One Spanish, a Columbian and a Brazilian project were the winners of the second edition of the Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Awards in the three categories: Improving Health & Digital Technology (e-Health); Insurance Innovation; and Sustainable Mobility & Road Safety. Before collecting their awards, they had faced stiff competition from another 229 projects. There now follow details of the grand finale of this second edition of the Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Awards.
TEXT: CRISTINA BISBAL IMAGES: ALBERTO CARRASCO
Last October 10, the Auditorium of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia was the venue for the final of the second edition of the Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Awards, organized with academic support from IE (Instituto de Empresa). Nine finalists were competing for the awards, all passionate about their projects, which were created and developed with the aim of changing the world.
Throughout the event, the nervousness of the participants was evident, mitigated by the atmosphere created by the cheery female presenter and the fine music. Those present were treated to jazz played live by a group from the Música Creativa Foundation, which helped to relax the nerves of the finalists. Because getting this far had not been easy. The projects that reached the final had passed through a tough selection process. Of the 230-plus projects submitted to this second edition, 26 went on to the regional semifinals held in São Paulo, Mexico City and Madrid. They competed at these three venues in three categories: e-Health or Improving Health & Digital Technology); Insurance Innovation; and Sustainable Mobility & Road Safety.
The representatives of the finalist projects arrived at the Reina Sofia museum hoping to take home the international recognition inherent in this award and the congratulations of the personalities present: Infanta Elena; Antonio Huertas, president of Fundación MAPFRE; and Cristina Gallach, the UN High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda. And, of course, the €30,000 cash prize accompanying each of these three awards, enabling them to give their projects a definitive boost and go beyond the prototype stage. Not forgetting the tremendous visibility in the media, reaching both potential investors and clients.
The jury had seen and assessed the projects the previous evening, but the result was not made public. A representative of each of the nine finalist projects came on stage for three minutes to tell the audience about their project, how it has innovative and how it contributed to social improvement. Because, as Antonio Huertas stated in his speech, “innovators do not simply want to create an innovation model; they also want to create new capacities for addressing problems and seeking social and technological growth.”
These words are confirmed if we take a look at the solutions that were presented and – given that viability is another of the requirements to opt for one of these awards – are clearly capable of: improving the quality of life of people who suffer from diseases (Neurobots; Ecglove; Rithmi); furthering the autonomy of the elderly and those with disabilities (Speakare; Navilens); creating safer environments for children in large cities (Carona a pé; Caminito a la escuela); providing access to essential services – health, leisure, education, insurance – to vulnerable people (MiBKClub); and boosting the livelihood of small-scale farmers (Manejebem), essential actors when it comes to feeding the world, by offering them technical assistance and remote support for the risks to which they are exposed. After a few tense minutes, the envelopes were opened, disclosing the winners Neurobots (e-Health; Brazil), MiBKClub (Insurance Innovation; Colombia) and Navilens (Sustainable Mobility; Spain).
Following the presentations, and given the quality of the proposals, Cristina Gallach stressed how “happy” she was. “You have given us hope for the future through your commitment to the present. This is the 2030 Agenda. It is essential to organize ourselves to ensure that, every day and in every aspect of our lives, we advance toward a fairer society and can live on the planet we want and which we must leave to our children. Innovation is on our side,” she declared.
The success of this second edition has reinforced Fundación MAPFRE’s commitment to social innovation in general, and to these awards in particular. “We were already ambitious last year. And we remain so. The underlying factor is the need for companies to make an impact, to act differently in order to achieve change. Fundación MAPFRE is fully committed in all the regions where we operate, because we also want to be leaders of change,” Huertas stated. And he went on: “We must make a real call to action and adopt the Sustainable Development Goals as something inherently ours. It’s not enough to just spread the message without taking concrete action.” Una de estas acciones concretas, prueba del compromiso del que hizo gala Antonio Huertas, es que ya está abierta la tercera edición de los Premios a la Innovación Social, «porque hay muchos proyectos de impacto social que están pidiendo su oportunidad».
One such concrete action, proof of the commitment Antonio Huertas espouses, is the announcement of the third edition of the Social Innovation Awards, “because there are so many social impact projects just waiting for an opportunity.”
