Student team wins Morpheus Cup for 'solar ATMs' proposal

26 April, 2018

A team featuring five Oxford students, including two from ODID, has won the €10,000 grand prize at the 2018 Morpheus Cup European Universities & Graduate Schools Championship for their proposal to provide ‘solar ATMs’ in India.

'Empower' aims to provide access to clean, safe, and trustworthy solar electricity to the 240 million people in India that are not reached by the power grid and are unable to afford alternative solutions, such as solar home systems, due to their high upfront cost and requirement for regular payments.

The team comprises Gideon Laux, who is studying for the MSc in Economics for Development at ODID, Vabyanti Endrojono-Ellis, who is in the second year of the MPhil in Development Studies, Ronit Kanwar, who is studying a BA in Economics & Management, James Dickson, an MBA student, and Alistair Berven, who is studying for the MSc in Environmental Change & Management.

‘The Empower solution meets customers’ exact energy needs, at or below the cost they already spend on substandard alternatives’, according to Gideon. ‘The “Solar ATMs” will provide a reliable, on-demand energy source to charge devices, such as lights and mobile phones, and will be run by local entrepreneurs with an existing customer base’.

Empower was also named ‘Best European Students Project’ in the Energy category. The semi-final and final rounds of the competition took place on 12 April at the Palais Brongniart in Paris, where Empower emerged as the winner from among 90 teams admitted to the semi-final stage from across Europe.

The prize money will go towards funding Empower’s pilot phase over the summer.

Empower also won the regional finals of the Hult Prize in March (photo above). Declared co-champions in the London finals with a team from UCL, they were one of just 16 regional winners out of over 100,000 global submissions.

The team are now invited, with the other regional winners, to take part in a six-week accelerator on Hult International Business School’s campus at Ashridge Castle in Hertfordshire this summer. They then have a chance to become one of the final six teams to pitch for $1 million in seed funding at the Hult Prize Global Finals, which kick off the United Nations Global Goals Week in New York City in September.

Find the full list of Morpheus Prize winners here.