TechInnovation 2020 saw start-ups, polytechnics and universities presenting new technologies and ideas across crowdpitching sessions on four unique themes.

Inventors put their heart, soul and plenty of time into a project, all in the hopes of having a product that is ready for the market. But the final step is no less crucial: convincing everyone else that the product is indeed game-changing. Crowdpitching is an excellent opportunity for innovators to passionately sell their ideas and find industry partners or collaborators that can help improve or commercialise their solutions.

At TechInnovation 2020, representatives from a curated pool of innovative start-ups, polytechnics and universities introduced their fresh ideas and technology solutions over four crowdpitching sessions. Each session surrounded a theme that inspired innovation and problem-solving: urban solutions and sustainability, digital economy, health and personal care, and food and nutrition.

Searching for sustainable solutions

During the first session on urban solutions and sustainability, teams showcased their solutions that benefit the environment as well as their potential industry partners. Jeane Koh and her team at Singapore Polytechnic, for example, shared how they have developed a simple process for extracting silver from solid waste.

Conventional methods use toxic acids to derive complex mixtures that have to be purified, overall a hazardous and wastewater-heavy practice. Instead, the method Koh developed can be conducted without toxic materials and at lower temperatures, while extracting more silver with less purification.  

“With our formulation, silver recycling from waste becomes a mild and safe process of simply immersing to extract silver and later precipitating to obtain silver pellets with purity as high as 99 per cent,” said Koh.

Similarly, CEO of Crystal Clear Environmental, Frank Tan, presented the company’s wastewater treatment and water purification solutions. Harnessing and improving on an existing method—advanced oxidation process (AOP)—Crystal Clear Environmental has developed a process that converts unwanted chemicals into solid waste that can then be easily removed. An economical AOP technology on the market, Crystal Clear’s partners would benefit with cost savings to their waste disposal and water incineration expenses.

Digital protection from real-world dangers

Shifting gears from the challenges of the real world to the virtual one, the second crowdpitching session on digital economy covered everything from cybersecurity to robotics. May Chng from memory storage provider, Flexxon told the virtual crowd about their XPHY solid-state drive (SSD), which is the world’s first SSD with embedded artificial intelligence (AI).

Designed to work in tandem with existing protections, the XPHY SSD can detect changes or any signs of compromise, serving as a last line of defense to keep private information secure. With this award-winning technology, Flexxon is looking for interested customers, partners or investors to collaborate and further improve on specific components together.

Addressing a different digital safety issue was Dr Ehsan Mihankhah of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, who presented his innovation in light detection and ranging (LiDAR). Designed for autonomous robots, drones and driverless cars, Dr Mihankhah’s LiDAR system builds on existing sensors to avoid collision more effectively. By directing LiDAR beams into optical fibers that are distributed onto the surface of a machine, Dr Mihankhah’s invention widens the field of vision to allow objects with this technology to see all around itself.

Detecting disease in the blink of an eye

During the next crowdpitching session on health and personal care, Dr Dong Yun Lee from Hanyang University, Korea presented his method for improving diabetes detection. Currently, patients constantly monitor their blood glucose levels, with the most common method being a finger-prick test that is slightly painful.

Another possible option relies on tears as an effective indicator of one’s blood glucose levels, despite having a much lower concentration of it. To test the glucose level in tears, Dr Dong developed colorimetric contact lens with highly sensitive and reliable sensors that can be paired with a smartphone to capture and analyse the data.

Hong Kong start-up MIND and Tech Limited’s solution focused on the detection of Alzheimer’s disease. The most common form of dementia affects nearly one third of people over the age of 85 and is becoming more costly to treat. Project Manager Fan Tze Wing presented their detection kit for the progressively debilitating disease. A simple, cost effective and non-invasive test, the detection kit only needs a sample of either blood, saliva or urine to test for Alzheimer’s disease markers.

The new face of nutrition

Looking to improve the production of food, two companies from the last crowdpitching session have developed nutritious solutions in two very different ways. Food technology innovators NamZ found that the trouble with tasty instant noodles is that they are usually deep fried, while healthier air-dried instant noodles tend to be bland. To provide delicious and nutritious instant noodles, NamZ has developed air fried “NoodleZ” with natural oils and spices.

“Our NoodleZ are lower in fat and sodium, high in protein and fiber and sustainably produced,” said Mark Lim, strategist and legal counsel at NamZ. “There are no compromises in taste and texture, and the noodles take the same three to five minutes to cook.”

At the other end of the production line, Dr Chiradip Chatterjee’s team from Republic Polytechnic has developed and tested new aquaculture feed to reduce reliance on fish meal. To reduce the reliance on expensive and unsustainable fish feed, Chatterjee’s team developed an alternative option that relies on okara—a soybean byproduct—as a source of protein. Usually disposed of in landfills or used in biomass production, okara is an affordable and sustainable source of protein. The feed has been tested on abalone and was found to cultivate bigger and faster growing abalone as compared to those fed with commercial feed.

Pitching for partners

Bringing together problem owners and problem solvers, crowdpitching and crowdsourcing drives collaboration and leads to stronger solutions. Industry players have their problems solved with fresh ideas, while innovators benefit from the experience and size of their partners.

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