Past competitions


Tackling parasitic worms

Laura Braun and Kai Riemer took home first prize at the event. They're the masterminds behind Capta, a project that aims to tackle parasitic worms. These infections represent a major burden on global health, particularly in areas with poor sanitation and healthcare.

They’re developing a smart, handheld microscope that can be attached to mobile devices to give a rapid, low-cost diagnosis and analysis of stool or urine samples. Their hope is that this could help people get the treatment they need, thereby improving populations’ health while simultaneously facilitating disease education.

Read our blog post about their journey so far. 

Clean water and phosphorous recycling

Petter Uvdal’s project hits two birds with one stone. He wants to improve food security while also providing clean water. To do this, he’s developing a process that simultaneously produces phosphorous while purifying water.

Phosphorous is an important component of fertiliser but it’s not in finite supply. So Petter’s idea is to process excess organic material from plants into logs that can be burned to produce electricity and distill water, and then use the remaining ashes as a source of phosphorous.

Boosting vaccine coverage

Vaccines save lives. And this duo, Ebrahem Sherwi and Martynas Kaminskas, want to help more people access them.

They’re developing an automated, vaccine-delivery device whereby users will input their information and the machine will administer the required vaccination. By reducing the need for trained staff and associated costs, their hope is to increase vaccine coverage and therefore reduce disease rates.

A vision for better eye health

Simon Rabinowicz and Uddhav Vaghela have a clear vision for the future: they want to contribute towards better eye health by developing a low-cost tool for retinal imaging.

Retinal screening is essential for the diagnosis and monitoring of many eye diseases, but the current technique has major limitations including subjective analysis. This project aims to change that by developing a combined imaging and analysis device that can offer rapid, reliable and affordable retinal screening, enabling earlier diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases.

Simon and Uddhav took home second prize and the audience choice award. 

Smart socks for diabetes

Nana B Owusu-Nyantekyi is working on a smart sock that could help detect early warning signs in people at high-risk of foot complications, such as diabetics.

Many people with diabetes will develop a complication called peripheral neuropathy, where nerve damage can lead to foot ulcers and sometimes amputation. Nana’s innovative sock seeks to address this issue, using pressure sensors to record a patient’s gait which can then be monitored via a smartphone app. This would enable healthcare professionals to pick up signs that a patient could be at risk of developing ulcers, allowing earlier intervention.

The Dragons

Dr Richard Smith - IGHI Adjunct Professor, Chairman of Patients Know Best, Director of the United Health Chronic Disease Initiative, former Editor of the British Medical Journal and Chief Executive of the BMJ Publishing Group

Professor Julia Riley - Head of the Department of Palliative Medicine at the Royal Marsden and Royal Brompton NHS Trusts and Senior Research Fellow at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London.

Dr Will Cavendish - Global Digital Services Leader at Arup, former Strategy Lead at Applied at DeepMind and former Director General of Innovation, Growth and Technology at the Department of Health.

Dr Ana Luisa Neves - M.D. and Research Fellow at the Institute of Global Health Innovation.


Plug and Play prostheses 

Artificial limbs that patients can fit and maintain themselves won both the top prize of £5,000 and an additional Audience Choice Award of £1,000 at the 2017/18 Student Challenges Competition. 

Fourth year Mechanical Engineering students at Imperial, Nathan Macabuag and Joshua Chidwick, claimed the top prize which will go towards their start-up company Mitt.  Their accessible, comfortable, plug-and-play prosthesis aims to help the estimated seven million people across the world suffering from limb loss.

Limb-loss is a truly global problem and in countries with high rural populations and large distances to travel before finding a hospital, high barriers to care exist. The result is that up to 90% of patients have no access to prostheses at all. Mitt’s aim is to tackle these barriers by building elegantly functional, affordable, upper limb prostheses that users can fit and maintain themselves. A Mitt prosthesis has a durable yet flexible and self-adjusting interface, negating the need for regular medical fitting and intervention.

