UTech JA Students Shine at Sagicor Innovation Challenge

July 30, 2020

Innovation and ingenuity were on full show at the final round of the Sagicor Jamaica Innovation Challenge among University of Technology, Jamaica students held on Friday, July 24, 2020 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, Kingston.

Nine teams of students drawn from colleges and faculties at UTech, Jamaica, pitched their technology-based innovations before a panel of judges comprising lecturers from the University’s School of Computing and Information Technology (SCIT) and from Sagicor leadership.

The Innovation Challenge which is open to all UTech, Jamaica students, invites teams of 3-5 persons to develop innovative software, technology, or prototypes that would improve different aspects of society.  “The goal of the competition is to develop innovations that will significantly and positively impact the University in a pilot phase and later on to the rest of Jamaica.” The entry categories included transportation, security, environment and climate change, urbanization, real estate and accommodation, health and wellness, financial services, IoT and smart cities entertainment, education, culinary arts and hospitality.

The first half of the day’s round of presentations, expertly steered by host, Debbie Bisson, saw each team pitching its ideas for innovative software solutions to a typical problem or challenge facing society.  The students’ ideas ranged from apps that put landlords and students seeking accommodation together on an easy to use platform; to an app that personalizes cultural experiences; to a technology solution that promises to reduce the level of contaminants entering Jamaica’s coastline and water bodies.

At the end of the first round, the judges named four teams who went on to square off in the final round: Teams Hackers X, Elite Only, K.R.E.M and Byte Size.  The teams were invited to again pitch their innovations, taking into consideration the advice and recommendations of the judges given in the previous round.  

At the end of the fiercely contested challenge which saw the students detailing their business models, revenue streams and prototypes, team Byte Size with their product Rentaly! emerged winners, copping the winning trophy and cash prize of $500, 000.  The team members described their innovation as “a platform for connecting students and rooms, without the hassle.”  The web-based app provides a central online hub for students to quickly find a place to live by connecting them with homeowners who would pay a monthly fee to list on the app.

A tie for second place between Hackers X and K.R.E.M. saw them each receiving a $100,000 prize. Hackers X’s creative innovation called GoOUT, allows local and international users to design personalized cultural experiences to optimize their stay in Jamaica, particular at hidden gems and for locating unique events, cuisine, etc.  The innovation by team K.R.E.M dubbed Track Taxi, seeks to solve the problem of safety for persons taking route taxis, by allowing commuters to see a real time suite of legally operating taxis headed in their desired route. The app provides information on the driver, the fare and travel information before the user commits to a ride.

Offering greetings and congratulations to the teams Professor Colin Gyles, Acting President, UTech, Jamaica noted that the Innovation Challenge was a significant outcome of a partnership between the University of Technology, Jamaica and Sagicor, and represents a vital part of the University’s drive to equip students to create innovations and new industries that will transform the Jamaican society and the world. “One of the things about the University of Technology, Jamaica is that the courses we offer span the entire gamut of the operations of our society, and so we have students who are involved in various areas who can collaborate to address technology development that can be applied to various areas of the society,” he stated. 

Professor Gyles indicated that the partnership between the two entities has resulted in the establishment of an Innovation Lab, which has seen the implementation of three major projects. These are the SMS Mobile Payment Project, the Smart Parking Project and the Voice Biometric Authentication Project.  Professor Gyles expressed thanks to Sgicor for “catching the vision” and recognizing that the University of Technology, Jamaica is the best place where transformative innovation and development can happen.  
Commending all the teams for their participation and brilliant ideas; President and CEO of Sagicor Group Jamaica, Christopher Zacca, noted that Jamaica has a tremendously bright future ahead of it with the amazingly talented young people in our country. He said, “What I have seen here today during this innovation competition is nothing short of genius; I am truly proud of every one of these students who conceptualized their innovation and was confident and brave enough to present to us.” 

He added, “I am just really happy and excited that Sagicor is standing behind this initiative through the Innovation Lab at UTech, Jamaica as it is so important for us to nurture our brilliant, young minds and help to guide them into taking their ideas and turning them in reality,”

Professor Gyles also had high commendation for Mr. Ray - St. Michael Williams , Director, Sagicor Innovation Lab and Lecturer, SCIT, who he noted  is one of UTech, Jamaica’s “budding stars” and  “someone who has the skills and the energy and the competence, and can attract young people to be a part of this development.”
The University of Technology, Jamaica Sagicor Group Jamaica and Sagicor Group Jamaica on July 31, 2019, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation on research and information sharing on Information Communication Technology (ICT) initiatives. Under its scope, the partnership is enabling the integration of resources to support research and development on financial technology platforms and the establishment of the Sagicor Innovation Lab which is located at the University’s Papine Campus.