DEMENA Innovation Cup 2012

The Climate Ambassadors program has been running for two years now with the intent of fostering entrepreneurial and innovative ideas in the green sector. This year, it was three days of camping at Wadi Environmental Science Centre (WESC) full of innovative ideas related to transportation, gardening, and renewable energy.

The Camp

Day 1:

The event started with an ice breaking session so that all participants got a chance to know each other, followed by building the teams that would work together in the subsequent days. Once the teams were formed, ideas were proposed in the form of questions.
For example, “What should be done with all the trash in the streets?”
Prototypes were built to deal with the trash at the camp. Ideas emerged such as the portable trash collector. The rest of the days was spent collecting inputs from all the participants.

Groups At the Camp Forming their Ideas

Day 2:

A Skill Sharing Workshop was prepared by icecairo manager and intern, so that everyone knew what skills each person possessed. This proved to be important later on in the day when each team assigned tasks to its members. An “Ideazation” element was infused and by the afternoon, the process of making the idea happen had started.

  1. Identify solutions to the questions, like
    1. “What frustrates you?” or
    2. “How to spend less time moving around in Cairo, less time in traffic?”
    3. “How to make Cairo a more beautiful place?”
  2. Three groups were formed and each concentrated on one specific question
  3. Seeds of solutions were formed: Some addressed the traffic problem by suggesting how to make it easier for people to work from home, or making transportation easier for the commuter.
  4. Each group began to assign tasks based on their interests and skill set. Whether it was the Business Model or the prototype or the presentation of their idea.

The icecairo facilitators tried to embed the notion that no “idea” belonged to one person. An individual was free to bounce around groups and see the common grounds in each project and to contribute in any manner. But if one was to disagree, one was to do so with action, as opposed to words. This was designed to minimize discussion and achieve the tangible.

Day 3:

The last day began with the implementation phase. Every team member began to complete their assigned tasks: Presentation, Business Model, and Prototype. With the distribution of tasks well formed, all teams were able to accomplish their objectives.

The events of the day showed how energetic all the participants were and how a community was being developed, one that was supportive of each other and that left with strong bonds.

Presentations & Prize Ceremony

After camping, attendees headed back to Cairo for the prize ceremony held at the Flamenco Hotel. Tayseer Khairy moderated the event and presentations by the partners kicked off the event.

Camilla from DEMENA spoke about Crossing Borders and CONCITO, followed by Muhammad Radwan giving a brief presentation about icecairo. Sara el Sayed spoke about Nawaya and the positive response to this initiative reflected by the increasing number of participants.

The three jurists, Ahmed Dessouky (Urbanics), Mostafa Hussein, Amr Farouk (Oasis-Farouk) ,also presented themselves and explained a bit of their background. Following the introductions, Seif Al Din Abdel Fatah, winner of last year’s DEMENA Innovation Cup, gave a short talk about his Moringa project and live feed.

Then the three different teams of this year’s Innovation Cup presented their projects to the jurists and attendees.

The first team consisted of 4 individuals and called their project “Autobees”, also meaning Auto Peace. The idea was born after identifying the problem of inconvenience of public transportation with regards to hygiene, comfort, and amenities. With most people in Cairo already in traffic too long, they choose to be comfortable for the long daily commute. This in turn leads to traffic congestion, which then creates abundant amount of CO2 emissions, especially with the lack of proper regulatory policies and enforcement on automobiles emissions.

As the team played hectic electro-shaby (local tunes fused with deep electric beats) music and then contrasted this with calm, serene sounds, Autobees as an idea, proposed to tackle these issues by revamping double decker buses full with mobile phone chargers, wi-fi, coffee machines, and even bean bags for the long commuters, with the serene music playing in the background. The bus would power these features through solar panels on the roof of the bus.

Each jurist began their round of questioning and the team was well prepared with answers on how to implement the project, who the target group is, what kind of fuel usage it will require, and the amount of traffic that could be decreased as a result.

The second team called their project “Gemayza”or the Sycamocre fig, a tree endemic to Egypt and cultivated since ancient times. Their idea was simply to change people’s perception of flowers, agriculture, and ultimately the environment. With most people in the city completely cut off from nature, the pressing environmental issues seems to take last place. This team is embarking on a project that would be a catalyst for a paradigm shift.


Gemayza proposed initiation of an institute that hands out flower pots out to people in many different scenarios, free of charge, only with a promise that the receiver takes care of the plant/flower. The materials would be recycled. They focused on explaining the sustainability of the plan by mentioning several income streams such as “adopt-a-plant” where companies could sponsor the program and place advertisements. They spoke about awareness in festivals, and detailed possible growth opportunities through various partners.

The jurists questioned the innovation of the idea, however the team explained that as the idea itself might not seem innovative, their proposed business model carries a lot of innovation.

Finally, the third team was a one man show. Calling his project Green Screen, Mohamed explained a system whereby gardening on the sides of buildings could be accomplished. The system involved the standard water source, solar panels, and a pump. The vertical green gardening idea went under scrutiny by the jurists for the innovation aspect. But with the spirit of the Cup, several attendees provided a few tweaks to the system to make it indeed a very attractive project. One person suggested collecting A/C water and redistributing it to the gardens using a solar panel as mentioned earlier.

The jurist convened for about 20 minutes and the time for the Prize ceremony had arrived. The jurists explained the three criteria on which they based their decisions: Impact, Innovation, Appropriateness.

After giving each project their ranks, they announces the overall winner: Autobees.

Congratulations to the team and the 15,000 EGP first prize!


Apply for 2013 DEMENA Innovation Cup here


All photos Courtesy of Sarah Rifaat
To view full album, click this link