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European Innovation Council
News article11 November 20213 min read

EIC Horizon Prize on Affordable High-Tech for Humanitarian Aid: One year after the award - accelerating impact for then most vulnerable

For the humanitarian sector to address the ever-growing need for assistance, it is vital to find better, more efficient and more affordable solutions.

In September 2020, the EIC Horizon Prize for Affordable High-Tech for Humanitarian aid was awarded to five solutions (one-million Euro each)  at the R&I days.

Despite all the winners being proven and tested innovations, scaling-up tech-based solutions is always a challenge, and particularly so in the diverse humanitarian sector. So, after one year, how has winning the prize helped the organisations – ranging from start-ups and SMEs to large humanitarian agencies - in the deployment of their innovations?

For an SME like Bright Product, winning the EIC Horizon prize, gave us a real opportunity to grow and develop during a very challenging time. With the EIC Horizon prize, we are able to improve our solutions to meet the future demand for sustainable energy and solar products. The Prize also gave attention and recognition to our new product ‘Bright Move’, which has been very valuable,

said Vidar Eskelund, CEO, Bright Products.

Indeed, a prize can help create public recognition for the innovative work of the winners and supports promotion of the new solutions identified, both within the organization itself and externally.

The first EU prize for Humanitarian innovation, which awarded Handicap International – Humanity & Inclusion in two categories, represented a unique recognition and source of pride for our organisation and its teams,

says Manuel Patrouillard, Global Managing Director of Handicap International – Humanity & Inclusion.

In the case of Lorawan Monitoring, developed by UNHCR, the prize contributed to the acceleration of both the deployment of the solution in refugee camps and also to the development of more features. Through one of its two winning projects, Odyssey2025, Handicap International – Humanity & Inclusion has generated further interest in and support for using drones for demining activities in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East. The prize for TeReFa contributed to increased emphasis on rehabilitation, an area where few actors work, and allowed its expansion to new contexts such as Togo.

 As a small organisation building a name for providing high-tech assistance to humanitarian organisations, the recognition we have received from the prize has built further legitimacy behind our offerings, and assisted us in forming relationships with new stakeholders to tackle the challenge of informal settlement fires

says Francois Petousis, CEO, Lumkani.

Winning the prize also served as a launch pad for companies to scale their innovations. Bright Products, an SME winner of the prize, was able to use the prize money to speed up their project ‘Bright Move’, and to improve its recyclability and reparability. Lumkani, another SME, used the prize to pilot new technologies to tackle the risk of fire in slum neighbourhoods in South Africa, as well as scaling their existing solution to 25 new communities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the money awarded to prize winners can also have a valuable financial impact. For the SME winners in particular, this allowed them financial flexibility to build up stock and overcome disruptions in global supply chains. It can also allow the expansion of the solution to more beneficiaries.

Creating a positive spillover effect for innovative projects through the money received is another avenue for prize winners, including Handicap International – Humanity & Inclusion, who used the prize to set up an Innovation Fund.

As Manual Patrouillard explains:

Beyond the awarded projects, which are both being further deployed, we have decided to use the awarded money for the creation of a fund for humanitarian innovation, to support other ambitious initiatives for the benefit of the most vulnerable people.

Supporting innovation for humanitarian aid remains an important issue, as highlighted in the European Commission Communication COM(2021) 110 on “the EU’s humanitarian action: new challenges, same principle.

As Marian Schilperoord, Deputy Director of UNHCR’s Division of Resilience and Solutions, says:

Dedicated investment in innovative solutions by key partners, such as the European Union, is critical so that together, we can best respond to humanitarian emergencies.



Publication date
11 November 2021