05 September 2017

Design To Improve Life

Written by Published in Design

The INDEX Award inspire and engage people to design sustainable solutions to global challenges, delivering the world’s largest monetary design prize worth €500,000. In its 12th edition this year, 1,403 designs from 85 countries were entered. Sublime met the five winners at the ceremony in Copenhagen led by HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark

And the INDEX Award'17 winners are...


Designers: Bren Smith and Emily Stengel

Green wave Bren KelpGreenWave is a revolutionary ocean farming system designed to restore ocean ecosystems, mitigate climate change, and create jobs for fishermen – while providing healthy, local food for communities.

Requiring zero input, GreenWave farms are designed to have an extremely negative carbon footprint – and an extremely positive impact on local and global waters. The farms are designed to be easily scalable and each new farm requires a minimal initial skill set and low capital costs.

At the heart of GreenWave’s farming system are differently shaped nets, mussel “socks”, and oyster cages for farming shellfish and seaweed. Each net houses different species and floats at different depths – and the entire structures are anchored to the ocean floor, making it hurricane proof. Each species in the farm is carefully selected to address a certain environmental challenge. Such as oysters that can balance nitrogen level through a natural filtration process, and fast growing seaweed that can soak up five times more carbon dioxide than land-based plants.

GreenWave’s design is shared on an open source basis with fishermen who produce food, biofuel, fertilizer, animal feed, and cosmetics from their crops. GreenWave also provides its new farmers with grants, low-cost seed, free outdoor gear, and training for two years. They also promise to purchase 80% of new farmers’ crops over five years – at triple the market rate! The crops are then sold to restaurants around the country.

GreenWave proves that anyone can apply design thinking to create a better world. These restorative hatcheries, seafood hubs, and online resources create a foundation for emerging blue-green economies and provide a land-based infrastructure necessary to ensure sustainable growth for new ocean farmers. And just as importantly, the revolutionary system allows communities to actively take part in mitigating climate change. GreenWave is a stunningly simple design, and if implemented at scale, will have an enormous impact.



Designers: Manu Prakash and Saad Bhamia

Paperfuge2The Paperfuge is a 20-cent hand-powered centrifuge made from simple household materials. It works just like a traditional centrifuge and can spin biological samples at thousands of revolutions per minute – a critical step in disease diagnosis.

Centrifuges are essential for diagnosing the ‘Big Three’ highly infectious diseases: Malaria, HIV, and Tuberculosis. They are designed to isolate and detect low levels of infection, pathogens, and parasites in blood, urine and stool samples. Traditional centrifuges can cost up to US$1,000 per machine and generally rely on electricity.

The Paperfuge was inspired by a 5,000-year-old toy, a spinning button on a string known as a ‘whirligig’, and is made from paper, string, and plastic. It only weighs about two grams, making only much lighter and faster than its expensive competitors, but also much more suitable for transport and distribution.

The Paperfuge can spin samples at enough speed to separate plasma from a blood sample, a standard diagnostic procedure, in just 90 seconds. With wide distribution of the Paperfuge, particularly in low-resource communities, diseases can be more quickly diagnosed and treated, leading to a reduction in preventable mortality rates.

The design is emblematic of the very important movement of ‘frugal science’. It de specializes complex skills and technologies for much wider applications – giving remote and underserved communities access to some of the best technologies without the expensive price tag.

With the playful nature of Paperfuge –hence the Play & Learning category– the designers have also managed to address the training and educational aspect in medicine. Paperfuge empowers local healthcare forces to work better, smarter, faster and, most importantly, with fewer expensive resources. It’s a poster child of democratic design with frictionless adoption.



Designers: Chris Sheldrick, Jack Waley-Cohen and Mohan Ganesalingam

what3wordsWhat3words is a revolutionary addressing system that has divided the world into 57 trillion 3x3m squares and assigned each with three unique words. It’s designed to put everyone on the map to ensure they’re recognized, identified and found.

Around the world, street addressing is irregular and incomplete; finding an address and communicating it to others is still an imperfect science. At best, poor addressing is expensive and frustrating. At worst, it hampers growth and development, restricts social mobility and affects lives in a big way.

what3words was designed using systematic design thinking with a human-centric focus. It specifies locations more precisely than street addresses by using easy-to-remember words instead of hard-to-memorize GPS numbering systems. For example, “crayon.giants.liking” is a perfect spot in the Grand Canyon to take a picture of the Kaibab Suspension Bridge across the Colorado River. And the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen can be found at “luring.ignoring.wipes”. This information can then be shared with anyone who has the app, or the growing ecosystem of apps that have integrated the what3words code.

what3words provides addresses to homes, buildings, emergency sites or any remote location around the world. It can aid paramedics looking for a patient, mountaineers looking for an avalanche victim, or the postman delivering your mail.

So far, what3words is being used by the postal services of Mongolia, Djibouti, Tonga, Saint Martin, and Côte d’Ivoire, with many more likely to follow. Three-word addresses are also being used by the United Nations (UN), the Red Cross and other emergency response and humanitarian organizations around the world.

