Three innovative solutions to transform the world
An Oscar-like atmosphere for the grand finale of the first edition of the Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Awards, held on October 17 in Madrid. Nine projects from Spain, Austria, Chile, Mexico and Brazil, three for each of the stipulated categories: Improving Health and Digital Technology (e-Health), Insurance Innovation (Insurtech) and Mobility & Road Safety.
TEXT: RAMÓN OLIVER PHOTOS: MÁXIMO GARCÍA
The award ceremony of this first edition culminated nine months of intense work at three locations (Mexico City, São Paulo and Madrid), with a total of 462 projects received from over a dozen countries. As Antonio Huertas, president of Fundación MAPFRE, pointed out, this figure far exceeded the expectations of its organizers.
These awards were born out of the conjunction of two essential elements. Firstly, the fact that young people today are more interested in creating and providing greater value to society than those of us in previous generations. Secondly, the commitment – shared by Fundación MAPFRE from the very beginning – to pursing effective solutions that can solve specific problems in order to enhance people’s quality of life,” Mr. Huertas declared. The fact is that the world is changing at breakneck speed. Every day new realities emerge, generating totally new problems. Situations in which innovation and technology have a big part to play. “Instead of making a drama of the problems, we can try to turn things around and make them part of the solution,” suggested José María Gómez, CEO and founder of Scoobic, one of the winning projects.
But no social innovation project will get very far if it neglects its operational dimension. These awards do not simply seek to acknowledge good ideas and best intentions; rather, one of the essential criteria when assessing the projects is their feasibility from a technical, economic and organizational standpoint. The ability of their promoters to defend them in public, for example, before potential investors, is a further element that has been taken very much into account. In that regard, another of the night’s winners, the Mexican Miguel Duhalt, from 4UNO, stated that you can generate social impact and, at the same time, generate economic impact.
“In our case, we managed to obtain financing from a bank and, although it is still not possible, we hope to be able to offer our investors an economic return very soon, because our product is a profitable one.” Another prizewinner, Salva Gutiérrez, from MJN Neuroserveis, echoed this view, indicating that “every project seeking to make a social impact also needs to generate an economic impact. The two aspects must go hand in hand. Because, if the idea isn’t sustainable and doesn’t generate income in order to keep growing, it just dies. An entrepreneurial project cannot live off subsidies forever.” Fundación MAPFRE supports and encourages this pragmatic dimension that any social innovation initiative should possess. To this end, in addition to the 30,000 euros financial prize each of the three winners received, the 27 semifinalists in this first edition have benefited from valuable support in the form of mentoring programs provided by IE.
These awards do not simply seek to acknowledge good ideas, but rather those projects which demonstrate their feasibility from a technical, economic and organizational standpoint
The moment of truth
The persuasiveness of the finalist entrepreneurs was put to the test during the event. This was because the gala not only served as the grand finale awards ceremony, but it was also a real “final nine shootout” in which all the finalists had to defend their projects. Firstly, behind closed doors before the jury and, later, in an “express” version, in front of all those attending. The camaraderie among the participants, who had shared a photo session in the morning, was the prevailing spirit throughout the evening. Tremendous sportsmanship in that atmosphere of healthy collaboration so characteristic of the social entrepreneurship world. Although they were colleagues and already new friends, they pulled out all the stops when it was their turn to go on stage. What was at stake was the honor of becoming the first winners of the Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Awards in each of the three categories. Improving Health and Digital Technology (e-Health), Insurance Innovation (Insurtech) and Mobility & Road Safety.
With the support of multimedia elements, the finalists had just three minutes – which relentlessly ticked away on a clock visible to the whole auditorium – to convince those present why they deserved to be chosen. The audience applauded, enjoyed, laughed and was excited with the passion of Simone Mozzilli (BEABA), the narrative skills of Salva Gutiérrez (MJN Seras), the eloquence of Camilla Vivallo (Oliber), the arguments of Miguel Duhalt (4UNO), the technology deployed by Kristina Tsvetanova (BLITAB), the succinct prowess of Diogo Tolezano (Pluvi.on), the impeccable eloquence of André Andrade (Zumby), the assertiveness of René Espinosa (Lazarillo), and the eminently likable José María Gómez (Scoobic). Great ideas that need to be presented brilliantly if they really wish to make an impact on society someday.
