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Jordanian wins global competition for idea, faces funding obstacles

By Sawsan Tabazah - Oct 17,2018 - Last updated at Oct 17,2018

The 24-year old, who holds a bachelor’s degree in materials engineering from Balqaa Applied University, participated in the Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition 2018 beside 650 young innovators (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

AMMAN— A young Jordanian engineer placed first recently in a global competition for his innovative idea to help in generating electricity in refugee camps through a cheap and eco-friendly device made of recycled plastic water pipes. 

The 24-year-old, Shadi Zu’bi, who holds a bachelor’s degree in materials engineering from Balqaa Applied University, participated in the Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition 2018 beside 650 young innovators and entrepreneurs from all over the world, who competed in two categories — “Best Projects” and “Best Ideas”. 

Zu’bi placed first in the “Best Ideas” category in which entries must consist of innovative solutions or propositions for an enterprise that champions the Sustainable Development Goals, according to the competition’s website.  “This programme is an activity of the UNESCO Global Action Programme  on Education for Sustainable Development,” the website added. 

Jordan’s population growth rates have increased since 2011 by 6.67 per cent, and with the influx of Syrian refugees, the demand  of electricity has risen by 6.4 per cent. The rate of carbon dioxide produced from generating electricity has also increased by about 44 per cent, which inspired Zu'bi to create the “Water Watt”, a device to help generate electricity in refugee camps. 

The machine, which depends on the wasted kinetic energy of water flow inside the pipes, uses the gravity of the main water pipes network to generate between 600 watts and 1 kilowatt per hour from the flow of water inside the 10cm pipe, Zu'bi told The Jordan Times. 

“Generally speaking, 2 kilowatts can supply three tents of their daily needs of electricity. Of course, each tent’s need of electricity varies depending on the types of electric machine used inside it,” Zu’bi added. 

The device, which was registered as a patent in Jordan last year, produces twice the energy of solar cells, he said, noting that it will be manufactured from recycled plastic. 

“During my visit to refugee camps, I noticed an increase in the proportion of plastic waste, so around 66 per cent of the device will be manufactured from recycled plastic,” Zu’bi said, noting that the prototype will be produced in a research centre in Germany, but that he is looking for a fund to cover the cost of the materials. 

Funding, along with lack of support for practical scientific research in Jordan are the chellenges currently facing the project.

“Abstract knowledge without experiment is nothing. Companies and institutions are afraid in investing in scientific research, which needs a lot of money. Lack of financial support keeps our innovations on papers,” Zu’bi said. 

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This young man is exactly the kind of individual that the new Enterprise Fund is intended to help. As described in Jordan Times article of 24 September by Sawsan Tabazah, titled "CBJ launches company to ‘solve funding problem for startups’":
Prime Minister Omar Razzaz on Sunday launched the Innovation Startups and Small and Medium Enterprises Fund (ISSF) with a capital of $98 million to fund and support entrepreneurs in Jordan.

The private joint stock company is owned by the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) and Jordan Loan Guarantee Corporation (JLGC) and aims at supporting 825 projects, 150 of which will be startups through direct and indirect funding and constant technical support, its CEO, Muhab Murar said.

The project will support women and youth, he said, noting that “25 per cent of the [fund’s] targeted groups are businesswomen and another 30 per cent are youth.”

The executive added that investment will be directed to a wide variety of sectors, including technology, media, telecommunications, services, agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, water and green energy.

The capital is secured through a $50 million investment from the World Bank (WB) and $48 million from CBJ.

Isn't there anyone that can help introduce him to the ISSF Directors?

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