A technology that seeks to convert water hyacinth into biodegradable plastic alternatives invented by a Kenyan student is one of the winners of a $100,000 prize at COP28.
HyaPak, which is an invention of Joseph Nguthiru, a graduate of Egerton University, won the cash prize after it was nominated for its innovation in creating technologies needed to achieve COP28 commitments.
The technology was also picked by judges for its commitment towards helping reduce emissions by eradicating the invasive water hyacinth.
The technology uses the hyacinth weed to create products like biodegradable seedling wrappers, which decompose in six months, in a bid to address environmental challenges simultaneously.
The idea, according to Nguthiru, seeks to help reduce the environmental effects of hyacinth which has been blamed for wreaking havoc in over 70 countries, blocking waterways and causing significant economic losses.
At the event, a prize of $100,000 was awarded across five priority areas of this year’s COP agenda. The awarded categories were in the areas of nature, food and water systems, health, relief and safety, energy, efficiency and waste, education, equality and communities as well as data science and AI-enabled solutions.
Other winning projects at the ceremony were a synthetic yeast used to enhance sustainable production of food and biofuels, a medicine-injection device optimised for emergency disaster scenarios, a satellite monitoring tool to prevent negligence-caused disasters and artificial intelligence to detect suspicious activity in public procurement processes.
“The winning solutions serve as vital reminders of the profound impact young innovators can have in redefining and shaping our world. Their accomplishments remind us that we can deliver our commitment to creating a better planet only if we prioritise education and innovation in our strategies,” said His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai.The official opening of the 2023 edition was held on November 28, 2023, at the Museum of the Future, with the winning projects crowned from a pool of over 2,800 submissions.
The cash prizes seek to support continued research in critical areas, awarding the students and professors working towards exceptional solutions.
The week-long academic programme brought together international experts in the fields of ventures, innovation, research, and investments to support university creators to move their projects towards implementation.
Graduates from renowned universities worldwide, such as Yale, Stanford, Oxford, Princeton, Berkeley, MIT, Harvard and Cambridge, were also credited for contributing a diverse range of projects.