A 20-year-old architecture student from India, who invented low-cost portable housing for COVID-19 quarantine and shelter from extreme weather such as earthquakes and floods, is among 15 worldwide winners of this year's Commonwealth Innovation for Sustainable Development Award.
Kaif Ali, who is pursuing Bachelor of Architecture from New Delhi-based Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university, was awarded for designing prefabricated sustainable shelter SpaceEra, which can not only help reduce transmission of the deadly virus but also house refugees worldwide in the future.
As one of the winners, Ali wins a trophy, GBP 3,000 and the opportunity to scale up his innovation in collaboration with partners and mentors across the Commonwealth.
“Winning the Commonwealth Innovation Award lifts my confidence to a greater level and motivates to me work even harder than yesterday and innovate unprecedented solutions to achieve a sustainable future,” said Ali, who has pledged to follow the Commonwealth award motto of “be the change”.
“I plan to conduct mentorship programmes for grassroot innovators to enrich their knowledge and motivate them to work towards social and environmental issues. In the upcoming year, I wish to pursue a Masters in Architecture and harness my future career towards STEM (science, tech, engineering and mathematics) innovations and youth leadership in the multilateral domain,” he said.
The awards are divided along five thematic categories – improving the lives of People; boosting Prosperity; protecting the Planet, promoting Peace; and building Partnerships for development in the Commonwealth, Kaif Ali’s invention under the People category.
Ali's design has also been recognised by the United Nations under the top 11 emerging innovation start-ups solving climate challenges.
Winners of the 2021 awards, announced virtually on Wednesday, also include a Cameroonian manufacturer of 100 per cent biodegradable sanitary pads made of banana fibre and a coalition of young Pacific Islanders pushing for reforms in international law to address climate injustices.
“My intention of instituting the Innovation for Sustainable Development Awards in 2019 was to accord recognition to such achievements, wherever and however in the Commonwealth they are being achieved – and particularly among that 60 per cent of the 2.5 billion people in our member nations who are under the age of 30,” said Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.
“I hope the added exposure the awards bring will help you to attract the support you deserve from governments, investors, mentors and partners to scale up your work and achieve even more impact,” she said to the 15 winners of the 2021 award.
Besides India and Cameroon, the winners of this year’s award come from Commonwealth member-countries of Tanzania, Barbados, Malaysia, Kenya, Fiji, Uganda, Nigeria, Pakistan, Cyprus, Solomon Islands, Canada, Australia and the UK. They include individuals and groups recognised for making a significant impact on communities, countries and regions of the Commonwealth, by creating innovative solutions to pressing development challenges.