By Amy Richards
‘Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.’
This quote, by Bill Drayton, Founder of the Ashoka network, was exemplified in the presentations of the participating teams in the recent, inaugural Wolfson Innovate Competition at Monday at Wolfson College.
Past and present members of the College were challenged to come together with an idea that would provide innovative solutions to issues that negatively affect people around the world. The response was staggering: over 30 teams applied, and a final six were chosen, offering solutions to problems ranging from deforestation in India to managing wastewater treatment in China.
The winning team, Sentimoto, have created a new form of wearable sensor that will help some of the over 10 million 65+ members of the British population continue to live an independent life into their old age. Their sensor measures a variety of physiological and environmental factors, and sends the information to the users’ designated ‘circle of care’, ensuring that carers or family members are instantly aware of any possible emergencies. The £4,000 that they will receive will be instantly put to use developing the next iteration of their prototype, which they say will “take Sentimoto a great step forward.”
It was clear from the presentations that all of the teams had highlighted disparate but systemic problems affecting people internationally. In the very best Oxonian fashion, they were able to pinpoint the area where they could bring about the most change, bringing together skills gained through academic work and innovative ideas to provide revolutionary proposals.
Pleasingly, the event brought together social entrepreneurs of the future with Wolfson alumni and friends who have already found success. The judges came from a variety of backgrounds: from an art entrepreneur to a CEO of a student finance crowdfunder; from a biopharmaceutical innovator to a Professor of Entrepreneurship. They gave the competitors indispensable advice on the importance of teamwork, clarity of message, and the necessity of networking through events such as these.
Building on the excitement and support generated by this first competition, a new partnership between Hertford, Pembroke, and Wolfson Colleges is currently being discussed, which aims to further tap into the burgeoning entrepreneurial scene throughout Oxford. Watch this space.
Image by John Cairns