A team of four undergraduate students represented the University at the regional stages of the 2018 Hult Prize Challenge. The Hult Prize is an annual, year-long competition that brings together the brightest college and university students from around the globe after challenging them to solve a pressing social issue.

Former US President Bill Clinton is the official ambassador for the Challenge. Bill Clinton personally selected this year’s challenge theme: “Harnessing the Power of Energy to Transform the Lives of 10 Million People”.

The multi-disciplinary team was selected out of a record number of applicants (more than 100,000) to take their plan to tackle inefficient waste management practices and access to clean energy in Southern Africa to San Francisco in March. During this time, more than 50 teams from around the world competed for a place in an eight-week, all-expenses-paid, start-up accelerator in the United Kingdom.

“We pitched an idea to create a scalable, social enterprise which leveraged biogas technologies,” team member Caitlene Hillman says. “This solution involves collecting agricultural waste, and transforming this into clean cooking fuel and fertiliser, which is deployed to off-grid, rural areas. As a result, our solution overcomes two key issues: inefficient waste management practices and access to reliable sources of energy.”

Fellow Hult Prize competitor Natasha Naqvi says their submission was well received. “Following a 10-minute presentation and Q&A, we were greeted with much encouragement from a panel of judges ranging fromsocial entrepreneurs, strategy consultants, analysts from Google and venture capitalists. On the whole, our team came second in our heat to the overall winning team,” she says.

And the journey won’t end here for the team. “We have another chance to accelerate and scale our social enterprise through a ‘wild card’ entry for a place in the eight-week program in the UK,” competitor Adela Gojovi says. “In the past month we have been refining our idea, as per the feedback from the regional finals. Additionally, we are also reaching out to organisations in Zimbabwe, which is our pilot location.”