Challenging Youth Entrepreneurs through Shell’s Safer Energy Campaign


With the global launch of “#makethefuture” campaign to challenge youth entrepreneurs to generate smart ideas on safer and more sustainable energy solutions, Shell is set to change the face of global energy dynamics, writes Ejiofor Alike

With the increasing demand for energy by the world’s growing population currently estimated at about seven billion, there has been increasingly international clamour for the development of safer and more sustainable energy solutions to resolve the environmental challenges posed by conventional energy sources and quench the huge appetite of energy-hungry communities that lack access to grid electricity.

While the conventional energy sources – gas, petrol and coal pollute the environment and fuel greenhouse gas emissions, an estimated 1.2 billion people in many communities around the world lack access to grid electricity.

Apart from the dangers of pollution and greenhouse gas emission, the traditional sources of energy are also being threatened by depletion, hence they are said to be unsustainable.

It is against this background that Shell has launched “#makethefuture” campaign to engage with youth entrepreneurs, inventors, local communities, global celebrities and other relevant stakeholders to transform bright ideas into actions that will create sustainable energy solutions.

Under the programme, six technologies have been identified and developed through Shell Eco-Marathon and Shell LiveWIRE programme set up to incentivise businesses that develop clean energy solutions to reduce carbon footprint and promote healthy environment.

Pavegen –where one footstep generates 5 Watts

Pavegen, which has been installed in Nigeria where Shell built Africa’s first human and solar- powered football pitch at the Federal College of Education, Akoka, Lagos, is a technology that uses footsteps to generate electricity.

Founder of Pavegen and British-born Laurence Kemball-Cook   said one footstep could generate five watts of energy, which can also be stored for use when needed.

Kemball-Cook told THISDAY that he was inspired by his bitter experience in one of the largest energy companies in Europe where he was disengaged for failing to develop innovative street lighting.

Earlier in his speech at the launching of “#makethefurure,” in Rio de Janeiro, Kembell-Cook stated that his idea harnesses kinetic energy generated by footsteps to generate electricity.

According to him, before he built Africa’s first human and solar powered football pitch at the Federal College of Education, Akoka, Lagos in Nigeria, Shell and football icon, Pele had helped Pavegen to launch the world’s first people-powered football pitch in Morro da Mineira, a favela in Rio de Janeiro, adding that the technology has been deployed in various high-football locations around the world.

Kembell-Cook further disclosed that his organisation had secured a start-up grant from Shell LIVEWIRE Grand Ideas Award Fund, which had helped his business to expand.

He had graduated from the Loughborough University where he came up with the concept of generating energy with feet.

According to him, after completing his work placement in the company for one year, he was given the task of developing lights from renewable energy but he failed and left the company in shame.

The experience motivated him to think innovatively and came up with the fresh idea of developing sustainable and affordable light from footsteps.

His major milestone since he founded Pavegen in 2009 was the kinetic pitch he developed with Shell, using footsteps to generate light in a football pitch.

The technology is also capable of storing power generated in the day to power the lights when they are needed.

He described his collaboration with Shell as positive and pivotal to the growth of his business, pointing out that the Kinetic pitch, which was biggest project he did was with the collaboration of Shell.

Shell had given Pavegen grant from the popular Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Award Fund, which funded the expansion of the company.

The technology also clinched an award/prize in Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition and also participated in the Shell Springboard 2013 final.

Kemball-Cook said the collaboration had made changes in Nigeria and Brazil and also has a target to make life-changing impacts through the deployment of the technology to change people’s perception of renewable energy.

Apart from football pitches, Pavegen has also been deployed in transport hubs and shopping centres around the world where there are human traffic to generate footsteps.

On the collaboration with global music artists and singers such as Nigeria’s Yemi Alade, Brazil’s Luan Santana and British singer, artist and dancer, Pixie Lott, Laurence said the involvement of these music icons would inspire the youths to align with the vision of recognising the importance of renewable energy for safer environment.

Bio-bean, where coffee is refined into biodiesel

Bio-bean is a technology that refines coffee oil into biodiesel and biochemicals used for flavours and fragrances.

While studying Architecture at the University College, London, Arthur kay founded Bio-bean, which uses grounded waste coffee to make biodiesel and biomass pellets.

Kay was given a task of designing a coffee shop as an undergraduate when he realised the oil content in coffee and the huge waste produced, which was estimated at 200,000 tonnes yearly just in London alone.

According to him, he was holding a cup of coffee and noticed the oily coffee skein on the top and got inspired to investigate what the coffee waste could be used for.

That was how the 25-year-old set about to form Bio-bean, which currently employs over 30 and had raised three million pounds in financing in the first two years of business.

His target is to fuel London’s transport system with biodiesel, which is already being used by many buses in London.

Bio-bean relies on a principle known as “Urban Mining” and targets to design sustainable cities. Kay won Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Award, the Innovation Award and was a finalist in the 2013 Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year category.

