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Winners of International Challenge to Accelerate Universal Clean Energy Access Announced

Innovation competition equips university students with the skills to pursue green jobs.

Today, winners of the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge were announced at a virtual Grand Final Event. The Challenge is a global, multidisciplinary competition that empowers teams of university students to accelerate clean energy access for low to middle income countries through the development of innovative appliances. The Efficiency for Access Coalition and Engineers Without Borders UK are delighted to collaborate on the delivery of the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge. It is funded by UK aid and the IKEA Foundation.

Globally, 759 million people live without access to electricity and many more have an unreliable connection. This means that they are unable to access appliances that can help them earn a living or enjoy good quality of life. The development of affordable and efficient appliances can help us achieve universal clean energy access by 2030.

The winning teams designed appliances to tackle healthcare, food security and cooling challenges in rural communities around the world. The list of winners can be found here:


  • Team 2021-31 – City, University of London (UK) and Independent University (Bangladesh)
      • Solar Direct Drive Cold Storage System for Off-Grid Preservation of Fish and Perishable goods



  • Team 2021-18 – University College London (UK)
      • Space Cooling Air Filtration System with a Grass-Based Filter
  • Team 2021-06 – National University of Sciences and Technology, NUST (Pakistan)
      • Solar-based Dehydrating System for Food Preservation



  • Team 2021-26 – Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Kenya)
      • Solar Baby Incubator
  • Team 2021-25 – Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Kenya)
      • Solar-Powered Mobile Blood Bank
  • Team 2021 – 43 – Makerere University (Uganda)
      • Solar-Powered IoT Hydroponic System
  • 2021-21 University of Port Harcourt (Nigeria)
      • Semi-Automated Water Vending Machine
  • 2021-12 Makerere University (Uganda) and Swansea University (UK)
      • Solar-Powered Milk Cooling Unit


Now in its third year, the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge invites teams of university students from around the world to design sustainable, and high-performing appliances intended for communities with no or unreliable access to electrical grids. By bringing together and inspiring students, the competition aims to foster innovation in the solar appliance sector and to address barriers that limit market expansion in this area. Year 3 of the Challenge began in September 2021 with over 150 students from 22 universities in Bangladesh, Benin, Cameroon, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sweden, Uganda, the UK, the USA, and Zimbabwe took part. Students submitted their projects in April 2021 and presented their projects online to a panel of expert judges in late May.

Lord Goldsmith, Minister for the Pacific and the International Environment said:

“This year’s winners and participants in the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge have come up with some inspiring and creative solutions, and I’m pleased that UK government funding continues to support the initiative. The ideas on show in this competition will not only help to improve energy access globally, but also tackle the climate crisis.”

Between September 2021 and June 2022, the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge team provided support, and training to equip students with the relevant skills to create their projects and pursue careers in energy access. Teams were also paired with industry experts who offered structured guidance and insight into the high-performing appliances sector.

Jeffrey Prins, Head of Portfolio (Renewable Energy), IKEA Foundation said:

“Helping families afford a better life while protecting the planet takes innovative minds and technologies. Productive use of renewable energy is central to addressing many challenges we face today, as it fights climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time lifts people out of poverty. We’re delighted to see young people stepping up to help us accelerate on SDG7. Each student who has participated in the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge this year has not only demonstrated their commitment to reducing carbon emissions — ensuring future generations will still have a place to call home — but that will also make an immediate and tangible difference in our daily lives. We’re delighted to support the continued growth of the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge.”

John Kraus, Chief Executive, Engineers Without Borders UK said:

“The twin threats of overshooting our planetary boundaries, while under-serving so many are complex, interconnected and urgent. We must respond innovatively through collaboration and responsible design. The Efficiency for Access Design Challenge does exactly this. It provides students with a holistic understanding of the need to enhance efficiency and affordability of high-performing appliances for all. As we conclude year three of this Challenge, I look forward to seeing the inspiration it sparks in the graduates of tomorrow and industry leaders of today.”