Three innovative proposals
“We are a neuroengineering startup working to rehabilitate stroke patients,” is the straightforward description offered by Julio Dantas, CEO of Neurobots, of their winning project. “We ask patients to think or imagine what they want to do, capture the brain signals that the software identifies and manage to get the exoskeleton to move accordingly.” In this way, patients are able to move their hand again. Dantas goes on: “This work actually enables the brain’s plasticity to be increased by making new connections and restoring the function that had been lost.” This rehabilitation process enables around 30 percent of the motor capacity of the upper limbs to be recovered in as little as two weeks. At the end of the therapy, patients no longer need the neuroconnector as they have relearned the movement.
This project arose from the need to tackle the sequelae of a stroke, a serious problem in Brazil, as everywhere else. Each year, some 300,000 people suffer a stroke. 75 percent of patients survive, yet 70 percent of them never walk again. This is the disease that causes the greatest number of mobility disability issues in the world and Neurobots could help many of them recover part of that lost life. A true revolution accomplished by a young biomedical company (its CEO is only 24 years of age) for whom winning this award has meant a lot: “Fundación MAPFRE is a highly respected institution and it has chosen us over numerous great projects from all over the world. It’s been so motivating, made us feel really good and shows us that we’re on the right track.”
This app achieves maximum accessibility for people with visual disabilities using a cell phone. Able to read a QRtype code and based on Artificial Vision, it detects multiple markers at significant distances in milliseconds, even with the device in movement, and without needing to focus on objects. Javier Pita, CEO of Neosistec, the firm that developed this project, tells us how the idea came about: “We were wondering how a cell phone could help people with a visual disability. We thought that the camera could read signage to help them get their bearings, especially in places they have no prior knowledge of. What was available on the market was no use to us. So we met up with the University of Alicante to set them the challenge. It took us five years to develop this code.”
Their goal is for it to achieve widespread use: “Just as there are signage elements in all public spaces, we believe that there should also be Navilens codes so as to make them more accessible for the blind.”
Pita is of the opinion that technology “should have a social impact on people’s lives.” And that is precisely why this award is so exciting for them “given that, in its second edition, it’s already one of the most prestigious on the international stage. This is a major step toward being able to extend this system that helps people with visual disabilities move around more independently in their daily lives.” And without forgetting that it may be of use to many more than just this population group – “to all passersby. A visitor in Asia can have signs translated in real time to their own language.” It has already been tested in such crowded places as the bus and metro services in Barcelona, the trams in Murcia or the Atocha train station in Madrid.
Maribel Torcatt is one of the founders of this project. But she is no newcomer to social innovation. She has dedicated over 20 years to this field from Fundefir (Rural Finance Foundation), a non-profit association responsible for MiBKClub. This is “a low-cost subscription model program that combines insurance with other products and services which we refer to as poverty ‘shock absorbers’. They are distributed through community advisors, local women who manage to minimize the reluctance to purchase insurance,” Torcatt explains. And she goes on: “It’s like an incentive to get people to purchase insurance, which is in our interest as a development organization; but we package it up with other services and benefits such as education, leisure, housing and health. We obtain discounts in travel agencies, dental clinics, etc. And, in the event of some contingency, they are insured. In this way our target population – vulnerable groups and low-income families – can enjoy insurance cover almost without realizing it.”
In Fundefir they know that “poverty is not only determined by a lack of income, but also the lack of a regular income, with periods where economic revenues drop or simply disappear. It is at these moments that a shock absorber is needed. Without this safety net, a crash is inevitable.” Maribel gives the example of a lady who makes cakes at home. “If she catches the flu and misses eight days’ work, this is a very serious problem.”
Winning this award has meant a lot: “In the first place, it’s recognition for 20 years of hard work, producing products and services that help vulnerable populations. The cash prize will help us boost their impact and develop the technology that we need. This award will help us bring this product to more populations.”
They are all winners
The quality of the projects submitted made it extremely hard for the jury to pick the winners. The nine finalists presented highly valid, amazing solutions for various problems related to the three award categories. These are the finalist projects which, while they did not come away with an award, are also winners so far as Fundación MAPFRE is concerned.
