We are more than excited to share that four Makerere University teams who submitted final proposals to the Big Ideas contest at UC Berkeley, were selected as Big Ideas award recipients from a pool of 350 submissions. These awards include a 1st Place prize in the Global Health category, a 2nd Place prize in the Energy & Resources Category, a 2nd Place prize in the Food Systems Category and an Honorable Mention in the Global Health category. 

The epitome of the moment was that during the Big Ideas Grand Prize Pitch Day on April 24, 2019 at the UC Berkeley campus where the top 7 teams from across four universities presented their award winning innovations and their potential to improve society competed for additional funding. Makerere University was represented by the CERS team, who delivered an  incredible pitch via video conference and were awarded the 3rd Place overall award (https://bigideascontest.org/grand-prize-pitch-day/)

Each year the top Big Ideas teams are invited to attend the Big Ideas Grand Prize Pitch Day. Judges then select Pitch Day winners to receive an additional award, ranging from $1,000 for third place, $3,000 for second place, to $5,000 for first place.

RAN has continued to nurture this partnership with the Big Ideas Program at UC Berkeley in USA which was formed during HESN 1.0 of US Global Development Lab.  For 6 years now, this annual innovation contest has been made available to students at Makerere University to participate together with other university partners in the US. This year the contest launched in November 2018, and Makerere University students through RAN were supported through info sessions to submit proposals. The teams also received online reviews and support from the Big ideas team at UC Berkeley. 72 Makerere pre-proposals of students working in multi-disciplinary teams were submitted and of these 6 proposals were advanced to the final round of the Big Ideas Contest where they work with mentors to submit full proposals.

The contest has been a great initiative challenging students to step outside of their traditional university-based academic work and use their education, passion, and skills to work on community challenges. We recognize the enormous contribution of networks and partnerships, this is one of the successful collaborations that has encouraged, supported and recognized students from all disciplines to innovate realizing that this is a critical pillar in tackling the complexities of development challenges. At RAN, we cannot under-estimate the knowledge and skills accrued from this innovation competition. It sharpens students’ writing skills, they learn how to articulate problems/needs and later on to work in multi-disciplinary teams to put together a winning proposal.

The RAN team continues to seek and share opportunities such as these and to support interested innovators and entrepreneurs to tap into these opportunities so as to launch their ideas to the market.

Once again I was amazed by the energy and talent of the Makerere University student innovators and working with your students continues to be one of my most rewarding professional experiences.  This collaboration between our universities, which has enabled so many students to pursue their “Big Ideas”, would not be possible with your contributions and the support of the entire RAN team; As remarked by Mr. Phillip Denny the Big Ideas manager at UC Berkeley.

The Winners and previous Makerere University winners are profiled here; https://bigideascontest.org/contests/makerere-university/

Wet Technik

Category: Energy & Resources, 2nd Place, $7000

Team Lead: Dennis Ssekimpi (ssekimpid@gmail.com)

Project Summary: Wet Technik is a student startup founded at Makerere University looking at reducing the costs of water usage and environmental pollution by hazardous wastewater through the use of constructed wetlands. The team is comprised of three students from a multi-disciplinary background with a shared passion for solving the ever-present problem around wastewater handling and to bring to light the potential of its recycling. Through using a mixture of waste bottle caps and pumice in the constructed wetland, Wet Technik has proven that it will reduce the area requirements, making this system even more accessible to factories, schools and eventually households. The constructed wetland is already the cheapest and easiest way to maintain a system to recycle grey water making it very attractive to people in Uganda.



Category: Food Systems, 2nd Place, $7000

Team Lead: Morris Atuhwera (matuhwera@outlook.com)

Unlike other poly-tunnel solar dryers in the market that use steel frames and metallic base plates, Chap-Dyer uses moisture resistant eucalyptus poles as frames and rough stone slates as a base. These materials are readily available in all parts of Uganda and very affordable, reducing the total cost of a dryer from $1,000 to $200 for an 18 cubic meter drying space. The use of stone slates instead of steel plates allows for the dryer to perform optimally during day time and night time, drying twice as fast as the standard poly-tunnel dryer in the market. Unlike steel frames that require precise engineering and fabrication for easy assembly on site, Chap-Dryer which uses eucalyptus and stones requires simple carpentry and masonry joinery techniques which takes less labor cost and minimal electric power cost as all components can be fabricated and assembled on site.



Category: Food Systems, Finalist /  Non-Winner

Team Lead: Kenneth Zziwa (Kzziwa@covab.make.ac.ug)

Antimicrobial agents such as antibiotics are currently being used extensively in poultry production for various purposes such as growth enhancement to boost the profit margin. However, the use of these antimicrobial agents has been linked with the current increasing antimicrobial resistance resulting from increased emergence and prevalence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria. It’s also associated with the exposure of consumers to zoonoses such as salmonellosis. This has led to the search for an alternative to these agents. Poultry probiotics that are well defined and standardized are needed. ProBac which has these qualities can be used to achieve the desired effects obtained from antimicrobial agents but also prevent the occurrence of antibiotic resistant genes among microorganisms in poultry. This can further prevent contamination of the poultry products which reduces exposure of consumers to harm


Cloud-based Emergency Response System (CERS)

Category: Global Health, Co-1st Place, $7000

Additional: Grand Prize Pitch Day, 3rd Place, $1000

Team Lead: Moses Kintu (mkintu@chs.mak.ac.ug)

Uganda does not have a dedicated emergency response number despite repeated government attempts to set up an adequate and reliable public ambulance service backed by a toll free phone number for communication. This has resulted in slow emergency response times, additional injury and an altogether diminished chance of survival. The Cloud-based Emergency Response System (CERS) enables real time matching of ambulances to patients allowing for maximum utilization of the limited resources that exist. At the same time, it provides a means to circumvent the problem of insufficient resources to setup and man a dedicated emergency call centre with which the Kampala Capital City Authority has been wrestling for some time. Through a smartphone application, users can request and automatically connect with the closest available ambulance. CERS has the potential to impact 40,000 Ugandans who do not make it to the hospital within the “golden hour” by providing a fast, safe and appropriate transport means.


TyphGen: A Better Point of Care Diagnostic for Typhoid Fever

Category: Global Health, Honorable Mention, $2000

Team Lead: Sharon Bright Amanya (amanya.sharonb@gmail.com)

Typhoid remains a major public health threat in Uganda contributing to 36% of all fever-related illnesses. It was responsible for the outbreak that affected over 1,000 individuals within Kampala city in 2015. Typhoid is a curable disease with good treatment outcomes if the diagnosis is made early. However, in Uganda there are major challenges with diagnostics. The most widely used test (Widal test) has low accuracy (5.7%) and the World Health Organization has discouraged its use, while the gold standard test (Bacterial culture) takes several days to produce results, is expensive and not readily available. This ultimately leads to delay of appropriate treatment, long waiting hours and inappropriate use of antibiotics that could potentially lead to drug resistance. The Big Idea is to develop TyphGen, a point of care diagnostic that uses DNA detection techniques to diagnose Typhoid in 90 minutes with >90% accuracy at an estimated cost of $12 per test.