Skip to content

You are using an outdated browser

Internet Explorer is not supported by this site and Microsfot has stopped releasing updates, therefore you may encounter issues whilst visiting this site and we strongly recommend that you upgrade your browser for modern web functionality, a better user experience and improved security.

Upgrade my browser

Science can change our world for good. DSM’s #BrightMindsChallenge finalists announced

4 min read

Better Society

In partnership with DSM

DSM, part of dsm-firmenich, is a global, purpose-led leader in health and nutrition, applying bioscience to improve the health of people, animals, and the planet. DSM’s purpose is to create brighter lives for all.

Six months ago DSM and its partners launched the #BrightMindsChallenge, calling on people to submit their ideas for renewable energy solutions. Here are the final three bright ideas. Click on the video above.

Bright Minds Challenge For Solar Energy & Energy Storage Breakthrough Enters Final Stage

Global science-based company DSM believes that science can change the world and offer the solution to the issues our planet currently faces. The biggest of this issue is climate change but, if we make the switch to 100 percent renewable energy quickly enough, we can head off the majority of its negative effects.

Human civilisation is currently dependent on fossil fuels as an energy source. Burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and cutting down forests adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. 

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that absorbs heat and energy, preventing it from escaping from the Earth’s surface into space. The more carbon dioxide there is in the atmosphere, the warmer the Earth becomes.   

The solution to this is less reliance on fossil fuels and a new focus on solar energy. By harnessing the power of solar energy better and maximising the ability to store renewable energy, carbon can be taken out of the power grid completely.

These new solar and energy storage technologies also offer a solution for brighter lives for people living in some of the most remote places in the world. For them, renewable energy solutions will facilitate health, nutrition and economic development.  

The #BrightMindsChallenge

In October, DSM and its partners launched the first-ever #BrightMindsChallenge, a global solar energy and storage competition.

The #BrightMindsChallenge called on the brightest minds from around the world to submit their ideas for renewable energy solutions.

Final three

From those who entered, the public voted for their top 10, with judges choosing their final three innovations. On 13 June 2017, the finalists will present their ideas before a panel of judges. 

The winner will receive an unprecedented 500 hours of tailored commercial, IP and technical support to move their solution forward. The runners-up will receive 250 and 125 hour of expert support respectively.

The Bright Minds Challenge aims to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and unlock the potential of bright minds around the world,’ says Rob van Leen, Chief Innovation Officer, DSM and chairman of the jury. 

With this initiative we help them to take their scientific solution to the next step for the benefit of society as a whole. 

These three finalists have shown they are ready to take it to next level and make a difference in turning solar and energy storage into the renewable energy source of choice.’

Here are the judges top three… Which of these three solutions will shape our renewable future? 

Solar Ear

More than 600 million people in the world suffer from hearing loss, but only 10 million hearing aids are sold. Only 3 percent of people are able to afford a hearing aid, which leaves a staggering 97 percent of those 600 million in need of a hearing aid.

Hearing aids, and the batteries needed to power them, are expensive, which puts them out of reach for all but the richest people on the planet. 

Canadian Howard Weinstein, who went to Africa to help create employment opportunities for disabled women following the death of his ten-year-old daughter, has developed a low-cost hearing aid and battery that can be recharged by the sun.

Solar Ear employs deaf workers to make their hearing aids, which benefit impoverished communities across the globe and change lives.

If you give a child a hearing aid before they are three years old, they can go to mainstream school, vastly improving their chances of a brighter future and offering an opportunity for them to get themselves out of poverty.

Solar Ear Solar-powered hearing aids Source: Bright Minds/YouTube


Lithium-ion batteries are essential to modern life. They are used to power portable electronic devices, such as phones, laptops and tablets.

Lithium occurs naturally in salt lakes, 80 percent of which are found in South America. 

The current extraction process, which uses evaporation to extract lithium from South America’s salt flats, results in the loss of 100,000 gallons of water and large-scale chemical waste.

Scientists at the University of Buenos Aires, led by Professor Ernesto J Calvo, have come up with an environmentally friendly way to extract lithium from salt using electrochemicals and solar power. 

This lithium is then used in batteries to store energy in a sustainable way for remote electrification. 

Inquimae’s innovative technology offers an alternative way to get the power we need to work our devices. 

The process will put an end to the current loss of an enormous amount of water and resulting chemical waste that ends up in the environment.

Calvo’s dream is to be able to develop his solution on an industrial scale and train young people to work on it. South America, where the majority of the world’s lithium resources are found, is a very poor continent. 

Inquimae can offer young people a career, and an opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty, as well as preserve these magnificent salt lakes for us all. 

Inquimae Lithium extraction process for renewable energy storage Source: Bright Minds/YouTube


More than 10 million households in Tanzania are off the national electricity grid. Richard Awuor’s Cellulike offers a sustainable and scalable solution to solar energy that is affordable for poor, rural communities.

Currently, more than a dozen companies are working in Africa to help connect these off-grid communities using micro-grid solar devices. These devices, however, require a smartphone and internet connection, and this initial upfront cost is too high for most people. 

Internet penetration in Tanzania is just 30 percent, and mainly in urban areas, making the promise of solar energy nothing but a pipe dream for the majority.

Cellulike aims to bridge the solar poverty gap by offering a pay-as-you-go model for solar power distribution using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD). 

With Cellulike’s model, anyone with a mobile phone, however basic, can access clean, solar energy. 

This technology means Cellulike can potentially reach every village on the continent. The implications of this for both social development and the environment are huge.

Nelson Mandela says, You never know it can be done until it’s done,”’ says Richard. So this is going to be done.’

Make an Impact

Champion your favourite solution

Read more about the top 10 innovations, as voted for by the public, and share your favourite on social media.