Designing Sustainable Workspaces for India

The Urban Works Innovation Challenge 2018, a project of Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai, is for passionate young professionals and entrepreneurs who can create viable and interdisciplinary design-concepts for transforming 21st-century workspaces into innovative and productive environments. Five chosen winners will receive a grant of Rs. 1.2 crore and have the opportunity to work with faculty and alumni from The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University as well as benefit from hands-on mentorship from distinguished entrepreneurs and academics in India. They can also avail of a tech-first collaborative workspace alongside other creative entrepreneurs at The CoWrks Foundry in Mumbai and Bengaluru.

The winners for the Urban Works Innovation Challenge 2018 from India are:





The Challenge also received applications from passionate students and entrepreneurs from all schools at Columbia University in New York. Selected teams will be visiting Mumbai in January 2019.

The three winners of the Columbia Design Challenge - Urban Works India are:

India has the largest youth demography in the world and its youth workforce is estimated to touch 700 million by 2030, with an average age of 35. Indian workspaces are undergoing massive transformation spurred by the digital revolution, global economic shifts and resource scarcity. The World Economic Forum finds that in many industries and countries, the occupations that are most in demand did not even exist 10 years ago. In such a rapidly evolving employment landscape, there is a growing recognition that a maturing workforce needs workspaces that boost productivity, encourage innovation and increase engagement. The design and engineering aspects of workspaces can play a critical role in addressing these needs. Beyond work that happens at the scale of people and offices, knowledge economies will also depend on the surrounding infrastructure, the scale of buildings, cities and ultimately the globe. Given the diversity of India’s workforce and the complex socio-cultural ecosystem in which it operates, India needs design solutions that aren’t imported from other countries, but which are contextualized to our unique requirements.

The inaugural challenge of 2018 will support engineering and planning solutions to transform 21st-century workspaces into sustainable environments. The challenge will give young innovators a globally competitive opportunity to propose 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 consider how to improve overall sustainability in Indian workspaces and explore ways to integrate ergonomic, cost-efficient solutions that span industry and socio-economic backgrounds. Examples of problems to which solutions could be developed include – By what means can we ensure workspaces not connected with centralized electric grids are adequately cooled, are able to efficiently utilize solar energy, and have access to viable water resources? How can the use of green technologies help workers in both manufacturing and service sectors? How can low-cost diagnostic tests improve workplace health? How can low-cost sensors be deployed to create safer and more productive working conditions for everyone?

Participants were encouraged to design innovative solutions for sustainable workspaces in the broad categories of:

  • Sustainable resource use and waste/pollution reduction
  • Green technologies and infrastructure
  • Decentralized energy-efficient solutions
  • Ergonomics


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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 at CoWrks, Mumbai and Bengaluru

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Rs. 1.2 crores dispersed among successful participants

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Related News in the press

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