Fuelled by the philosophy of open innovation, Novozymes and Grundfos have launched a new platform for inclusive collaboration called HelloScience. Why? Because all hands on deck are needed to solve the issues of today, especially “Clean water and Sanitation”, the focal point of this new initiative. A few months ago, the concept was launched on the banks of Jakkur Lake in Bangalore. Here’s what happened.
India is facing a historic water crisis. According to a government report, 21 Indian cities – including Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai – may run out of groundwater within two years. By 2030, 40 percent of India’s population will have no access to drinking water.
Bangalore going dry
Massive population increase has made Bangalore especially vulnerable: during the last 30 years the population has grown by 10 million people, and the influx isn’t abating. Borewells are now being drilled 500 meters into the ground in search of fresh water.
Needless to say, “Clean Water & Sanitation in Bangalore” is more than relevant for the first Open Challenge by HelloScience.
HelloScience is a platform initiated by the companies Novozymes and Grundfos that seeks to address key global challenges by facilitating a broader collaboration between public and private sectors, academia and civil society in Denmark and India.
Presently, Novozymes and Grundfos provide mentoring and support to early stage startups, including technical assistance and microgrants for prototyping. Since both Novozymes and Grundfos address water related issues, their combined effort and expertise increase the chances for comprehensive and sustainable solutions.
Last week, a leading law firm Kromann Reumert joined the initiative, and will provide free legal advice to entrepreneurs.
On the Indian side, the high-tech bio incubator C-Camp and the startup makerspace Jaada have joined, ensuring a strong connection to public authorities, and the Bangalore innovation ecosystem.
They also act as boots on the ground, hosting events, providing access to workspace and lab facilities, and ensure that foreigners just off the boat maintain a level-headed understanding of the Bangalore reality.
The final member of HelloScience is Europe’s largest impact accelerator Climate-KIC, supporting climate related startups across Europe.
Thus, HelloScience is not your traditional corporate accelerator where startups are given funding and specific use cases in return for equity and partnership prospects. The platform has a broader scope, and seeks to evolve from local needs and circumstance.
On the banks of Jakkur Lake
In early February 2019, HelloScience invited local entrepreneurs to participate in the “Bangalore Clean Water”-Challenge. 57 startups signed up, and 14 were selected for the second phase of the project, the LiveLab (or hackathon).
On the 27 February representatives from both Denmark and India – startups, corporates, academia, civil society and public authority – met on the banks Jakkur Lake for real-time innovation, beyond the insular reality of meeting rooms, office spaces and PowerPoint-presentations. The 64-hectare lake north of Bangalore became a practical testbed for scalable solutions to a larger problem; Clean Water and Sanitation in Bangalore.
Since then, four Indian startups have been selected for incubation by HelloScience. Now they are working on their prototype, details of which can be found on the knowledge-platform Thirdroom.
Thirdroom is a new digital platform created by the Collaboratorium, a not-for profit research organisation, with the aim of empowering cross-sectorial collaboration.
Novozymes is working together with the Thirdroom team and students from Roskilde University to enhance the platform, that is based on the philosophy of Open Innovation and giving easy access to relevant data on a neutral (non-commercial) platform.
From LiveLab to Living Lab
So, what’s in it for Danish corporates?
Firstly, HelloScience is all about bridge-building; seeking to connect with a broad range of local stakeholders, crucial for any company wanting a strong engagement in India.
Secondly, HelloScience is about innovation, stronger and cheaper than anything spawned from a remote lab. This innovation is fueled by peer-to-peer learning and builds on a multitude of combined insights.
A grand water alliance
Finally, HelloScience is about commercialization; turning out viable water-solutions to the Indian market defined by real demand. Thus, the platform may be seen as a first step towards creating a grand Indo-Danish “water alliance”, where stakeholders across the board are mobilized in a Living Lab, with the sole purpose of creating solutions refined and adapted to Indian reality.
If this vision is realized, the scope of HelloScience will definitely reach beyond the muddy banks of Jakkur Lake.