Category: Improving Health & Digital Technology (e-Health)
This is a wearable device (specifically, a bracelet) which can monitor the wearer’s heart rate 24 hours a day, so as to be able to detect cases of one of the most common arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, which can lead to a stroke. “This smart bracelet warns users that they need an electrocardiogram, which the bracelet itself can perform and then share the results with a relative, or even with their doctor via our platform.” This is the explanation of Oscar Lozano, CEO and founder of the project, which he started up with his father, the cardiologist José Vicente Lozano, an expert in cardiovascular studies. Designed for individuals and medical centers, including public and private hospitals, the aim of those responsible for Rithmi is “to keep growing so as to get to market and help prevent strokes. Our hashtag is #porunmundosinictus». They already have a prototype and just need a little more effort to get the product to market.
Daniel Aragón, co-founder and the project’s Chief Technology Officer presented this glove which is placed on the patient’s chest to start measuring the heart’s condition and obtain the data equivalent to that from an electrocardiogram. It is thus possible to make better decisions in emergency situations and increase a patient’s chances of survival. “What we are seeking is to be able to empower doctors from the very first contact, so that they can swiftly diagnose patients and refer them to cardiologists. We want them to be able to detect cases of arrhythmia that could indicate a possible heart attack in the future. Moreover, it can be used in ambulances to rule out heart attacks or cardiac alterations. Or it could even help decide whether defibrillation or cardioversion is called for. Over time, it might even mean that patients could have one at home, so as to be in constant contact with their doctor,” Aragón adds.
Category: Insurance Innovation
Caroline Luiz Pimenta is an agronomist only too well aware that family farming plays an essential role in the world’s food supply. “More than 70 percent of the food consumed in the world is produced by small family farmers. And they are precisely the ones who are most unprotected, the most vulnerable to potential disasters or simply a bad harvest.” She knows this as she worked with them while she was studying. She also noted that they have no technological skills, but they do make good use of social media. That is why she and her partner, the biologist Juliana Mattana, decided to create a startup, a social media app that “connects farmers with other producers and technical experts. They are thus offered remote technical advice on risks and experiences that help them achieve sustainable rural development. It also performs a diagnosis of pests and deficiencies in their crops.”
The idea of this project was born out of Marta Carruesco’s personal experience. Her grandfather fell at his bedside when he was going to bed and could not let anyone know. “He was not found until my mother came the next day. He had spent over ten hours alone, collapsed on the floor, which led to a series of health problems and a lengthy hospitalization from which he could not recover. From that moment on, he was a totally dependent person.” Speakare is a permanent monitoring service for the elderly which seeks to avoid cases like this with an assistant that can be activated should they suffer an accident or fall sick: “It’s an intelligent, nonintrusive system that enables elderly people living alone to be looked after, by learning their normal behavior patterns in order to be able to notify relatives whenever some anomaly is detected in their behavior: failure to get out of bed or return from a walk, or suffering a fall. This makes it possible to offer prompt assistance.”
Category: Sustainable Mobility & Road Safety
Caminito de la escuela (Mexico)
This is a web platform offering georeferenced information to indicate the degree of danger in the vicinity of each school, with actual data on kids knocked down at the start and end of the school day near basic education centers around Mexico City. Sergio Andrade is its Public Health coordinator: “This is a project based on citizen participation, data mining and linking up with governments. The first phase of the work was to map all the schools and kindergartens, and crossreference them with data on people knocked down between 2010 and 2012.” But they want to go further. “That’s why the platform provides tools to assess the surroundings and urge the pertinent governments and institutions to enhance safety.” This is not a trivial issue, when you realize that vehicle-pedestrian collisions are the leading cause of child death in Mexico City. “Our goal is to make our cities safer, healthier, more sustainable and more equitable for people,” Andrade declares.
Carona a pé (Brazil)
“Road safety is a really serious problem in Brazil. Vehiclepedestrian collisions are the leading cause of child death. Despite this, there is no program dedicated to ensuring children can get to school safely.” These are the words of Carolina Padilha, a teacher who walks around two kilometers each day to get to the school where she works. Along the way, she comes across many of her pupils walking alone to the same school. One day she decided to form a group to walk along together. That was the start of Carona a pé, “an association that trains and prepares school agents (parents, teachers, volunteers) to organize safe routes and accompany the boys and girls to their schools, according to a pre-established schedule and following a given route. The initiative aims to raise awareness of the importance of walking and building a different relationship with the city.” After four years, they are now well on their way to making this a reality.