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Canadian start-up IRIS wins InfraChallenge 2021

AI-enabled cameras detect road hazards in real time, making roads safer by enabling faster maintenance and reducing safety risks associated with road condition assessments. Winning InfraChallenge will assist IRIS to scale its solution globally and reach emerging countries.

Infrastructure is one of the least technologically transformed sectors of the economy. The construction side of the industry ranks second to last in digitisation, and overall the sector lags when it comes to embracing innovation. 

There is a global consensus that the industry needs new digital ideas to solve big challenges like the operation of critical infrastructure during future pandemics, the rise of climate change, urbanisation, and an ageing population. 

We also know that technologically-enabled infrastructure and disruptive new technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning have the potential to change the cities we live in for the better and to help achieve broader goals related to sustainability, social cohesion, and inclusive economic growth. This was acknowledged in the US $1 trillion infrastructure bill that recently passed the US senate, which called out technology and innovation as vital to creating a more sustainable and equitable future in the US. 

How can we get infrastructure to embrace technology?

To help drive digital ideas for the way infrastructure is planned, built, financed, and maintained, the Global Infrastructure Hub (GI Hub), with the support of the G20, created an annual innovation competition. InfraChallenge advances emerging technologies by giving innovators an opportunity to bring their solutions to a global market. 

Earlier this year the GI Hub launched their InfraChallenge 2021 by inviting start-ups from around the world to submit digital solutions for better and more resilient infrastructure. Submissions were received from start-ups in 30 countries. The top 10 competitors received mentoring and support to develop their ideas. On September 16, the top 10 finalists pitched their solutions to a panel of expert judges, who decided the winner of this year’s competition. 

IRIS’s winning solution enables cities to monitor road infrastructure at a substantially lower cost by using dash cameras with artificial intelligence (AI) to detect road hazards and defects in real time.

“Winning the InfraChallenge competition will enable us to localise and implement IRIS’s road infrastructure assessment technology across the world — including emerging economies that need the solution the most,” said IRIS CEO and Co-founder Emil Sylvester Ramos. 

GI Hub CEO Marie Lam-Frendo said “Congratulations to IRIS on their use of artificial intelligence to create a solution for monitoring public assets. Infrastructure maintenance is a ubiquitous challenge for governments around the world and IRIS’s technology has the potential to improve the safety and resilience of roads as well as other assets.”

Marie Lam-Frendo

Listen to this podcast interview with IRIS about their AI-enabled solution for road maintenance here

InfraChallenge aims to inspire more start-ups to innovate across the infrastructure sector, creating lasting social and economic value, and empowering future generations. 

Register here to be notified when the recording of the InfraChallenge Final is available and watch the top 10 finalists pitch their innovative solutions to creating better and more resilient infrastructure.

The top 10 innovative solutions

The below are the top start-ups who competed as finalists in InfraChallenge 2021: 

Emil Ramos, Co-founder, IRIS (Canada) — InfraChallenge 2021 winner

  • A digital solution that uses dash cams with artificial intelligence to help cities monitor and maintain road infrastructure.

Julien Pennecot, Co-founder, 030Solutions (Germany)

  • Technological solution that rapidly maps infrastructure assets at a fraction of the cost and time

Bara Wahbeh, Co-founder, Akyas Sanitation (Jordan)

  • Low-cost, low-maintenance, non-sewer sanitation system that could remove cost barriers to water and sanitation infrastructure

Sebastien Magat, Founder, Avus (France)

  • A solution that uses augmented reality for underground infrastructure assets, helping reduce risk.

Candela Sancho, CEO, Detektia (Spain)

  • A satellite-based solution that acts as an early warning system for infrastructure failure and defects.

Dev Majumder, Founder, ESG Base (United Kingdom)

  • Software-as-a-service platform that helps investors assess the ESG profile, risk and impact of an infrastructure portfolio or upcoming deals.

Emanuele Occhipinti, Vice President, Greenrail (Italy)

  • A circular infrastructure solution for the rail industry – sustainable railway sleepers made of recycled rubber and plastic derived from urban waste.

Giridhar Srinivasan, Co-Founder and CEO, InfraClear (USA)

  • Machine learning to build a database of infrastructure projects’ terms, risks, and performance.

Nicolas Miravalls, CEO, Oris (France)

  • A digital materials platform that can optimise the sustainability of road infrastructure.

Jose Lluch, CEO, Xpert Converters (Spain)

  • Technology that enables the conversion of power lines into an electric vehicle charging network, increasing value and resilience, without power extensions.

To find out more about these start-ups and their solutions listen to GI Hub’s podcast Innovating Infrastructure. Each episode is a 25-minute interview with one of the top 10 finalists. Listen here

Expert panel of judges

About the Global Infrastructure Hub

The Global Infrastructure Hub is a not-for-profit organisation that advances the delivery of sustainable, resilient, and inclusive infrastructure.

Formed by the G20, the GI Hub works collaboratively with the public and private sectors to produce data, insights, knowledge tools, and programs that equally inform policy and delivery, helping decision makers and practitioners create positive impacts through infrastructure.

Subscribe to find out when applications for InfraChallenge 2022 opens here.