Kay described coffee waste as a global issue, adding that in the UK, there are 500,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds, with London alone accounting for 200,000 tonnes.

Speaking to THISDAY on the future of the technology, the Head of Communications at Bio-bean, Mr. Daniel Crockett said the firm would expand to other countries.

“We have a lot of interest from western Europe and to North America and we do have to bring the technology into other countries further afield. We also love to work with other organic wastes. At the moment, we started with coffee but there are a lot of other different things being wasted that could be turned into valuable resources,” he explained.

“There tremendous opportunities to create local solutions in places like Africa,” he added.

Speaking on the role of Shell in promoting the initiative, Crockett stated that “it is fantastic for Shell to get the different entrepreneurs together and put them in one place and also to work with artists to spread the message to young people.”

Capture Mobility –where traffic generates electricity

Founded by 22-year-old Pakistan born, engineering graduate, Sanwal Muneer, Capture Mobility harvests air movement and solar energy from human and vehicular traffic by the side of runways, highways, metro tracks and motorways to generate clean energy.

Under the technology, specially designed windmills are used to harvest the air movement.

The technology is currently active in Dundee in the United Kingdom and is being implemented by the Scottish Transport Department.

Capture Mobility won an award as part of Shell Tameer, under the Shell LiveWIRE Programme organised in Pakistan in 2014.

The award was in recognition of businesses that develop clean energy solutions to avoid carbon emission and improve community health.

Capture Mobility also participated in Shell Eco-Marathon Asia as a Team Leader in 2011-2012 and won the Shell Young Entrepreneur award in 2014.

It has also won the Shell’s “Let’s Go Trade Award” in 2015, which will help the technology access the international markets.

Muneer told THISDAY that while studying engineering, he realised that most types of renewable energy at that time had restrictions and resolved to develop scalable solution.

For instance, he noted that solar panels only work in the daytime while wind turbines work only where there are wind corridors.

According to him, these restrictions motivated him to develop a solution that can easily be installed anywhere.

GravityLight –five times brighter than kerosene

GravityLight, which turns Kinetic energy into electrical energy, is powered by lifting weight, which generates electricity while falling.

While kerosene can consume up to 25 per cent of income of the poor, GravityLight saves over 40 per cent cost and is five times brighter than kerosene.

London-based designers – Jim Reeves and Martin Riddiford developed GravityLight over a period of six years (2009 – 2016).

The technology uses engineering principles with efficient LEDs to turn energy produced by a falling 12kg bag into electricity in the form of light.

The team was motivated by the inaccessibility of grid electricity to over 1.2 billion people worldwide and they set out to provide cheaper and safer alternative to kerosene.

The team was named the Shell Springboard National Winner for their low carbon innovation in 2015.

Shell is currently helping GravityLight to upscale their operation, supporting the deployment of the technology to Kenya, which will be the first developing market to commercialise the GravityLight.

GravityLight , which is currently being launched in Kenya to create jobs, enhance skills and improves lives, requires no batteries and can be stored indefinitely.

The Commercial Director of GravityLight, Caroline Angus told THISDAY that the company was focused on Kenya because of the ease of doing business in the country, coupled with the fact that over 80 per cent of the population or 34 million people do not have access to electricity.

“In Kenya, over 80 per cent of the population do not have access to electricity and that is 34 million people. One of the key factors is where there are needs and demand; where are people still using kerosene? And Kenya stood out as one of those countries. Another reason is that we were thinking where we could do business relatively easily and set up operation. So, we used English Language and English laws as starting point and these are tested and there are also distribution networks that we could partner with,” she explained.

“We are also thinking about West Africa and I am really interested in looking at the Nigerian market,” she added.


Having noticed that Brazil sees over 2,000 hours of sunlight every year but many of her citizens lack access to electricity, Brazilian-born Henrique Drumond, 33, had set out on a mission to change the world by providing solar power for energy-hungry communities.

He won the Shell Iniciativa Jovem – Brazilian version of the Shell LiveWIRE programme in 2014.

In 2015, he was part of Shell’s #makethefuture Accelerator, which brought together over 100 young entrepreneurs to generate ideas to help insolar and also facilitate the launch of #makethefuture progamme in Santa Marta.

Through the #makethefuture programme initiated by Shell, Insolar provides solar installations to Santa Marta community in Rio, thus improving lives of 8,000 residents.

MotionECO – turning cooking oil into biodiesel

This technology, which targets the eliminate the harmful effects of cooking oil by turning waste oil into sustainable transport fuel, was the brainchild of a 29-year-old Chinese entrepreneur, Shutong Liu, who travelled to the Netherlands at the age of 18, where he majored in energy studies, with specialisation in renewable energy and sustainable transportation.

He told THISDAY that his desire was to solve social problem created by the inability of the Chinese to recycle cooking oil.

Liu developed MotionECO to convert waste cooking oil into biodiesel that is not associated pollution and is free from greenhouse gas (GHG) emission.