A range of focused, easily interchangeable tools allow the device to be easily suited to the specific daily needs of the user and by using readily available technology to build a simple solution, Mitt are able to  produce a prosthetic device at 100 times reduced cost from current models.  

During the presentation, Nathan stated that 35% of people with upper limb loss would rather use no prosthesis at all than those that are currently available due to lack of comfort and high prices. The team have worked with quadruple amputee Alex Lewis as they developed Mitt, which has a flexible socket that automatically adapts to the user’s size, along with a selection of quickly interchangeable, highly functional prosthetic tools.

Nathan explained that 35% of people with upper limb loss would rather use no prosthesis at all than those that are currently available.The £6000 gives us the funds to run our first large scale product pilot, in partnership with four of the UK’s largest limb loss charities.Nathan MacabuagWinner, IGHI Student Challenges 2017/18“We are over the moon” said Nathan. “To win not just the judges prize but the audience choice as well is just ridiculous. We’re so happy. And excited! The £6000 gives us the funds to run our first large scale product pilot, in partnership with four of the UK’s largest limb loss charities. It’s the first big step to bringing comfy, functional and importantly – affordable – prosthetic limbs to the world. They are sorely needed. Thank you IGHI!”. 

Innovating the e-cigarette 

Imperial Engineering student Ben Walker walked away with the second prize of £2,500 for his smart, networked device called Level, which uses a data led approach to gradually help smokers reduce their nicotine dosage, helping them quit with no nicotine withdrawal. 

Level is a tiny device which attaches to any e-cigarette. After it is attached, it starts learning how the user vapes, building up a profile of their nicotine intake and after the first few weeks of use, it starts helping the user cut down very gradually.  Every time the user picks up the device, it can predict how much nicotine they need. When they vape, it lights up green when they've had 99% of what they need. This signals them to put it down, so they've had almost all the nicotine they need, but they're still on a quitting path.

Getting through as a finalist helps prove that a start-up is ready to move on to the next stage of development. On receiving his prize, Ben said “The competition is an exciting way to get expert feedback on your product, and getting through as a finalist helps prove that a start-up is ready to move on to the next stage of development.  The prize money will go towards hardware and prototype development of our device and I would very much like to thank IGHI and Imperial for the opportunity to take part”.   

Other finalists covered a range of topics including Imperial PhD Chemistry students Pashiini Supramaniam, Zainab Ahmed, Mohit Devgan and Callum Hay, who presented their start-up QuickCount, a fast, low-cost device able to distinguish bacterial and viral infections using a finger prick of blood at the point of care.

Majico, an initiative which works with communities and entrepreneurs to build sustainable solar-driven water purification ecosystems was presented by PhD students from the University of Cambridge - Jeroen Verheyen, Serena Belluschi and Samer Kurdi, whilst Imperial Biology students Thomas Caganek, Kim Ngan Luu Hoang and Mingke Pan showcased their Debac spray, a cost-effective, simple and reliable method for detecting surgical site infections before symptoms arise, empowering patients regardless of social and economical background.

The Dragons

The finalists pitched their ideas to four expert judges – Dr Richard Smith, IGHI Adjunct Professor, Chairman of Patients Know Best, former Editor of the British Medical Journal and Chief Executive of the BMJ Publishing Group; Professor Margaret Dallman OBE - Associate Provost (Academic Partnerships) and Professor of Immunology at Imperial, Dr Will Cavendish, Director, Cities and Transformation at Arup, former Strategy Lead at Applied at DeepMind and former Director General of Innovation, Growth and Technology at the Department of Health and Daniel Dickens, Managing Director of the HELIX Centre within the Institute of Global Health Innovation.   

Deputy Director of IGHI and Chair of the Competition Professor Guang-Zhong Yang said “What a fantastic event!  It was great to see projects from various disciplines and universities and I would like to thank all five finalists for taking part and congratulations to the winners.  The competition allows students to turn theory they have learnt in the classroom into real world applications and businesses.  The feedback they receive from the experts is invaluable.  Every year, the entries get better and better and I am very much looking forward to hearing how the winning projects progress and how the prize money has helped them develop”.

