safe work environments. Innovators get a globally competitive opportunity to propose and refine solutions for some of India’s most pressing social challenges and gain from tools, learning sessions, peer networks, and unrestricted capital to transform their idea into action. Solutions may apply to a diverse range of industries and socio-economic backgrounds and address questions such as -- By what means can we ensure workplaces effectively manage waste, are able to efficiently utilize renewable energy, and have access to clean air and water? How can the use of green technologies help workers in both manufacturing and service sectors? How can health and wellness platforms and apps improve workplace happiness and productivity? How can sensors and real-time data gathering tools be deployed to create safer and more productive working conditions for everyone, particularly women?

Participants are encouraged to design innovative solutions for sustainable and safe cities in the broad categories of:

  • Sustainable mobility
  • Gender security
  • Health and well-being, including mental health
  • Clean air and water
  • Waste management
  • Green buildings and infrastructure
  • Renewable energy and energy efficiency


Urban Works Timeline 2019-20


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Hands-on mentorship from distinguished entrepreneurs and academics 

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Access to investors, corporate networks and  Columbia University's prestigious engineering school

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A dynamic workspace and collaborative environment within The CoWrks Foundry

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INR 1.2 Crores dispersed among winning startups

                                     What Makes a Startup Successful?


Click here to watch what co-founders of six exciting startups said at a series of panel discussions organized by Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai in Bengaluru, Delhi NCR, and Mumbai. 

Related News from the Center

October 30, 2019

Placing Value over Valuation

Successful startups focus on creating value for their customers rather than chasing high valuations. Distinguished startup founders and domain experts shared their insights into the entrepreneurship ecosystem of India at a panel discussion as part of the Urban Works Innovation Challenge 2019-2020.

October 15, 2019

Disruptive Solutions

How are startups generating technologies that disrupt the ecosystem and solve complex city-level challenges today?  Leading startup founders shared their journey at the launch events for the Urban Works Innovation Challenge 2019-2020 hosted in Mumbai, Gurgaon and Bengaluru.

June 10, 2019

Innovating Batteries for Energy Transition

In pursuit of becoming a clean energy-driven economy, India pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by a third by 2030 and ensure that 40% of its electricity comes from non-fossil fuel-based sources.  While ambitious targets are a good start, one gap in particular if addressed, would help India leapfrog quickly – innovation in energy storage or specifically, in batteries.

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