Designing Cities that Work

The Urban Works Innovation Challenge 2019-2020, a project of Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai, seeks applications from 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. 

Applications are due by November 15, 2019.

Please send all queries to mumbai.cgc@columbia.edu

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

The innovation challenge is open to applications from startups, professionals, entrepreneurs, researchers, and practitioners intent on designing the future of Indian cities and improving urban work environments. Eligible individuals or teams should have a proof of concept in place, with an ambition of refining their work beyond its current development stage. Participants should be willing to commit to workshops and mentoring opportunities over a six-month period beginning in January 2020, and be willing to demonstrate their solution in Mumbai, Bengaluru, or New Delhi during this time period.

We especially encourage app-based, IT-enabled, online offerings that can be demonstrated with pilots on the ground.  While considering the broader context of the city itself, pilots would be demonstrated and refined in specific work environments that are found in a typical Indian city. Ideally the proposed solution should be scalable and replicable in other cities.

  • Who can apply for this challenge?

The innovation challenge is open to applications from startups, professionals, entrepreneurs, researchers, and practitioners intent on designing the future of Indian cities and improving urban work environments. Eligible individuals or teams will have a proof of concept in place, with an ambition of refining the proof of concept beyond its current development stage.
 

  • What is the time commitment required from participants?

Participants will be required to commit a six-month period from January 2020. It is important for them to participate in all the training sessions, workshops, public programs, and networking sessions.
 

  • Can I still apply if I am not from Mumbai or Bengaluru or New Delhi?

Yes, you may apply as long as you are willing to relocate to either city for the given time period.
  

  • What if my solution falls beyond the suggested categories?

The list of broad areas mentioned in the guidelines is only an indicative list. We welcome out-of-the-box ideas and solutions that advance the mandate of sustainable and safe cities.
 

  • Can I submit my application in a language other than English?

No. All applications must be in English.
 

  • What is the deadline for submission of applications?

Applications must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. (Indian Standard Time) on November 15, 2019 to be considered.
 

  • Who will the mentors be?

Participants will benefit from hands-on guidance from academics, industry leaders, and experts from India as well as faculty and alumni from The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University.
 

  • Who owns the intellectual property rights of the solutions proposed after the challenge?

Each team will own all rights to its final solution.
 

  • What are the costs that will be covered?

Financial assistance up to Rs 1.2 crores will be dispersed in a phased manner among all the teams that are selected in December 2019. The amount will cover all costs and no separate funds will be provided for relocation to Mumbai or Bengaluru or New Delhi, local commute or other expenses.
 

  • Who should I send further queries to?

All queries should be emailed to mumbai.cgc@columbia.edu

Timeline

Urban Works Timeline 2019-20

Benefits

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MENTORSHIP

Hands-on mentorship from distinguished entrepreneurs and academics 

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NETWORK OPPORTUNITIES

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

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OFFICE INFRASTRUCTURE

A dynamic workspace and collaborative environment within The CoWrks Foundry

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FINANCIAL SUPPORT

INR 1.2 Crores dispersed among winning startups

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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.

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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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