View all the photos from the event on Flickr here


A new way to store and cool vaccines during the last mile of their journey to the clinic claimed the £5000 in the 2016/17 competition.

The University of Cambridge’s Kitty Liao and Imperial College London’s Abellona U claimed the first prize which will go towards their start-up company ‘Ideabatic’.  Their life-saving vaccine cooling and delivery system ‘SMILE’ aims to deliver vaccines to the 19 million unvaccinated children living in the most remote areas of the world. 

According to the World Health Organisation, every year, two to three million children die of vaccine-preventable diseases and in 2016, there were 19.4 million children who are unable to receive basic vaccinations. One of the main contributing factors to these figures is that the cool boxes currently used for delivering vaccines to the most remote regions, termed ‘the last-mile journey’, are inadequate. A typical last-mile journey takes between two to seven days. However, the cool boxes currently used can only maintain vaccines to be within the required temperature range of two to eight degrees Celsius for up to 14 hours. As a result, 20 to 50 percent of the vaccines are spoiled during the last-mile journey, which amounts to an annual total of 600 million dollars’ worth of vaccines being wasted globally.  Ideabatic is developing SMILE, a smart last-mile vaccine delivery system to address this issue. 

“I founded Ideabatic with a vision to solve global challenges with innovations and to further develop SMILE- Smart Last-Mile Vaccine Cooling and Delivery System for the Developing World. We are raising funding and building a consortium to optimise and launch SMILE. Please join us to reach every child no matter how difficult the journey is.” said winner Kitty Liao, 1st year postgraduate student within the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge.

Winner Abellona U, first year PhD student in Clinical Medicine Research at Imperial said “We are very grateful to IGHI for organising this competition and encourage students to work on innovative solutions to tackle global health challenges.  We will work hard to bring SMILE to the real world!”

Read their blog article updating us on their progress here.

Kidney care

Runners up Jez Marston and Robert Learney from ‘Accunea’ won the £2500 prize money.  Their aim is to develop real-time monitoring platform technology for early detection of acute kidney injury in patients after surgery. 

“Competing in the Student Challenges Competition was a great way to test our idea and raise awareness around the need for innovation in kidney care worldwide. Both the application step and the final pitching event pushed us to refine our message and value proposition in improving global health” said Jez and Robert. 

Audience Choice

The Audience Choice Award went to Stephanie Hodgson, Istvan Ferrier, Vikram Palit and Max Renna for ‘CorVision’ an innovative and affordable screening tool that provides accurate and early detection of congenital cardiac disease (CCD) in newborns. 

"Our journey through the IGHI competition has been a fantastic opportunity to develop CorVision further and really focus on the global health effect that this device could have. Throughout the competition process, we were able to better understand the problem of poor and late diagnosis of congenital cardiac disease, especially in developing regions. We are happy to have been awarded the Audience Choice Award, and this has given us the confidence (and capital) to take CorVision to the next level - and hopefully build a prototype. Our hope is that CorVision can help save the lives of vulnerable children around the world, through facilitating early screening and diagnosis".

Take a closer look at the winning projects

Other finalists covered a range of topics including Salman Mailk from the University of Manchester, who aimed to revolutionise particle manufacture for pharmaceutical & research industries.  Imperial’s Laura Mitchell, Chun Man Chow, Emily Groves, Raghd Rostom and Simon Wiegrebe offered a new way to provide low-cost access to diagnostic testing, whilst Azuolas Ciukas and Mantas Matjusaitis from the University of Edinburgh presented ‘CellAge’ which aims to improve human lifespan & reduce the incidence of age-related diseases.  Imperial’s Mingxia Wang also offered a way to non-invasively monitor intracranial pressure. 