Today’s Grand Final event showcased participating teams’ innovations to an audience of students, representatives from aid agencies and foundations, private sector representatives, academics, and the broader civil society.

Mike Thornton, Chief Executive, Energy Saving Trust said:

“It is great to see young people from around the world taking an active role in addressing the climate emergency and working to create a just and inclusive clean energy transition. Congratulations to all the students for their outstanding and innovative projects.

Competitions such as the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge inspire the next generation to achieve net zero and build a pipeline of talent to accelerate progress in this vital task.”



About the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge

  • The Efficiency for Access Design Challenge was first launched in 2019 and its third year started in September 2021.
  • The participating universities were: African Institute for Mathematical Science, AIMS (Senegal), Aston University (UK), City, University of London (UK), Duke University (USA), Gulu University (Uganda), Harper Adams University (UK), Independent University, Bangladesh (Bangladesh), Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Kenya), Loughborough University (UK), Lund University School of Industrial Design (Sweden), Lurio University (Mozambique), Makerere University (Uganda), Manchester Metropolitan University (UK), Midlands State University (Zimbabwe), National Advanced School of Engineering (NASE), University of Yaounde (Cameroon), National University of Lesotho (Lesotho), National University of Science and Technology, NUST (Zimbabwe), National University of Sciences and Technology, NUST (Pakistan), Swansea University (UK), TERI School of Advanced Studies (India), Turkana University College (Kenya), Université Nationale des Sciences, Technologies, Ingénierie et Mathématique d’Abomey, UNSTIM (Benin), University College London (UK), University of Bath (UK), University of Port Harcourt (Nigeria)
  • Between October 2021 –⁠February 2022, the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge team led 28 webinars and training sessions, which focused on key issues in energy access.
  • Students were given the opportunity and funding to test their ideas by creating prototypes of their designs. Through this, they were able to consider the real-world application and determine what is necessary to transform their project from an idea into a solution to the challenges that some of the world’s most vulnerable people face.
  • Students could attend career conversations and networking events to learn more about potential careers in and beyond the solar-powered appliance sector.
  • The Challenge seeks to forge beneficial partnerships between universities, researchers and industry partners at a global level. In this way, it will further strengthen academic capacity within the off-grid sector.


About Efficiency for Access

Efficiency for Access is a global coalition working to promote affordable, high-performing, and inclusive appliances that enable access to clean energy for the world’s poorest people. It is a catalyst for change, accelerating the growth of off and weak-grid appliance markets to boost incomes, reduce carbon emissions, improve quality of life, and support sustainable development. It is co-chaired by UK aid and the IKEA Foundation.

Efficiency for Access consists of 19 Donor Roundtable Members, 19 Programme Partners, and 36 Investor Network members. Current Efficiency for Access Coalition members have programmes and initiatives spanning 54 countries and 26 key technologies.

The Coalition is coordinated jointly by CLASP, an international appliance energy efficiency and market development specialist not-for-profit organisation, and Energy Saving Trust, which specialises in energy efficiency product verification, data and insight, advice, and

Engineers Without Borders UK

Engineers Without Borders UK engages and galvanises the engineering community to serve all people and our planet better than ever before. Part of a global movement of over 60 Engineers Without Borders organisations, to inspire, enable and influence the engineering community and together take action to put global responsibility at the heart of engineering. An example of their work is the award-winning Engineering for People Design Challenge. Every year they educate over 7,000 students to understand their responsibility and develop the skills to act on this. Find out more at

UK aid

UK aid from the UK government, through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) which leads the UK’s work to end extreme poverty. It tackles the global challenges of our time including poverty and disease, mass migration, insecurity and conflict. Its work is building a safer, healthier, more prosperous world for people in developing countries and in the UK too. Find out more at

IKEA Foundation 

The IKEA Foundation is funded by INGKA Foundation, owner of the Ingka Group of companies. The IKEA Foundation is independent from the retail business with a sole focus on creating brighter lives on a liveable planet through philanthropy and grantmaking. Learn more at