HKUST-Sino One Million Dollar Entrepreneurship Competition 2021 Spotlights Creative Solutions to Solve Societal Issues

Addressing societal issues has become a topic of common interest for the HKUST-Sino One Million Dollar Entrepreneurship Competition this year, with two of the three winning teams proposing solutions hoping to help save the planet. 

With Hong Kong striving to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, two winning student groups came up with plans to help reduce the city’s waste by upcycling bread scraps and making cutlery that can be savored together with the food. Meanwhile, another team created a real-time, non-invasive, and easily accessible technology to monitor athletes’ stress and muscle fatigue level to keep them from possible injuries induced by overtraining.  All three winning teams have been working with their industrial partners on commercializing the products.

Despite the pandemic, the contest has attracted 185 participating teams this year - the largest number since its inception in Hong Kong in 2011, which has expanded to seven other regions covering Macau, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan, Zhongshan and the Yangtze River Delta for its latest edition. Winners from all the regions including that of Hong Kong will compete in a Grand Final round later.

Mr. Donny SIU, Acting Director of HKUST’s Entrepreneurship Center, said, “In recent years, we see more submitted proposals not only focusing on technology and a profit-making business model, but also on creating values for the society. The HKUST Entrepreneurship Center has been actively promoting "social entrepreneurship" to facilitate students’ entrepreneurship development. We encourage students to integrate commercialization with social innovation, offering advice as to how social innovation projects can attain long-term business sustainability. Judging from the entries and results of this year’s Competition, I can see that this social entrepreneurship model is being recognized and supported among young entrepreneurs, professional judges and the venture capitalists. We will continue to work with partners to promote socially beneficial entrepreneurial development.” 

Mr. Andrew YOUNG, Associate Director (Innovation) of the Sino Group who sponsored this competition, said, “At Sino, we believe that innovation and technology are key to our future. We are delighted to partner with HKUST on this meaningful and inspirating initiative for the fourth consecutive year to prepare talented entrepreneurs for their journeys of innovation. Amid the pandemic, companies of all sizes and from all industries have seen the importance of innovation and technology in driving digitization, efficiency, and new solutions. I am grateful for the innovative entries from all participating teams and keen to see how the ideas of the three winning teams can contribute to a more sustainable and aspiring future. On behalf of Sino Group, I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to the winning teams on their brilliant ideas and success. We look forward to collaborating with more young, innovative minds and together, continue to build a better future.”

“The Able Company”, champion of the competition this year, started their waste bread recycling business in 2019 when they realized that nearly 1,700 tonnes of unsold bread are discarded by bakeries alone every day. The team came up with a proposal that turns leftover bread and unsold pizza crust into bottles of fruity and flavorful pale ale, which are now available in five stores under the Jardine Restaurant Group and Maxim’s with ongoing expansion plans. The company is an incubatee of HKSTP’s STEP Program (The Science and Technology Entrepreneur Program).  They have also won the Platinum Award, Student Gold Award, and Elevator Pitch Award in this Competition.  

“Planeteers”, winner of the Gold Award (first runner-up), came up with a different approach to realize their same vision of cutting waste. In the light of the surging amount of plastic cutlery being dumped at the landfill as people order more takeaways during the COVID-19 pandemic, the team created a set of edible whole-grain spoons, forks, and chopsticks which can also be consumed upon the end of the meal.  The vegan and biodegradable cutlery is hopeful to replace 9 tonnes of non-environmentally friendly disposable cutlery, and, in the process, reduce carbon emissions equivalent to planting 11,000 trees by 2023.

Meanwhile, Silver award winner “PointFit Tech”, an incubatee of HKSTP Incu-Tech Program, has developed a system to monitor human muscle fatigue.  Its core technology involves an ultra-thin antibacterial nano-membrane that could deduce an athlete’s stress level and warn him/her of overtraining through a connected mobile app.  The technology is now under trial with several prominent sports teams and institutes in Hong Kong and Mainland China.