Find out more
about the Top 3 finalists


Find out more about the Top 3 finalists

As pitches are polished and excitement builds on the run up Grand Final on June 13th, we wanted to share a sneak peak into the three groundbreaking solutions vying for the grand prize.

Prof. Ernesto J. Calvo


Lithium ion batteries have changed our everyday life in the last 25 years and there is the expectation that advanced lithium batteries will enable electric vehicles and remote electrification based on solar panels. We need a large scale and low environmental impact alternative.”  - E. Calvo

Developing break-through technology around batteries and energy storage is recognized as one of the key elements that will drive the transition to 100% renewable energy. Lithium is used in almost all the batteries around the world, however, its extraction has a very negative impact on the environment. Currently lithium mining is a resource intensive and dangerous process. According to the Guardian, even the likes of Tesla can’t claim to be eco-friendly as long as the negative impact of lithium extraction is not reduced.

Inquimae has created a new way of extracting lithium that is powered by solar energy and is quicker and cleaner than any existing technology. With lithium-ion batteries being used in a wide range of technologies from transport to mobile devices, the solution by Inquimae could have far reaching impacts on industries around the world.

The project team is under the direction of Prof. Ernesto J. Calvo at INQUIMAE and Buenos Aires University working in cooperation with Dr. Victoria Flexer at CIT-Jujuy and University of Jujuy with a research team funded by the Argentine National Science and Technology Research Council (CONICET). Prof. Calvo is a specialist in electrochemistry with more than 160 publications. He has a PhD in Chemistry (University of La Plata, Argentina 1979). He started research in lithium electrochemistry in 2012. 

Howard Weinstein


“The problem with hearing aids is not only the cost of the hearing aid, but the price and accessibility of a hearing aid battery. One of the common features in developing countries is the sun is free. Why not use that energy to recharge that battery?”  - H. Weinstein

Over 625 million people around the world have a hearing loss. According to ASHA, hearing loss can cause delay in the development of communication skills for children, therefore lack of opportunity to go to a public school in a developing country. WHO estimates that unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual global cost of $750 billion!

Solar Ear makes hearing aids affordable by providing rechargeable hearing aids using solar powered batteries. The products were invented by people who are deaf and made for people with hearing loss in developing countries. The Solar Ear solution starts at a cost of 100 Euros, are CE approved and their batteries last 2 to 3 years versus 1 week. Most of their digital rechargeable hearing aids with batteries cost the consumer less than they would pay for batteries alone. Their products also create hundreds of jobs for young adults who are deaf.

Solar Ear was founded by Howard Weinstein who, twenty years ago, lost his 10-year old daughter Sarah in the middle of the night due to a sudden brain aneurysm. The next week he lost his job. At a crossroads, he decided to volunteer in Africa, where he met a young woman who needed a hearing aid. Her name was Sarah, just like his daughter. Together they developed Solar Ear with partner Tendekayi Kastiga. Today Sarah is the President of the Solar Ear program in Botswana.

Richard Awuor (Cellulike)


“Solar technology provides one of the best interventions to bridge the energy poverty gap.” - R. Awuor

Lack of access to energy affects all aspects of life, from education and employment to basic healthcare. The World Energy Organisation states that an estimated 1.2 billion people – 16% of the global population – do not have access to electricity.

Did you know that an average person in East Africa takes 8 years to consume as much electricity as an American consumes in one month? Lack of access to affordable energy is perpetuating global inequality, and according to the World Economic Forum, energy poverty is one of the key barriers to development in Africa.

Cellulike offers an innovative ‘pay-as-you-go’ system for solar light rental that will help off-grid communities gain access to electricity. Many people in rural, off-the-grid communities in Africa currently use kerosene lamps and candles which are not renewable and which cause respiratory health issues. They do not have access to the grid nor do they have smart phones with mobile payment for electric utilities like many people in urban areas. Cellulike provides a way for people in rural areas to access and pay for unlimited solar electricity on a daily, weekly or monthly basis through USSD, a technology they can use on cheap mobile phones, no internet required. USSD is a familiar technology in these communities.

Richard Awuor is the founder and CEO of Cellulike. He chose to leave a promising corporate career after a power outage at the airport in Tanzania prevented him from taking a business trip. He wondered how the rest of the country could cope if even the airport did not have power, and he decided to find a solution to the country’s power issues.  Awuor has a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, a certificate in logistics and supply chain, and more than a dozen years of professional and management experience in telecommunications, logistics, customer service and sales across a range of industries. He lives in Dar Es Salaam.