The Dragons

The finalists pitched their ideas to four expert judges - Dr Richard Smith - IGHI Adjunct Professor, Chairman of Patients Know Best, Director of the UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative, former Editor of the British Medical Journal and Chief Executive of the BMJ Publishing Group; Professor Simone Buitendijk – Imperial Vice-Provost for Education; Dr Will Cavendish – Strategy Lead, Applied at DeepMind; Dr Mark Hammond – Founder, Deep Science Ventures.


A new way to test for tuberculosis claimed the £5000 in the 2015/16 Competition. 

Final year Imperial medical PHD student Harriet Gliddon impressed the judges at a Dragon’s Den event on 7 March with her idea to revolutionise tuberculosis (TB) testing. As well as the £5,000 first prize Harriet also took home the Audience Choice video award of £500. 

TB is now the joint leading cause of death worldwide due to an infectious disease, alongside HIV. Despite the need for early accurate testing to treat the disease and prevent new infections there is not a current test that is quick, easy to use and affordable. Harriet’s proposal uses nanomaterials to detect unique genetic barcodes for TB in the blood, which would enable earlier treatment and prevent further transmission.

Harriet said: “Winning is an amazing feeling and I am so glad I applied. The competition has helped me to think about how my work will fit into a real world context. The prize money will help me develop a prototype for my TB diagnostics test, which I hope will lead to transforming TB diagnostics worldwide. I am very grateful to IGHI and Imperial for the opportunity to be involved with the competition.”

Read Harriet's blog article updating us on her progress here.  

James McIllroy, medical student at the University of Aberdeen, scooped the runner-up prize of £2,500 for his idea to combat the growing problem of Clostridium difficile (C.diff) infection in hospitals. C.diff is a bacterium that can infect the bowel and with over 125,000 cases annually, it is a major challenge for hospitals and healthcare professionals around Europe. James’ start-up company EuroBiotix CICis a social enterprise seeking to catalyse research into the microbiome and expand safe access to faecal transplantation through the provision of a stool donor bank.

Read James' blog here

The Audience Choice Award of £1,000 went to Antonios Chronopoulos and Tyler Lieberthal for their project ExoSonic®, a novel microfluidics-based diagnostic device that uses sound waves to detect pancreatic cancer. 

Find out more about Exosonic in their blog article here

Other entries covered a range of topics including Kapil Sahnan’s idea to use MRI and 3D modelling in managing perianal Crohn’s disease; Prem Chouhan, Hana Janebdar, Shaolin Liang, Paolo Cadinu and Denis Huen’s point-of-care blood group testing device called Instatype and Uddhav Vaghela’s novel idea of self-managing asthma with the aid of his smartphone app called Pulmonis.

The finalists pitched their ideas to three expert judges – Dr Richard Smith (IGHI Adjunct Professor, Chairman of Patients Know Best, Director of the UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative, former Editor of the British Medical Journal and Chief Executive of the BMJ Publishing Group), Nicole Mather (Director of the Office for Life Sciences, Department of Health and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) and Dr Maina Bhaman, (Director of Healthcare Ventures at Imperial Innovations).

Deputy Director of IGHI and Chair of the competition Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, said: “It was a fantastic event with a huge range of projects.  The competition truly demonstrates the breadth of global health research and innovation taking place not only at Imperial but across the whole of the UK. It engages students and by expanding the competition beyond Imperial, we hope to get more students applying and to see more great ideas coming through next year.”


PhD students Christopher Payne and Hani Marcus impressed the Dragons the most and scooped the top prize money of £5,000. Their inspiring and inventive idea was for a smart handheld instrument for microsurgery that alerts neurosurgeons if they are at risk of damaging tissue they are handling. We all make mistakes, whether it’s a typo, a miscommunication or a glitch, but for neurosurgeons, the impact of a mistake can lead to a life or death situation. Christopher and Hani’s device works by indicating to surgeons, via vibrotactile feedback, when a force threshold has been exceeded, allowing the surgeon to adjust the amount of pressure they are exerting to avoid damaging the tissue. Many existing haptic-feedback systems, particularly master-slave robotic platforms, are large, extremely complex, and costly. However, their approach is small, simple, and inexpensive, so it can be scaled up quite easily.

