The top 30 teams of the Carbon Zero Challenge (CZC) 2022 will undergo six months of training at IIT Madras on building prototypes of environment-friendly technologies.
The top 30 teams of the Carbon Zero Challenge (CZC) 2022 will undergo six months of training at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) on building prototypes of environment-friendly technologies, identifying customers, and sustainability and developing a viable business model for commercialization of their innovations.
An all-India eco-innovation and entrepreneurship competition, the CZC 2022 aims to support young minds to innovate and create start-ups in the environment domain to solve major challenges with respect to five natural resources: water, energy, air, soil, and materials/solid waste. The previous editions of the competition have supported 50 teams in the last two rounds and many have become successful start-ups.
The competition received 750 registrations across India in five thematic areas out of which 30 were shortlisted. After their six-month training, the top five teams will be declared CZC 2022 winners and will get INR10 lakh as a start-up seed grant and continued support from IIT Madras such as access to IITM incubation resources and Angel and VC funding.
The winners were announced last December 23, 2022, in the presence of Shri Gagandeep Singh Bedi IAS, Commissioner, Chennai Corporation; Prof. V. Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras; Sivarajah Ramanathan, Mission Director, and CEO, Tamil Nadu Start-up and Innovation Mission (TANSIM); and Prof. Indumathi M. Nambi, CZC Principal Coordinator, and other stakeholders.
“Greenhouse (GHG) Emissions from various cities in the world pegs at 75 to 80 per cent. It mainly comes from vehicle emissions and land refills that create immense GHG. Fire occurs at these landfills due to land waste that emits methane. We all have a duty to GHG Emissions reduction. This Carbon Zero Challenge is something that all of us need to do,” said Bedi. “In the last few years, Greater Chennai Corporation has replaced most of the diesel waste collection vehicles with battery-operated vehicles. With about 5,200 such vehicles, we are among the civic bodies in the country with the largest number of electric vehicles. We also have started 175 micro-collecting centres to decentralise waste composting and avoid artificial mountains outside the cities… Another important aspect is the establishment of two centres for generating Bio-CNG, and a few other cities have already started producing Bio-CNG from wet waste. We plan to start converting about 2,500 metric tonnes to Bio-CNG.”
He added, “We have a long way to go but I am happy to say that the Government of Tamil Nadu and the Government of India is very serious about reducing carbon footprint.”
The TAURI Centre for Circularity and Sustainability of Entities was also inaugurated on the occasion. It will take up activities for capacity building of industries, communities and campuses for sustainability. An end-to-end portal called ‘REVALTRAC Portal’ to receive, evaluate and track the progress of start-up ideas was also launched on the occasion.
“IIT Madras is planning to open a sustainability incubator as we believe sustainability will become a key component in business going forward. The ESG (Environmental, social, and governance) aspects have become important for corporates. We also have ten centers working to look at different areas of sustainability. The Institute is also planning to launch a Dual Degree program on policy development looking at sustainability,” said Prof. Kamakoti. “Carbon Zero Challenge is an important activity of IIT Madras and has been going on with a nationwide reach and impact. At IIT Madras, we have started looking at the SDGs of the UN and reaching zero net carbon is a key towards which the Institute has started many initiatives. I am glad to announce that freshwater consumption at IIT Madras has been reduced by 50 Per cent with the recycling being done by collecting water in a single spot through gravity. This particular system can sustain IIT Madras for the next 50 years. We are going into more of the ‘Waste to Wealth’ initiatives.”
This edition of CZC is focusing on low carbon solutions to solve the challenges of resource depletion and pollution, which have been accelerated by the crises of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss.
“This is a very good initiative. We want to replicate such events in at least ten locations in Tamil Nadu and in Universities by 2023, taking it to other parts of the State, from thereon… Start-up Tamil Nadu had discussions with CZC organisers on how the Tamil Nadu Government can support an incubator focused on start-ups in the sustainability sector. The Government of Tamil Nadu has allocated Rs. 500 Crore to support climate-related activities and would also be soon launching an initiative to support green projects that could impact climate action area,” said Ramanathan.
The top 30 teams are currently working on carbon capture and utilization technologies, AI-based solutions for plastic degradation, smart electric tractors, sustainable equipment for farmers to make their work easier, sustainable air quality techniques as well as soil rejuvenation techniques. Besides this, there are also teams working on material and energy recovery from sanitary waste, urine, and fecal sludge.
Emphasizing the importance of such competitions to protect the environment, Prof. Nambi said, “CZC 2022 was launched in August 2022. The outcomes of the last two rounds include the building of 44 prototypes that resulted in nine start-ups, which have got significant funding besides the generation of seven patents. More importantly, we have trained 500 students in eco-entrepreneurship and sustainability. We provided intensive training on eco-entrepreneurship. We have touched about 4,000 students through our outreach programs. We have been able to touch various SDGs.”
The Theme for CZC 2022 is CZC for ‘CRC’ (or) ‘Circularity in Resources Conservation.’ The idea is to highlight the need to balance supply and demand through resource conservation, rethinking design and materials to enable the reduction, recycling, recovery and reuse of resources. The industry and public service systems need non-polluting technology to achieve this and low carbon, land footprint.