Past its devastating results on healthcare methods and economies, the Covid-19 pandemic has additionally put an enormous dent in ongoing efforts to deal with social issues and environmental sustainability.
For example, Thailand’s ban on single-use plastic bags at the start of 2020 went to waste as stay-home measures resulted in Bangkok’s plastic waste volume soaring by 62 per cent in April, whereas Hong Kong’s streets and parks became clogged with takeaway containers and disposable cutlery as households stayed in for meals.
To handle these points and different social issues, innovation and expertise (I&T) options are urgently wanted.
The Innovation and Expertise Fee, supported by the Hong Kong Science and Expertise Parks Company, hopes innovators and entrepreneurs will heed its name to hitch the inaugural Metropolis I&T Grand Problem (the Grand Problem) to unravel vital challenges affecting Hong Kongers attempting to navigate the brand new regular. The winners of every class will obtain engaging money prizes, certificates, or the possibility to develop their concepts for adoption by authorities departments or public organisations.
Talking at a media briefing which came about on Dec 18 final yr, Ms Rebecca Pun, the commissioner for innovation and expertise, mentioned that whereas some business-plan competitions give attention to group members and the product growth capabilities of an organization and its funding prospects, the Grand Problem evaluates every proposal primarily based on its originality, uniqueness and effectiveness, utility of innovation and expertise, in addition to social advantages and impression.
On the identical briefing, Mr Albert Wong, chief govt officer of the Hong Kong Science and Expertise Parks Company, mentioned everybody has the potential to be an innovator to form the longer term. The Grand Problem presents a useful alternative for the general public to use creativity and develop good options for the advantage of the group which cater to the brand new regular amid the continued pandemic.
Turning challenges into alternative
The theme of the Grand Problem is “Innovating for Hong Kong’s New Regular”, a mirrored image of how the pandemic has basically remodeled how individuals in Hong Kong reside, work and study. Regardless of these disruptions, there may be loads of alternative to reassess standard behaviours and practices, and reside smarter throughout and after the pandemic.
The Grand Problem welcomes major and secondary faculty college students of Hong Kong who’re passionate about science, expertise, engineering and arithmetic, in addition to Hong Kong and abroad tertiary college students, expertise enterprises, analysis and growth (R&D) outfits, entrepreneurs, and even retirees with novel options.
Members can select one among two areas to develop options in. These choosing environmental sustainability ought to create I&T options that search to resolve Hong Kong’s disposable plastic tableware and family meals waste points. Those that are fascinated with social connectivity ought to suggest I&T options for social interplay, particularly for senior residents and kids, that will assist them preserve social well being beneath a brand new regular that mandates social distancing or distant distant enterprise practices.
Submit concepts as a group of as much as 5 or as a person on the City I&T Grand Challenge website by April 24. Following a rigorous course of that features mentorship, winners will obtain money prizes, certificates or the extremely coveted probability to develop their concepts for adoption by the general public sector and the group, amongst different perks.
Winners of the College and Open classes will even be awarded R&D sources, skilled coaching and proof-of-concept avenues, akin to a authorities division or a public organisation, to optimise and implement their revolutionary options. A sequence of workshops, seminars and coaching actions will even be organised beneath the Grand Problem for the group.
Sustainability and social connectivity points to handle
World Bank Group president David Malpass noted that the pandemic could also be worsening the world’s waste burden due to the upper use and improper disposal of things akin to masks and single-use containers.
Already, Hong Kong has restricted landfill area, and solely 30 per cent of waste generated in 2018 was recycled. Meals waste makes up nearly one-third of the waste disposed of at landfills. With elevated takeaway orders and extra individuals cooking at dwelling, the issue of meals waste generated at dwelling have to be prioritised.
The town has public recycling hubs for the gathering of plastic tableware, supported by cell apps that direct customers to close by hubs. Diners are additionally rewarded or given reductions after they use their very own tableware and containers. Different present options embody good bin methods at housing estates that monitor meals waste combined with impurities, international positioning system and synthetic intelligence route scheduling, in addition to information transmission for real-time monitoring and management over the amount and high quality of meals waste collected.
Right here, the Grand Problem is looking for I&T options that encourage prospects and companies — akin to the general public, property administration corporations, eating places and establishments like faculties — to scale back or substitute using single-use plastic gadgets by means of behavioural change, minimize meals waste, or improve the effectivity of the meals waste-handling process — from assortment, storage and processing (at residential and industrial premises), to transportation.
The Grand Problem additionally hopes to handle social points affecting kids and the aged.
Globally, mental health hotlines have reportedly increased, because the pandemic has resulted in tense conditions at dwelling — with a number of members of the family working and studying from dwelling — or people stuck in extended periods of social isolation, having been deprived of personal connections.
For example, kids battle with on-line studying or peer communication, and people in underprivileged households could not have entry to digital gadgets, or have inadequate information assist and insufficient technical help from their caregivers. I&T options must be focused at serving to such kids preserve wholesome social connections, aside from simply on-line video games or apps.
The aged or susceptible who reside alone or in eldercare houses away from their households additionally want social and emotional assist. Even with video calls or interactive gadgets akin to robots or virtual-reality simulation merchandise supplied by houses or daycare amenities, there may be a lot potential for much more creative I&T options that will permit aged individuals and people with disabilities to have significant social interactions with their members of the family and caretakers.
Consistent with Hong Kong’s good metropolis ambitions
Hong Kong, which has long-term plans for innovation and building a smart city, is on the forefront of expertise and R&D, with the grand objective of establishing an international I&T hub in the Greater Bay Area.
The Grand Problem is according to these ambitions, and infinite alternatives could be discovered from the pandemic expertise, permitting innovators and entrepreneurs to stretch their inventive muscle groups in creating I&T options.