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22 May 2020
Summer Of Solutions: Circular Economy Winners
Summer Of Solutions: Circular Economy Winners

Summer Of Solutions was a call for applications initiated by the United Nations Secretary-General's Youth Envoy, in Partnership with UN Technology Innovation Labs (UNTIL), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT) and Unite Ideas. The challenge was launched in the summer of 2019.

The #CircularEconomy challenge, as part of Summer of Solutions, aimed at selecting ideas for ICT tools and business process innovations related to circular economy, the goal being rapid and far-reaching improvements for society. The challenge was hosted on the Unite Ideas platform.

Approximately 40 applications were submitted. The UNTIL Finland Lab conducted technical appraisals of all solutions and subsequently provided mentoring support to the winners after the challenge concluded in March 2020.

Four solutions were selected as winners:

Grow your own cloud

This solution portrays alternative data storage methods including DNA data storage and was selected as the idea which was the most out of the box thinking of the submitted ideas. Grow Your Own Cloud reimagines the cloud, creating new relationships with data by storing data nature’s way, in the DNA of plants. This technology has the potential to store all of the world's data in just 1 kg of liquid. The project seeks to make data an accessible public resource, making it an object that is tangible, open-source and shareable within communities. By creating a new materiality around data, the project positions it as a transformative asset, capable of bringing nature back to the urban context, presenting new opportunities for the expansion of natural habitats and the regeneration of the environment.

The team behind the idea, Cyrus Clarke (UK), and Monika Seyfried (PL), will work alongside scientist Jeff Nivala (US), the first scientist to encode a moving image into the genomes of a population of living bacteria, to develop a “plant-based data center”, a communal green space by repositioning data as a transformative asset capable of bringing nature back to the city. GYOC project has been recognized by Core77, Prix Bloxhub and the Interaction Awards, and was presented at the 2019 UN Climate Summit in New York, COP25 in Madrid and during the 50th World Economic Forum in Davos. They also plan to have installations of data gardens in various international festivals.

Distribute Aid

Distribute Aid is an online platform for coordination of aid distribution and was selected as the solution with the most human impact. Since winning the challenge, the Distribute Aid team was able to send soap to refugee camps in Lesvos, Chios, Samos, and in Athens to fight COVID-19 in the camps. In addition, Distribute Aid has developed a partnership with the organization Masks For Docs, where mobilizing thousands of volunteers around the world gather to make personal protective equipment in their communities for distribution to frontline health workers. Distribute Aid also became a key partner in Flexport's non-profit program. It helped them raise over USD 7 million to provide essentials to combat the spread of COVID-19.


HULA App is an online platform for exchanging items and was selected as the most technically advanced solution. After the competition, HULA App started discussions with UNTIL India. Currently, they are in a virtual incubator program which aims to test their solution in South Asian markets. They realized several paid media campaigns in different parts of the world and measured the highest interest in Sweden and Berlin focused in two niches: clothing swap and homegrown greens trading. Additionally, they tested interest in Venezuela and Argentina.

Million Urban Farms

This solution aims at connecting urban farmers and consumers using a mobile app and was selected as the most experienced team. An app shall make horticulture products accessible to multiple people in big cities, connecting them to the nearest vertical farm in their area. The app would classify the possible results according to different parameters, such as products offered, stock, size of the urban farm, wholesale or retail, etc. Another goal would be to provide guidelines, best practices and techniques to allow potential farmers to start their own urban vertical farm while providing the supplies for it and delivering the latest news for related topics. The idea was submitted by three family-owned companies: Hort Americas, Itsco Agro and Vintecdyne.

Click here to visit the Summer of Solutions Circular Economy website.

Secretary General

"The advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including those brought on by a combination of computing power, robotics, big data and artificial intelligence, are generating revolutions in health care, transport and manufacturing.  
I am convinced that these new capacities can help us to lift millions of people out of poverty, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and enable developing countries to leap‑frog into a better future."

23 March 2018, New York