Startup Mix Conference in Nukus
On March 30, the Startup Mix Conference first had gone beyond Tashkent. An event was held in the Youth Union of the capital of Karakalpakstan with the participation of local and international speakers, interactive sessions for youth from Curiosity MakerSpace, an interactive workshop from Mozilla on the Internet of Things, as well as sessions for participants of Technovation Uzbekistan took place.
Shakhnoza Umarova, director of the Uzbekistan branch of the Central Asia Regional Environmental Center (CAREC), spoke about the UzWater Aware project – “Raising Awareness and Partnership for Sustainable Water and Environmental Development in Uzbekistan”. The project has been working in more than two years in many regions of the country and is a part of the EU program “Sustainable Water Management in the Rural Areas of Uzbekistan”. UzWater Aware aims to raise awareness of the importance of efficient use of water resources and environmental protection in the face of climate change.
One of the recent events of UzWater Aware is the eco-marathon in Kokand, in which women, the main users of water resources, took an active part. It is they who, having received relevant information on the intended use of water, will be able to disseminate it in their communities in an accessible and understandable way.
Shahboz Akhmedov, head of the CAREC Water Management Innovation and Research Cluster, spoke about the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Program for the Aral Sea Basin, the implementation of which is designed for 2016-2021. The objectives of the CAMP4ASB project are to improve regional access to climate change information services and knowledge for Central Asian countries, attract climate investments and build capacity to address climate change and hazardous weather events.
Within the framework of CAMP4ASB, the awareness-raising activities are carried out, various events are held: a photo contest, trainings for students and young scientists of the leading universities of the Central Asian region, master classes for mass media on climate change and its popular presentation.
Shahboz shared his plans for 2019, among which: summarizing materials in the form of information products, expanding the circle of users of project products, especially among women and youth, continuing work to expand knowledge about technologies and their applications, improving the network of weather and climate observations and hydrometeorological services for users, climate risk assessment and implementation of results, development of an information platform on climate change and cooperation, coordination with other projects, development of a partner access to finance, as well as the exchange of experience, tours, trainings, advanced training.
Muzaffar Jalalov, acting Rector of INXA University in Tashkent, presented the Project of the digitalization system for education implemented at the university, and spoke about the role of youth in the development of the electronic government system of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
The introduction of new digital systems into the education system will certainly improve the educational process. Since 2014, INHA University began developing a digital education strategy, consolidating the best specialists for implementation of the project, which involves creating a database of information resources, improving management and introducing ICT.
The electronic educational platform of the University E-class (Smart University) includes such components as an online schedule, lecture materials and instructions for lectures in the public domain, monitoring performance and attendance.
Foreign speakers participated in the discussion on social innovation and investment in human capital: Jennifer Bigelow, Director of the GM Office in Uzbekistan and General Director of GM Powertrain Uzbekistan, Beth Steinberg, Chief People Officer, Zenefits and Erin Keeley, Western Digital, Global Engineering Director from California, Ainura Sagyn, founder of Waste to Wealth startup in Kyrgyzstan.
Participants in the discussion discussed what role the introduction of social innovation and social corporate responsibility is played by the success of a company. Jennifer Bigelow said: the vision of a company is to strive for absence of accidents and environmental emissions when creating products and technologies. GM is developing applications to address a wide range of problems, from preventing accidents when leaving children in cars to a system for assessing the driver’s focus on the road, in case if environmental factors interfere or distract a driver, he is given a signal to pay attention to the road.
Beth Steinberg shared the experience of Zenefits in supporting and encouraging employees who are actively involved in social responsibility companies, which not only brings effective help to the community, but also is important for the employer in terms of increasing employee engagement and creating a positive atmosphere in and around the company.
Many of the technologies developed today are designed to solve the problems of both men and women; but, since among their creators there are mainly men, there is a certain bias towards them. The more diverse a team working on product development, the more products will meet the needs of both women and men.
An example of social responsibility given by Erin is the ELIST project of the Generation Z team from Uzbekistan, which passed to the international final of the Technovation Challenge 2018. Generation Z presented its project at the final in California of the college of international judges. The team’s project calling for an even distribution of family responsibilities between boys and girls solves an important social problem and can make positive changes within the local community. Like the Technovation Uzbekistan program, it is an important social initiative involving girls in solving socially important problems of society.
Ainura Sagyn, having experience in commercial projects focused on the foreign market, decided to create and develop a project to solve problems within her country. If the state does not succeed to make positive changes in the life of citizens, then society and business can take on solving of some social problems. Ainura, developing the Waste to Wealth project for waste sorting and disposal, invited female students to participate in the development of a mobile application. This is not only an opportunity to realize themselves for young programmers, but also an opportunity for further training, because only 6% of girls are involved in the field of IT in the country. In Kyrgyzstan, Ainura emphasized, there are no reserves of gold and oil, but it is possible to preserve clean air and clean water, not relying only on the state in resolving these issues, but to do something ourselves, attracting business and ordinary people to solve social problems.
At the end of the discussion, the speakers shared tips and recommendations for those who want to develop startups to solve socially important problems.
The world needs start-ups focused on solving social problems, but the success of projects in the field of social innovation lies in consolidating the efforts of various parties: society, business, private sector, and government. Only by joint efforts we can realize effective actions and achieve visible improvement in solving the problem.