“We are absolutely delighted to have won the IGHI Student Challenges Competition” said Christopher and Hani. “We are both very grateful to have had the opportunity to showcase our work; the prize money will be a huge help in enabling us to take the project forwards”. 

Find out more about how their project has progressed in their blog article here.

Life Sciences PhD student Nicolas Kylilis was awarded 2nd place and funding of £2,500 for his idea for a new platform technology called DaPHNI for developing point-of-care medical diagnostic devices. The DaPHNI platform has the potential to have a large, multifaceted positive impact on global health both in developed countries, at healthcare centres, or as home diagnostic kits, as well as in developing countries. 

Read his blog article here for further details. 

Our Audience Choice Award of £1,000 went to 4th year medicine students Jacob Levi, Hiba Saleem-Danish and Amanda Stenbaek for their idea for a modernised Photovoice mobile app. Their idea stemmed from the already existing platform Photovoice, which provides visual data for positive sociobehavioural, physical and environmental change. Their new app works in the same notion as Photovoice, but provides a more cost effective tool, improving usability and widening access and aims to act as a platform for marginalised, disadvantaged communities lacking the power to express themselves.  

Find out more about their progress in their article here

Other entries covered a range of topics, including sixth year Medicine student Jing Ouyang’s idea for an online magazine for grassroots discussion in global health, Innovation Design Engineering student Vidhi Mehta, who presented her idea for an International Laboratory for the identification of antibacterial drugs and Ethan Tan, a Finance and Accounting student who told us about how we can use biotechnology to transform slum areas into self-sustaining eco-cities.

The finalists pitched their ideas to four high-level judges – Dr Richard Smith (IGHI Adjunct Professor, Chairman of Patients Know Best, Director of the UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative, former Editor of the British Medical Journal and Chief Executive of the BMJ Publishing Group), Dr Paul Thompson (Rector of the Royal College of Art, Co-Director of IGHI’s HELIX Centre for Design in Healthcare and IGHI Adjunct Professor) and Imperial Innovations Healthcare Ventures Associates Drs Inga Deakin and Kathryn Owen.  Third prize was chosen by the audience. 

Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, Chair of the competition and Deputy Director of IGHI said “The competition provided an excellent platform for Imperial students to showcase their research of international relevance. It was a difficult decision to choose a winner, as all the projects offered innovative approaches to tackling important global health issues. We look forward to next year’s competition and hope many more aspiring young innovators will participate”.

View the event photos here.

Watch the full video recording of the event here.


Gabrielle Prager, a fifth year medical student at Imperial scooped the £5,000 prize money for her work on improving the diagnosis of schistosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease. 

Gabrielle and the other three finalists pitched their ideas to three high-level judges - IGHI’s Executive Chair and former CEO of Marie Curie Cancer Care, Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett; former Chief Executive of NHS London Dame Ruth Carnall and Chair of the Trustee Board of Imperial’s Student Union, Professor Dame Julia Higgins.

Candidates were judged on how their project helps to improve health around the world; how innovative it is and on how they would go on to use the prize money to develop a prototype or the next stage of research.

Gabrielle’s project focused on a new diagnostic technique for schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic flatworms which leads to chronic infection and affects over 200 million people worldwide. Schistosomiasis control through mass treatment using the medication praziquantel is progressing rapidly.  However, current diagnostic methods based on detecting the worms’ eggs by microscopy have limited sensitivity, being particularly unreliable at low infection intensities.  More sensitive diagnostics are desperately needed, explained Gabrielle, for both the identification of communities in need of drug treatment and the monitoring of treatment success.

The £5,000 prize money will help her to ascertain whether a new technique to detect the parasite’s DNA might offer increased sensitivity, resulting in more accurate diagnosis and hopefully, less false positives. 

