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Life-Changing Innovations to Fight Air Pollution Showcased at Lions Health

created on Monday 26 Jun 2017

Purpose-led product innovation remained a significant trend at this year’s Lions Health festival in Cannes, with award-winning campaigns featuring a deceptively simple immunity bracelet and a thoughtfully engineered prosthetic limb. An event that typified the spirit of creating innovative product solutions to improve lives across the globe was the RB and Lions Health Innovation Hack, which returned to the Health in Action stage on Sunday 18 June.

 Three competing teams made of R&D scientific and technical experts, creatives and entrepreneurs presented their product innovations, created in only 28 hours, to a jury panel and packed audience. The teams’ pioneering presentations inspired several questions from the audience attendees, resulting in a unique, interactive session. The challenge? Come up with a product solution to protect children in China from the damaging health impact of air pollution. The country has some of highest levels of pollution in the world, with some cities reporting PM2.5 levels 10 times the World Health Organisation’s recommended limits[i].

 The product solutions proposed were Dream Cocoon, a dome made of specially engineered charcoal bamboo fabric, which filters air while babies sleep peacefully in a cot; GrowAir, a protective, customisable face shield designed using soft, transparent plastic to clean the air children breathe in as they play outside; and the winning solution, StrollAir, a small, portable and convenient connected air filtering device that repels polluted air and provides babies in prams with a clean air ‘bubble’.

 Roberto Funari, RB Executive Vice President, Category Development, who headed the judging panel, stated: “The Innovation Hack is proof of the power of diversity, showcasing the brilliant outcomes that you can achieve when you bring together R&D experts of varied specialties with some of the best talent in the creative industry. The quality of the innovations, the carefully considered rationale and above all, the passion of the participants, was awe-inspiring. The winning innovation, StrollAir, is being investigated by our global R&D team, with high hopes of getting this potentially life-changing innovation to market where it is most definitely needed. We have also committed to donating £20,000 to provide protectives masks to an NGO in China to help protect children from the effects of air pollution as part of our ongoing outreach in the country.”

 Professor Jingang Yang, cardiovascular expert and fellow judge added: “In China, air pollution is one of the main barriers preventing parents from taking their children outside, particularly in the winter months when pollution levels can be at their highest. This can have a significant effect on the societal and physical development of children. The winning team considered this key cultural insight and rooted their idea, StrollAir, around it.”

 Joy Braunstein, Board Chair, Eco Soap Bank and Chief Development Officer, PennFuture explained the judges’ decision further: “Coming up with a product solution is often just the first step; rolling out the product across several markets and encouraging behaviour change are important pieces of the puzzle. All of the teams had a clear strategy on getting the message out but we were particularly impressed with the winners’ ideas on how to deliver StrollAir philanthropically through a pram donation scheme.”

 Carmen Botelho, member of the victorious team summed up the experience: “Part of our job as creatives is to push ideas right to the edge when coming up with thought-provoking and challenging concepts – it was eye-opening to be working with R&D experts who can turn the kernels of an idea into a reality and make the seemingly impossible possible. I think we proved collaborating with such a diverse mix of people can result in a product which could improve children’s health in the future.”

 [i] World Health Organisation Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database (update 2016), http://www.who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/databases/cities/en/ [Last accessed June 2017]