According to him, his target is to eliminate waste cooking gas, which created social problem in China.

The technology is part of Shell’s New Ventures China (NVC) sponsored by China and is receiving financial support from Shell to translate the bright ideas into reality.

Shell’s #makethefuture”

Shell has effectively used the “makethefuture” programme to challenge the youths to develop innovative ideas that will create sustainable energy solutions.

Under Shell’s #makethefuture campaign, the six new energy solutions that have already been include: Pavegen, which converts kinetic energy generated by footsteps into electricity; and Capture Mobility, which converts human and vehicular traffic into electricity.

As pointed out earlier, Pavegen solution has been deployed in Nigeria where Shell built Africa’s first human and solar- powered football pitch at the Federal College of Education, Akoka, Lagos.

The rest include GravityLight, which generates electricity from falling object; Insolar, which provides communities easy access to solar energy; MotionECO, which turns waste cooking oil into energy and Bio-bean, which converts waste coffee into energy.

Speaking recently at the launch of the programme in Santa Marta community of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Shell’s Global Head of Integrated Brand Communications, Malena Cutuli identified lack of access to cleaner energy as one of the greatest challenges facing the world.

According to her, one of the biggest challenges facing the world either as inventors or investors, “is how to provide cleaner and better energy.”

Cutuli stated that “makethefuture is all about how you can transform lives by creating products that can meet immediate and future needs.” She added that Shell is working with entrepreneurs worldwide to “transform innovations to energy.”

“Our programmes are like springboards to create accelerated thinking on how to provide viable solutions to meet the energy demand of the world population,” she added.

She stressed the need for donors and sponsors to support entrepreneurs around the world to develop ideas and power of innovative options for communities to access cleaner energy.

“We want to improve our lives, our communities, and our countries, and we are constantly developing new technologies and methods to do so. But we thereby face a global problem: the more we reach for a brighter future, the more energy we consume along the way. Our current access to energy is neither enough to satisfy our growing energy needs, nor is it sustainable. The ways in which it is being provided now contribute to climate change, as well as costing the planet valuable resources. We need more and cleaner energy. But we can’t do it alone,” she explained.

She further stated that “#makethefuture” campaign is the company’s call for collaboration to create smart energy solutions that will generate more and cleaner energy across the world.

“It is a privilege to see how ideas are transformed into realities,” she added.

“Working together, we are turning gravity into light, coffee into energy, cooking oil into fuel, footsteps and roofs into power sources and roadside turbulence into electricity. Communities in Brazil, Kenya, China, United States and UK will experience, first hand, the benefits of these new sources of energy. And we will all see how a different future is possible, a future that is in our hands to create,” Cutuli said.

Also speaking, Shell Brazil’s External Relations Manager, Glauco Paiva described Brazil as the world’s leader in the oil and gas business of exploration and production (E&P), adding that Brazil will host Shell’s Eco Marathon competition where any technology that consumes less energy will emerge the winner, stressing that renewables are the future.

“We live in a world of seven billion people and it is estimated that global population will grow to nine billion by 2017; so we need cleaner energy in a more accessible way,” he said.

Pavia argued that renewable energy initiatives will direct future investments.

According to him, this explains why Shell, which has operated in Brazil for over 103 years, is investing heavily in ethanol fuel.

“The world needs all kinds of energy, as global population will not only grow in numbers, but also in social and economic needs, so it will be risky not to invest in renewable energy,” he added.

In an apparent justification of Shell’s investment in the project in the face of the slump in oil prices, Paiva noted that the energy need of the world’s population of seven billion would continue to grow, thereby providing justification to investment in renewables.

“Shell has always invested in renewable energy because we live in a world where we have seven billion people and a good number needs more energy. The world will require all kinds of energy so that we meet the growing demand of the people who need energy,” he explained.

Six artists selected across the world, including Nigeria’s award-winning Yemi Alade; Brazil’s Luan Santana and British singer, dancer, actress and song writer, Pixie Lott, performed at the event to promote cleaner energy solutions.

Founder of Capture Mobility and Pakistan-born, Muneer said he was inspired to create the technology after experimenting with wind turbines at the Shell Eco-marathan in 2012.

“I discovered that there were strong wind forces at the side of the track where energy could be harnessed using turbines,” he added.

Brazil’s Drumond, who was behind Insolar, said the solution was tool to promote dialogue about how to reduce polarisation in the society.

A Chinese entrepreneur, Liu of MotionECO also spoke on his smart energy solution which is helping China to solve social problem created by waste cooking oil.

The global energy campaign has already changed Santa Marta, a community of 8,000 residents, which 15 years ago, was off the social grid.

According to reports, crime was high as even electricity was stolen by residents, just by tapping electricity lines.

But the world’s third-largest oil company has promoted sustainable business ideas that brought the community into social prominence.

Shell’s “#makethefuture” campaign if vigorously pursued, will not only change the world but also clean up the corporate image of the company by eroding its harmful contribution to environmental pollution and global warming.