Find out more about Gabrielle's progress since winning the competition in her blog article here

Other entries covered a range of topics, including an online resource to tackle non-communicable disease, a workshop for health workers in West Africa to examine palliative care in the Gambia and a high-level symposium for world-leading experts to discuss practical ways to combat climate change.

Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, Chair of the judge’s panel and Deputy-Director of IGHI, said: “The competition provided an excellent opportunity for Imperial students to showcase their research of international relevance. It was a difficult decision for us to choose a winner, as all the projects offered innovative approaches to tackling important global health issues. Gabrielle’s project stood out the most and we look forward to hearing from her next year on how the prize money has helped with her research into this deeply debilitating disease”. 

Gabrielle Prager, winner of Student Challenges 2013 said “We all hope to be able to recognise the moment when what we have learned becomes what we do - to turn theory into practice.  The Institute of Global Health Innovation Student Challenges Competition is a platform that allowed me to consider what we saw as a need in terms of a solution. It encouraged me to apply the scientific work I was doing under the guidance of Dr. Gower and Dr. Lamberton in a pragmatic and constructive way. Innovation, for me, meant adding to the effort to find a new way to solve an existing diagnostic problem in order to deliver a positive healthcare outcome. I am absolutely delighted to have won the competition and hope I'll be able to achieve the promise of innovation which the prize will allow me to pursue.”

See the photos from the event here.



John Chetwood, a fifth year medical student at the College, was awarded the 2012 prize after presenting to a panel of judges that was Chaired by Sir Liam Donaldson, former Chief Medical Officer and included Sarah Brown, President of PiggybankKids and Global Patron of the White Ribbon Alliance; and Jane Dreaper, BBC health correspondent.  

The winning project used urinary biomarkers to create a new diagnostic tool to detect Cholangiocarcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer that affects the bile ducts, and is caused by the parasitic worm liver-fluke. John used NMR spectroscopy to identify liver cancer in Thai patients and to distinguish between healthy controls and infected populations.

Another finalist and fellow medical student, Yu-Jeat Chong, was highly commended for his project which used satellite technology to monitor salinity in drinking water – a growing concern due to climate change.

Sir Liam Donaldson announced the winner and presented the award after delivering his talk on polio in the Institute’s second annual lecture.

Sir Liam Donaldson, chair of the judges’ panel said:

“The competition was a fantastic opportunity for Imperial students to showcase their research more widely. As chair of the judge’s panel, I thought the quality and range of the projects were of a very high standard. It was a difficult decision for us to choose a winner as all the projects offered innovative approaches to tackling important global health issues. In the end, two projects stood out due to their potential global health impact, with the winning candidate having the edge but we hope all the students can find ways to pursue their innovative research.”

Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, deputy chair of the Institute said:

“It’s the first time we have run a competition of this type and we hope it becomes a recurring feature of the Institute’s contribution to addressing global health challenges at Imperial. We have a wealth of talented students who are passionate about improving the health of people around the world. The competition not only gives them a chance to improve their communications skills but also present their work to a wider audience. We look forward to seeing how John’s project develops further, and to receiving the submissions for next year’s competition.”

John Chetwood, winner of the 2012 student challenges competition, said:

“I’m extremely pleased to win the first Institute of Global Health Innovation student challenges competition, particularly as I had to rush back from playing hockey at Varsity to compete for the prize. It was very exciting to present my project to such high-profile judges, and such an award validates the emerging role global health is playing in international research. Imperial has one of the largest cohorts with chronic liver disease in the country and is an extremely reputable hepatobiliary research centre - and as such I feel extremely privileged to have the opportunity to work in such an institution and with such distinguished experts.

I’m looking forward to working on developing my project further. One option we have is to create a urine dipstick which can detect the presence of the cancer early and accurately – which could have enormously implications worldwide but especially to people in South East Asia where liver-fluke associated cancer is more common than appendicitis. Such a cheap and easy method has the potential to save many lives.”

Read John Chetwood's blog article on the progress he's made with his project since winning the prize.

View the photos from the 2012 competition here.

Watch John's video explaining how Student Challenges has helped him develop his idea further.