Innov8 Imperial wins McKinsey Venture Academy 2015

14 May 2015 3 min. read
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The Innov8 team has won this year’s McKinsey Venture Academy competition, set up to help budding social enterprise ideas come to fruition. Every year, the firm invites university students from across the UK and Ireland to enter their ideas for a social enterprise, with those that get through the first round provided support from leading social enterprises and McKinsey consultants. The winners receive £10,000 and on-going support to turn their idea into reality.

A social enterprise is one that seeks to finance itself while making a social or environmental difference to people’s lives in diverse situations, rather than to maximise its profits. Social enterprises compete to deliver goods and services like any other business but also apply innovative and practical solutions to the issues affecting society and the environment, identified as the niece of the enterprise, with any profit re-invested toward that end.

McKinsey Venture Academy - Build your social enterprise

McKinsey Venture Academy
To support the development of social enterprises, McKinsey & Company has created the Venture Academy competition. The competition asks UK and Irish university students to develop ideas for a social enterprise in small teams, with the winner receiving with a check for £10,000 as well as an on-going relationship for mentorship and support from McKinsey toward transforming their winning idea into a practical social enterprise.

This years’ competition involved ten teams. The teams were supported in the development of their ideas through attending a workshop that included some of UK and Ireland’s social enterprise leaders, as well as a meeting with McKinsey consultants who mentored and helped develop the teams’ ideas into enterprise propositions.

The 2015 winner of the competition is Innov8. The social enterprise start-up developed a simple process by which part of the coffee production cycle can be made less wasteful, thereby increasing the volume of goods coffee producers are able to sell and thereby improving their economic situation. Innov8 will initially look to help Ethiopian coffee farmers improve their farms’ yield. “Their innovative solution to a coffee bean processing issue for Ethiopian farmers really impressed the judges and we look forward to following their journey over the coming months,” McKinsey explains.

Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest countries, which remains heavily dependent on its agricultural sector. One of the county’s key export crops is coffee, with 1.2 million coffee farmers producing a firth of the world’s coffee supply. The trade is estimates by the government to support up to 15 million households. Yet the process of producing coffee remains wasteful, with up to 50% of the cherries grown wasted in the process. According Innov8, the fermentation process required to ripen coffee cherries is highly wasteful if not carefully controlled. The team therefore developed a system by which the pH level of the water in which the cherries ferment is carefully monitored and the process drained if the cherries start to over-ripen.

The new social enterprise plans to be fully sustainable within three years, and plans to found an R&D lab in the UK, outsource manufacturing and selling the tool to farmers in developing countries, with any profits used to fund further research into other technologies that can cheaply and effectively help developing market coffee farmers.