Projects like what3words support sustainable improvements to lives all around the world and show how a simple address can ensure that basic services are delivered to those in need. It provides a greater sense of identity, security, and opportunity to people who have not been dignified with the luxury of having an official address.



Designers: Mads Tvillinggard Bonde and Michael Bodekaer

Labster3Labster is a virtual reality lab providing high-quality immersive scientific lessons. It offers all the benefits of a real lab but with increased accessibility, consistent quality – and all at a fraction of the cost.

Science students everywhere need lab experience in order to contextualize and embed learning. Labster provides a true-to-life alternative that achieves the same, and often better, student outcomes. The virtual learning space breaks down barriers, such as the pressure to maintain a physical lab, learning is removed and as a result, even more students can access deep, engaging scientific knowledge.

The virtual lab is an easily scalable online teaching platform that focuses on pedagogy, learning outcomes and simulation design to create a truly unique and effective virtual learning environment. The immersive, web-based laboratory simulations help students to retain more knowledge and increase their motivation.

Students can currently be guided through 64 different simulations with a virtual mentor. The simulations cover a broad range of scientific fields including biology, chemistry, engineering, general sciences, medicine, and physics.

Labster is currently used at Stanford University (USA) and The University of Copenhagen (Denmark). The simulations have also been endorsed by over 150 institutions globally, including Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institite of Technology (MIT).

Labster’s efforts in virtual reality for the classroom were recently rewarded with US $5 million in grants to develop virtual reality laboratories for better STEM education. By providing the next generation of young scientists the most effective tools to learn, Labster believes they will be able to help solve future challenges such as global warming, water shortages, disease, and much more.



Designers: Keller Rinaudo, Will Hetzler and Keenan Wyrobek

Zipline3Zipline is the world’s first commercial drone delivery system designed to get critical medical supplies, such as blood and vaccines, to where they’re needed fast. The multi-partner initiative, featuring Silicon Valley company ‘Zipline – Lifesaving Deliveries’ and the Rwandan Government, aims to put every single one of Rwanda’s 12 million citizens within a 15-35 minute delivery range of any essential medical product.

The Zipline system is elegantly designed from end-to-end. Health workers in remote areas use a cell phone to text an order with Zipline for the medical products they need. The items are then quickly packaged at a safe distribution center and prepared for flight. Within minutes, the health  workers receive confirmation that their order has been received and sent. Shortly after, the drone arrives and items are delivered gently by parachute, landing in a designated area.

The Zipline drone’s boomerang approach brilliantly bypasses the inherent drone issue of having to land, which depletes battery power, reducing the drone’s range. Each Zipline drone is designed to carry a payload of 1.5 kilos, has an operational range of 150 kilometers, and can fly 500 deliveries in 24 hours – in all weather conditions. The cost per trip is roughly equal to that of the current delivery method, by motorbike or ambulance.

Hospitals served by Zipline now have access –within minutes, not hours– to all critical components. Patients can get the care they need close to home, doctors and health workers can focus on providing the best quality of care, and the cost of inventory and waste at hospitals is dramatically reduced.

As of 2017, Zipline services 21 transfusing facilities in the western part of Rwanda, which will initially reach approximately seven million people. Recently, Zipline also announced that over the next year they will begin working in Maryland, Nevada, and Washington (USA).



Designer: Vitalik Buterin

EthereumEthereum is a world-changing technology that represents nothing less than the second generation of the Internet. It holds the potential to transform law, governance, finance, trade and social organization, by removing the middlemen for global transactions and putting people back in control of their own data.

Ethereum is an open software platform that enables developers and designers to build and run almost any decentralized application. Applications like new electronic payment systems, social networks, online voting platforms – almost anything.  These apps function securely on their own without any chance of fraud, censorship or third-party interference and, most importantly, they aren’t controlled by any central entity. The heart of these apps are called smart contracts – a computer code that can facilitate the exchange of money, content, property or anything of value.

Many of the centralized systems we use today could be built in the same decentralized applications run on Ethereum. For trade, transactions could be made directly between parties. If you were to buy a home, you could purchase it directly from the seller without the need for agents or banks – and of course, without the large fees. For identity and privacy, Ethereum allows you be in full control of your own online data. With all of your personal information hosted on the decentralized network, there is no chance it can be hacked, lost, or used without your permission.

The Ethereum platform is developed by an international team of passionate developers for the Ethereum Foundation, a Swiss nonprofit organization. The Ethereum Foundation’s mission is to promote and support research, development, and education to bring decentralized protocols and tools to the world. These will empower developers to produce next generation decentralized applications (dapps) and together build a more globally accessible, freer and more trustworthy Internet.

Ethereum uses a systemic design approach to empower the global community to play a role in creating an unstoppable, censorship-resistant, self-sustaining, decentralized network.


Nominations for INDEX: Award 2019 can be uploaded from October 1st 2017 award.designtoimprovelife. If you can’t wait, send your tip via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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