Anyone shouldn’t give up if there are difficulties and problems. It is necessary to develop flexible skills – soft skills: to be able to work in a stressful situation, learn to interact in a team. Do not forget about knowledge in the exact sciences, you need to be able to communicate, learn to talk about the idea and present it. Communication with people with experience in a similar direction can be invaluable – they can share important experience, give advice and help in implementation of a project. It is also necessary to develop skills in managing people and projects – although soon many processes and professions will be replaced by machines, there will remain people who will manage these machines, those who cannot be replaced by the most advanced robot.
It is important to consider the needs and desires of consumers who will use your products and services, then you can create a successful project for people and for society.
Stop living in a vacuum without thinking about the social problems that exist in society. After all, we can solve many of them by our own efforts. If we want to live in a developed country, we must be active, responsible for the contribution that we can make to development of our country.
Monika Tomecka, a scientist and entrepreneur, the executive director of uFraction8 Ltd., told about the possibilities of the project she represents. uFraction8 Ltd. develops special technologies that can increase crop yield and several times increase the productivity of each square of sown areas. To increase the productivity and crop yield of the fields, microorganisms processed in a special way will be used – microalgae, which are able to extract harmful substances from water and soil and neutralize the harm of their impact on natural resources, which ultimately will lead to achievement of the goal – to increase crop yield at a lower cost. The company has already created a prototype of the technology and successfully implemented several stages of the project. Ahead is implementation of a very complex process of microorganisms processing, on which the uFraction8 Ltd. team is currently working.
Catriona McGill, an engineer, technical development manager for Desolenator, a clean technology startup based in the UK and the Netherlands, told about her company’s product. People living in Nukus are very keenly recognize the problem that Catriona was talking about, because the problem of salt water is acute in this region.
Desolenator is the project of a low-cost mobile solar energy water desalination/purification system. The installation is powered by photocells, which heat and electricity allows to receive up to 15 liters of drinking water per day from contaminated and sea water, is solely due to a free renewable energy source.
And although there are many excellent desalination technologies in the world that make water of the seas and oceans suitable for human consumption, they are too expensive, and their use leads to release of harmful substances into the environment. Catriona offers affordable, large and small Desolenator models for private and industrial use that use technologies that minimize environmental impact.
Letitia Maile Smith, chief geologist, Northgate Environmental Management in California, told about the state initiatives to use rainwater, treat contaminated wastewater to reduce soil erosion, and to ensure consistent water resistance. An urgent problem for the state is a small amount of precipitation and, accordingly, a large demand for water for use in the irrigation sector. California grows a large amount of fruits and vegetables for US consumers. Therefore, the management of groundwater resources that are used for irrigation needs in the amount of 30%, and in dry years twice as much, is especially relevant. California projects, large and small, are not only funded by government funding. Users of water resources, among which are various sectors of agriculture, industry and state residents, unite and implement projects together.
Dr. Jamshid Avloni (USA), scientist, entrepreneur, the consultant of the Ministry of Innovative Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan, presented a project aimed at preventing dust storms in the arid region of the Aral Sea by fixing the soil using water-soluble interpolymer complexes (IPC).
The decline in the level of the Aral Sea, as a result of which today about 60 thousand square kilometers of saline soil has formed, is a serious environmental disaster for the region. The consequence of this is global warming and pollution of snow cover, and sandstorms, frequent for the region, are the main cause of serious health problems. In addition, the economic damage to the region is estimated at 4 billion US dollars.
To prevent dust storms, it is possible to strengthen the soil with tree planting, but this is too long and costly, which, moreover, is not able to strengthen the top layer of soil which is the cause of sand storms. As an alternative to eliminating sandstorms in the Aral Sea region, the process of strengthening the soil by fixing the soil with water-soluble interpolymer complexes (IPC) can be used. This will significantly improve the air quality in the region, which will logically lead to betterment of health of the inhabitants of the region.
The presentation of the startup The M.E.T., which is being implemented on the basis of the Center for Advanced Technologies within the accelerator of scientific projects CAT Science Accelerator, was made by Sergey Kim, a specialist in geo-information systems, master of science in physics at the National University of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Sergey told about the project, on which his team has been working for 5 months.
The main objective of The MeT (Methodology and Technology) is an individual approach to each customer, including farmers, dehkans (peasants), agricultural holdings, and insurance services organizations. An individual methodology and technology is selected for each, which allows to correctly assess the realities and provide relevant technologies to obtain a better product. The MeT focuses on agribusiness, a relevant industry for Uzbekistan, and plans to conduct field studies in different regions of our country to confirm the established hypotheses and accumulate a database for the subsequent implementation of artificial intelligence technologies.
The MeT products are a forecast and assessment of the existing situation of land, water and irrigation technologies at the customer, an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages, creation of a methodology and technology to improve soil fertility, crop quality and, accordingly, business. Businessmen working with natural resources are exposed to great risks and often do not have the right recommendations, and this increases the risks of small and large losses and leads to bankruptcy. In addition to quantitative and qualitative analyzes, The MeT can make a forecast of future yields and give accurate recommendations for growing the product in the study area.
Sergey calls students of biologists, chemists, farmers, irrigators to cooperate with the project. By joint efforts, it will be possible to increase the existing database on the quality of soils, crops and water resources in the regions of Uzbekistan.
In parallel with the presentation sessions and discussions, interactive sessions for young people from Curiosity MakerSpace Tashkent and an Interactive Workshop from Mozilla on the Internet of Things were held by the guests from abroad.
The first Startupmix in Nukus took place! We thank the Youth Palace for the hospitality and assistance in organizing and holding the conference events! See you soon!
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