10 teams win Aarohan Social Innovation Awards

Infosys Foundation chairperson Sudha Murthy with the winners of the Aarohan Social Innovation Awards 2019.   | Photo Credit: Handout E Mail

The Infosys Foundation on Wednesday felicitated winners of the second edition of the ‘Aarohan Social Innovation Awards 2019’, which recognise and reward individuals, teams, and NGOs for creating innovative solutions to support the underprivileged and marginalised in India.

Five teams won the ‘Gold Award’ with a prize of ₹20 lakh for each team. The ‘Silver Award’ with a prize of ₹10 lakh was also presented to five teams.

The Gold Award winners will be a part of an eight-week residential mentorship programme at the Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad where they will incubate and scale their innovations.

Among the winners of the Gold Awards for Sustainability were Rashid K., Vimal Govind M.K., and Nikhil N.P. from Kerala who have developed a manhole cleaning robot, which they call ‘bandicoot’. “Our main aim is to eliminate the inhuman practice of manual scavenging. We hope to add dignity to human life, and that one day manholes will be called robot holes,” the team said.

Ramalingam P.L. from Chennai won the Gold Award for creating an affordable wheelchair that enables children and those suffering from spinal cord injury to stand with normal arm pressure. He said that the challenge was in the size. It had to be small enough to fit the average Indian house. “Attention was also given to issues such as low on maintenance and easy to assemble. We wanted it to be as simple as possible and as affordable as possible,” he said.

Among the winners in the Silver Award category were Aneesh Kumar, who has developed a mechanic orthotic caliper. “The ones available now range between ₹70,000 to ₹3 lakh. However, mine costs only around ₹10,000. The final clinical trial is on,” he said.

Most of the winners said that they faced hurdles due to the area of research as well as getting clearances from authorities.

“All these are disruptive innovations that have immense potential to benefit lakhs of people. Hence, more support and mentoring from the government is needed,” said Dr. Vishal U.S. Rao, who has developed a voice prosthesis that helps throat cancer patients to talk.

The jury accepted submissions in six categories: Healthcare, Rural development, Destitute care, Women’s safety and empowerment, Education & sports, and Sustainability. However, the winners of the 2019 awards cover only four categories: Healthcare, Sustainability, Rural development, and Destitute care

Sudha Murthy, chairperson of Infosys Foundation, said that the Foundation is open to more ideas and would expand to more fields/categories in the future. “The government should think over such social innovations and encourage them in various ways. If any such innovator comes to me, I will definitely give them a recommendation letter and talk to the authorities,” she said.

Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys, said that innovation in the social area was a challenge as the problems were complex. “The challenge is also in frugal innovation as it needs to be more accessible and affordable,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 6:12:58 PM |

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