Singularity University Announces 2017 Global Grand Challenge Award Winners Showcasing World’s Most Promising Social Impact Tech Companies

October 3, 2017

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – September 28, 2017 – Singularity University, a global community with a mission to educate, inspire, and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges, today announced the 2017 startups with the most innovative solutions to help address the most urgent issues facing humanity today. The SU Global Grand Challenge Award winners were selected from three finalists in each of twelve categories: energy, environment, food, water, governance, health, disaster resilience, learning, security, shelter, space, and prosperity. Their solutions involve exponential technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, artificial and/or virtual reality, and digital biology to disrupt the status quo. SU believes these companies have the greatest potential to turn global scarcity into abundance and positively impact one billion people in the next ten years.

Over 150 applicants (one-third devoted to learning and healthcare alone) applied to be considered. Thirty-six finalists were invited to attend and present at the second annual Singularity University Global Summit that took place in August in San Francisco. The finalists were judged by domain experts from the SU faculty; SU program partners such as SAP and Autodesk; Deloitte, the Summit’s Premier Consulting Sponsor; and development and NGO entities that have become SU Impact Partners, including the World Food Programme and the World Bank. The twelve winners had the opportunity to promote their solutions to the 1,600 attendees and 150,000 streaming viewers of the Global Summit, display their solutions and answer questions about their startups in expo center booths, and brief members of the press.To view the presentations and hear the judges’ comments, visit Global Grand Challenge Awards.

“We believe these are the most exciting startups in the world today and we’re happy to serve as a catalyst to help further their important work,” said Neil Sogard, leader of the Global Challenge Awards and Senior Director, Global Partner Programs at SU. “Their mission of leveraging technology to solve humanity’s largest problems is not only impressive, but since these innovators are actively delivering scalable solutions to those around the world who need help the most, it’s hard not to also be incredibly inspired by their work. Of the 36 featured finalists, 19 came from other countries and five continents were represented. The winner of the Disaster Resilience category, LuminAid, is currently impacting many, many people who have been affected by recent hurricanes and storms.”

Winners of the 2017 SU Global Grand Challenge Awards

Disaster resilience: LuminAID

When LuminAID founders designed a product to assist post-earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, they considered the dangerous conditions at night in the tent cities and turned their attention to a critical need: light. LuminAID light has been featured on Shark Tank and is now being used by hikers in Yosemite, backpackers in Whistler, and emergency workers in Nepal. LuminAID most recently raised money for 1000 solar lanterns and phone chargers for hurricane victims in Florida and Texas.

Energy: Rafiki Power

Rafiki Power provides clean and affordable energy to people and businesses without access to the national grid. To date, the company has successfully installed and operates 8 mini grid solutions (solar PV & battery) in Tanzania.

Environment: BreezoMeter

BreezoMeter help brands keep their users engaged, satisfied, and healthy by providing them with access to local air quality data that is available globally. For product and developers, BreezOMeter provides APIs that measure air quality, display color-coded heat maps, make health recommendations, and more. BreezOMeter enables the development of new applications and solutions that enrich the user experience, while educating and engaging consumers.

Food: Aspire Food Group

Insects have the protein value of meat with the environmental impact of plants. The company believes that insects are the protein of the future, and that technology has the power to bring this extraordinary tradition to the world. The company’s commitment to relentless innovation, radical rethinking, and superior nutrition is what makes their technology best-in-class.

Governance: MakeSense

MakeSense is an international community that rallies SenseMakers in 128 cities across the world to help social entrepreneurs solve their challenges. By putting together skills and ideas, MakeSense can help social entrepreneurs create and develop their businesses and solve the most pressing issues faced by society in such arenas as education, health, environment, food, and more.

Health: Unima

Unima is helping to stop outbreaks of infectious diseases among 2 billion people in resource-limited, developing nations. Their tools are fast and low-cost; only a paper device and a drop of blood are needed to make real-time diagnoses. The technology behind the tools is leading-edge, involving rapid data acquisition, analysis, and modeling.

Prosperity: Egalite

The company’s mission is to establish with responsibility and security the connection between organizations and people with disabilities through the recruitment, training, and monitoring of agents of this relationship, demonstrating to society the value of equal opportunities.

Learning: Iris.AI

Iris.AI is an artificial intelligence that reads science for R&D departments, research institutes, and academics. Iris.AI starts out as a science assistant, helping users find the science they need. Over time she learns, slowly but surely becoming a scientist herself.

Security: Hala Systems

Hala Systems, Inc. is a social enterprise focused on developing effective, technology-driven solutions to the world's toughest humanitarian challenges. Hala is currently focused on civilian protection, accountability, and the prevention of violent extremism before, during, and after conflict. Ultimately, Hala aims to transform the nature of civilian defense during warfare, as well as to reduce casualties and trauma during post-conflict recovery, natural disasters, and other major crises.

Shelter: Billion Bricks

Billion Bricks designs and provides scalable, sustainable shelter and infrastructure solutions for the homeless and vulnerable. It also creates opportunities for communities to emerge out of poverty. The Billion Bricks approach empowers communities to replicate its solutions on their own, and reduce dependencies on support, while creating ownership and pride, and unlocking untapped potential for change. The company operates design studios in Singapore and Mumbai, and creates high-quality, women-focused design solutions for the poorest of communities.

Space: TellusLabs

Getting insights from satellite data is harder than it should be. Critical emerging challenges like food security, water scarcity, and sustainable urban and industrial systems depend on a view from above. The challenge is that these key Earth data assets are stranded. They are not analytics-ready, critical questions go unasked, and the answers that do arrive are not sufficient to drive meaningful change. TellusLabs combines decades of satellite imagery with machine learning to answer critical, time-sensitive economic and environmental questions.

Water: Loowatt

Loowatt’s mission is to build odorless toilets with a high usability standard, in systems that maximize the value generated from human waste. The company has teams working in the UK and Madagascar.


Singularity University (SU) is a global learning and innovation community using exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges and build an abundant future for all. SU's collaborative platform empowers individuals and organizations across the globe to learn, connect, and innovate breakthrough solutions using accelerating technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, and digital biology. A certified benefit corporation headquartered at NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley, SU was founded in 2008 by renowned innovators Ray Kurzweil and Dr. Peter H. Diamandis with program funding from leading organizations including Google, Deloitte, and UNICEF. To learn more, visit, join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @SingularityU, and download the SingularityU Hub mobile app.


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