The InnoApps 2016 Challenge invites innovators to help make our cities smarter and safer

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Yesterday saw the launch of the InnoApps Challenge, a pan-European competition to develop innovative apps for IoT, ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘Safe Cities’, organised by the European Young Innovators Forum (EYIF) in partnership with tech giant Huawei.

Officially kicked off at an event held yesterday in the European Parliament, the challenge invites students and developers under 36 to build and develop new projects and innovations to make Europe a more inclusive society, such as programs like e-learning, e-participation in government and decision making, and creating a positive environment for the entrepreneurs of the future.

InnoApps falls into the theme of the EU Smart Cities agenda and is looking for ways to make our cities smarter and safer through technology. Successful applicants for the (free) challenge will be guided through a mentorship program to help bring their product or idea to commercialisation. Last year’s contest saw entrepreneurs from all around Europe and as far as China. The InnoApps program takes a longer term view and intensive approach to building the best ideas. Participants chosen this summer will then compete in the “idea phase” until October where they hone and nail down their idea followed by an online mentoring program that will prepare a select number of participants for the final, a hackathon and pitch day in Brussels in February 2017. The winner will take home €20,000, and the runner-up €15,000. The launch event was hosted by Adina Valean, Vice-President of the European Parliament, who also participated in a panel discussion moderated by yours truly (see pictures below) alongside Huawei’s Gerard Corcoran and Diego Sammaritano, Policy Officer EU-China Research and Innovation Cooperation at the European Commission.

“Together with Huawei, we are looking forward to embarking this new edition, as part of Grow Global Year activities,” said Kumardev Chatterjee, EYIF’s founder and president in a statement. “The InnoApps programme has become a recognized brand of an innovative app competition focusing on technology innovation and youth entrepreneurship with a strong mentoring element.”

The panel discussion focused largely on the rise of the Internet of Things and how it could affect urbanisation, make cities smarter and safer at the same time, the need for regulation (or lack thereof), and how to involve citizens and the industry as a whole in decision-making that affects them all.

Questions were raised about the infrastructure needs to enable a smooth transition to a world where virtually everything is connected to the Internet and theoretically, each other, the need for solid security to safeguard citizens and businesses who make use of this ever-expanding (and ever-speedening) network, and how to strive to balance both technological advancements with keeping unemployment in check.

Overall, the vibe was positive, however; everyone seems to be convinced young innovators will use the tools and infrastructure available to them to make cities (but not just cities) both smarter and secure. InnoApps provides them with a platform to get started.

A major take-away for me: European Parliament VP Adina Valean commented that she hopes government(s) will be able to resist regulating a young, promising sector before it can even begin to realise its full potential to the benefit of entire societies. Hear hear.

Now we’ll see how many young innovators from around the world step forward with great ideas, and if and how these ideas will ultimately be implemented. Stay tuned.