Carbon Zero Challenge 2022 by IIT Madras I Startup Contest

Registration Ends: End of September (Refer Contest Website) Reward: Fund Upto 5 Lakh INR

Contest Background:

The greatest challenge facing humanity is to meet growing demands with limited resources and to be met within the limits of carbon and water footprint reduction. We have begun to realize that the conventional linear flow of resources is no longer sustainable and that more circular economy solutions are the need of the hour. To achieve Net Zero goals, we must have a holistic view. The current focus is on reducing the energy, carbon and water footprint of our production processes, transportation and during the active life of the product. But less attention is paid to end-of-life recovery and recycling to close the loop. This is primarily due to the high costs needed to justify recovery and low (if any) penalties for environmental damage. The benefits are immense in terms of ecological footprint and reduced burden on the planet if low cost/energy/carbon solutions are found to bridge this gap.

Resource Depletion Accelerated by the Triple Planetary Crisis Climate change, pollution and loss of biodiversity are the greatest challenge facing the world. Earth Overshoot Day when we exhaust our annual budget for natural resources fell on July 28 and we need 1.75 earths to sustain our consumption. The world needs a low carbon footprint, low water footprint, low pollution, technology that allows us to balance our demand and supply to the Earth through resource conservation, by rethinking design and materials to enable resource reduction, recycling, recovery and reuse.

Circularity refers to the reduction, reuse, recycling and recovery of resources as a theme that cuts across several areas such as materials, water, air, land and energy in several urban sectors , rural and industrial. The circular economy is a systemic solution framework that tackles global challenges such as climate change, resource depletion, biodiversity loss, waste and pollution.

The 2018 and 2019 CZC editions had a wide scope targeting a variety of innovation ideas in five thematic areas: urban infrastructure, agriculture, transport, water and energy. Here we provide a brief overview of the theme, competition objectives and approach. CZC 2022 builds on our experience from the two iterations of the competition in 2018 and 2019.


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CZC 2022 Sub Themes and Goals:

CZC 2022 focuses on circularity and sustainable innovative solutions for managing the following resources

  • AIR

  • Energy

  • Material

  • Soil

  • Water

Timeline of the Contest:

How to Apply for the Contest: Click here


Team Composition ( Academic):

Teams comprising 5 persons including a Team Lead, a Team Advisor, and three Student Associates can apply. The team, led by the Team Lead, must be interested in taking lab scale proof-of-concept to pilot\ a prototype and establish commercial viability that can elicit interest from potential commercialization partners\customers and building the commercialization plan for the technology or pilot the technology in partnership with a government body.

The Student Associates should be post-graduate, or doctoral research students or full-time project associates\post-docs working on the project. Each of them should take the responsibility of leading the technical, business, and sustainability modules of the project.

Team Lead:

  1. The team lead should be a full-time researcher (Ex: faculty, research scientist) with experience in guiding post-graduate and doctoral research and a keen desire to commercialize technology for impact.

  2. The Team Lead is the person primarily responsible for working on the project and fund management of his team for CZC 2022.

  3. The Team Lead is the person primarily responsible for working on the project, selecting the team members, and fund management of his team for CZC 2022.

  4. The Team Lead will be required to participate in all CZC training and progress review sessions.

  5. The Team Lead will be required to coordinate with CZC organizers for all submissions and requirements related to funds disbursement, training, mentoring, and progress review sessions.

  6. The Team Lead will be required to approve and validate the utilization of funds disbursed by CZC 2022 organizers to her\his team.

  7. The Team Leads are expected to supervise all submissions made by his\her team regarding training, mentoring, and progress review sessions held by CZC organizers.

Student associates:

  1. The team typically comprises student, research scholar, project staff, or other who is involved with the project submitted for CZC 2022( in case of startups, the CTO or COO). There can be more than one up to three associates and a Lead Associate should be identified. Ideally, one focussing on technical aspects, one on implementation/business aspects, and one on sustainability aspects will be required.

  2. One of the Associates should be identified to coordinate with CZC organizers for all submissions and requirements related to funds disbursement, training, mentoring and progress review sessions.

  3. He /She will be responsible for the execution of the project with the help of the Team Lead faculty and Advisor.

  4. The Team lead Associate will be required to participate in all CZC training and progress review sessions.

  5. The Team members are expected to work in close coordination with the Team lead associate, Team Advisor, and Team Lead faculty.

Team Advisor:

  1. The team advisor is an expert from Industry or public sector background who could liaison between the team and the industry/govt departments.

  2. The advisor should be able to identify the challenges, existing solutions, their drawbacks, and implementation hurdles due to technology, policy, and social\legal aspects.

  3. The advisor is expected to work with the team to develop an appropriate solution for the identified problem throughout the duration of CZC 2022.

Team Composition (Early Stage Startup/ Preincubation Teams)

  • Team Lead Founder / CEO of a startup or To be Startups

  • Team Associate CTO/ Technical

  • Team Advisor from Industry or public sector background who can understand the problems and implementation hurdles.


Guidelines for Problem formulation and Working on Solutions within the Sustainability Framework:

Posing a design problem in the context of a system, whose performance, the solution to the design problem is supposed to enhance: This involves two major considerations based on which a solution (or design for a solution) can be evaluated:

  1. Impact to the system

  2. Total Life Cycle Impact.

This applies to any real-world problem. The former is the systems perspective, and the latter is the life cycle perspective, both of which are necessary for addressing sustainability.

For example, a new type of insulation material could reduce the loss of heat from a building; however, it may increase the resources needed to manufacture it or install it. Therefore, the superiority of this new material should be evaluated in the context of a “system” whose boundaries or scope properly include the relevant activities and resources.

An example in the context of sustainable development of a city is the design of a recycling scheme for used plastics. While certain types of plastics materials retain high functional value when recycled, the actual recycling scheme would determine the net impact of recycling, since it must consider not only the value of the recycled products but also the economic and environmental impacts of upstream processes such as the collection process and the recycling process.

Such net impacts are assessed correctly only when the overall system is considered, not just at the point of usage or a single stage in the life cycle. One can see why the systems perspective is important for addressing other real-life problems or opportunities in the areas of sustainable transportation, sustainable supply chains, sustainable agriculture, etc. The UNSDGs and their sub-goals apply to cities, states, countries, and businesses, each of which is a system. Hence the systems perspective in developing solutions for sustainable development, combined with the adoption of a goals framework such as UNSDGs and sub-goals offers a powerful framework