“You are all winners” was the phrase uttered throughout the gala. Although, in the end, three projects received the recognition of the jury, together with the 30,000 euros to enable them to continue development. As stated by Ana Lima, Secretary of State for Social Services, “technological innovation has nothing to do with the future, but rather already forms part of the present. The Spanish Government is grateful to the professionals and institutions such as MAPFRE which foster and channel the tremendous potential of human beings.”
Category Improving Health and Digital
Mjn Neuroserveis (Spain)
Between 70 and 100 million peopl e around the world have epilepsy, a disorder that is “stigmatized, causes rejection and is plagued by a tr emendous lack of knowledge,” explains a thrilled Salva Gutiérrez, one of the three partners of MJN Neuroserveis. This project has been working for six years on developing a technological device to help prevent someone with epilepsy suffering an accident because of an unexpected seizure. The prototype is already in its pre-commercialization phase. “It is an earpiece capable of reading brain data through the auditory canal. These readings, combined with a series of artificial intelligence algorithms, can be downloaded to a smartphone and the s ystem is capable of sending out an alert one minute before a seizure is about to happen,” Gutiérrez declares.
“Those suffering from epilepsy and their relatives live with the constant fear of not knowing when the next episode is going to happen. We want to eliminate that fear from their lives,” he adds. Beyond the technological value of the device, if there is something these social entr epreneurs have learned, it is that what peopl e looking into this project most appreciate is not it s technical sophistication, but rather the way it can help enhance quality of life for people suffering from this disorder. “People don’t know what epilepsy is. They can’t imagine what it means t o suffer from anxiety or depression because you lost your job, or because you’ve hardly any friends left. Or the anguish of a child who doesn’t want to return to school after suffering an attack in front of classmates the previous day.” Thanks to this award, that device is closer to becoming a reality.
Category Insurance Innovation (Insurtech)
Something as seemingly simple as having your own bank account, credit card or insurance policy is beyond the scope of 2.5 million domes tic workers in Mexico. Not because there are no financial products for this segment of the population, but r ather due to the lack of a suitable distribution channel. Creating that channel is 4UNO’s prime objective. After the gala, Miguel Duhalt, one of the pr oject’s founders, spoke to our magazine. “Financial inclusion is the mos t powerful tool for lifting people out of poverty. We bring these products to a huge, vulnerable demographic, namely that of domestic workers. Over 90 percent of these people are mothers earning 300 dollars a month, who cannot save because they have no way of accessing these kinds of servic es.”
4UNO’s disruptive solution to this problem is based on both technology and people. “The system works via a mobile app and these peopl e’s employers are the ones who facilitate their access to financial and protection services by means of a monthly fee of less than five dollars. The employer thus becomes an ambassador for the financial inclusion of the employee, while both are protected and their personal bond is strengthened.” Spreading the word via social media is f acilitating the success of a system which has already made it possible for 3,000 Mexican children to enjoy medical coverage for the first time. And with the boost provided by winning this aw ard, thousands more will be able to enjoy this protection.
Category Mobility & Road Safety
“The technological challenge a few years ago was to bring the Internet into every home. The challenge now is to bring everything we buy over the Internet to them,” declares José María Gómez, CEO and f ounder of Scoobic. Doing so in a clean, sustainable manner, and one which c an even help save lives is the ambitious chall enge taken up by this urban mobility solution, which c ombines the agility of a motorcycle with the load capacity of a van. Scoobic has been developed by Passion Motorbike Factory, a group of “social engineers” committed to turning the problem of traffic jams or urban pollution c ompletely on its head.
An exultant Gómez tells us that the key lies in designing vehicles that put the f ocus on people. “Transporting goods around the city cannot be avoided. But we can actually turn it int o a positive thing for the city. If it turns out that these v ehicles clean the air because they absorb carbon particles and make the city a more livable, healthier place, then the delivery guy becomes an ally.” An ally and maybe even a hero. Because Scoobic intends to equip its vehicles with defibrillators, in such a w ay that, if a user is within close proximity of someone suffering a heart attack, the nearest Scoobic can be geolocalized via an app and sent a distress message. “The deliverer will then immediately cease distributing packages and take the defibrillator to the victim. That da y, the client will probably receive the order late, but if this means a lif e is saved, it will have been really worth it.”