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Ashoka Resilience Challenge Spots Innovators

What will the cities of tomorrow look like? How will they adapt and evolve? How will we effectively manage and respond to physical, economic and social risks? QBE and Ashoka are hosting the Urban Resilience Challenge – a national social innovation competition that will uncover and fund tech-based innovations that will drive resiliency in cities

Across the United States, cities are at the forefront of our nation’s growth and are hubs of innovation, technology, and commerce. At the same time, urban areas face growing vulnerabilities and chronic stressors from economic shifts, changing demographics, and natural disasters.

Cities are complex and challenging entities, and their success relies on developing resilience to withstand these threats.

Recognizing the urgent need to build urban resilience, QBE North America and Ashoka are embarking on a unique collaboration to seek out and support innovators across the United States whose ventures contribute to building thriving, resilient cities that can effectively manage and respond to physical, economic, and social threats. Together, we’re launching the QBE and Ashoka Urban Resilience Challenge—a nation-wide social innovation competition seeking entrepreneurs leveraging technology to transform city ecosystems. 

The QBE and Ashoka Urban Resilience Challenge will recognize and support transformative for-profit tech innovations that are impacting policy and the broader urban ecosystem. Applicants can apply to one of the following thematic tracks: The Built Environment (infrastructure), Sustainable Economies, Food/Water/Waste, and Public Health and Safety. 

The QBE and Ashoka Urban Resilience Challenge will provide a select number of early entrants with access to mentorship/coaching opportunities provided by the QBE and Ashoka team of thought leaders.  Ten finalists will receive an all-expense paid trip to New York City to pitch their ventures, receive on-site feedback and mentoring from QBE and Ashoka’s notable network of employees, investors, and thought leaders, and compete for two cash prizes of  $75,000 (Urban Champion) and $25,000 (Urban Pioneer).

climate change policy

For example, SensCity’s founders—five urbanites living in cities around the world—have seen destructive climate change first-hand, from deadly Australian heatwaves to post-hurricane New York City. Now they’ve set out to revolutionize the way cities prepare by providing key data to developers and environmental consultants. Their software, currently piloted in the city of Bendigo, helps governments and organizations gauge how urban environments are reacting to climate impacts, whether current programs are working, and determine future risk.

Elsewhere, Biocellection co-founders Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao have created a market-based solution to the plastic problem that’s both scalable and sustainable. Rather than downcycling plastic waste or using it to make fuel — which creates inferior products or further pollution—Biocellection molecularly recycles it, transforming plastic waste into virgin-quality engineering plastics. With high profit margins due to more valuable upcycled products, Biocellection is growing fast and helping to create an exciting market for plastic waste.

Plastic waste is a huge problem, so the founders of Arqlite designed a scaled-up solution to match. Arqlite uses a unique process to upcycle plastics— the kind that cannot be currently recycled—in its Argentina facility to make a brand-new commodity product: Arqlite light gravel. Ideal for construction, the gravel’s light weight and superior insulation provides companies with an effective, cost-efficient product. With over 500 tons of Arqlite gravel produced—and more products to come—the company seeks to solve the problem of plastic pollution.

Meanwhile, four billion people currently experience severe water scarcity, yet the manufacturing industry continues to consume massive amounts of water to make tech products. The Exergy team invented a solution that purifies and recycles water at the point of use, bringing it back into the production process and minimizing treatment costs. The process recycles 90% of the high purity water used in high-tech manufacturing. Exergy aspires to shift the paradigm to a new, circular approach, where resources stay clean as they’re continually purified and reused. 

Our current energy grid is underutilized 99% of the time— and it’s not friendly to clean energy.

That’s why Omega Grid is pioneering a bold sustainable energy system, using local energy markets as an alternative to the traditional grid. The software, which uses blockchain architecture and avoids expensive, centralized infrastructure, determines the best design for local grids, paving the way towards a sustainably-powered future.

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Greener Cities is a division of Crossbow Communications. Greener Cities is a resource for sustainable and resilient cities and communities around the world.

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Author: Gary Chandler

Gary Chandler is a sustainability strategist, author and advocate. Follow him on Twitter @Gary_Chandler