Product, Service & Design Innovation
DHL Launches Sustainable Logistics, Robotics Innovation Challenges

‘Smart minds’ are invited to submit ideas for self-driving delivery carts or sustainable logistics concepts towards two new innovation challenges from shipping company DHL. Anyone who is at least 18 years of age may join the competition by submitting a written document and video explaining their idea by September 28, 2016. Winners will receive a monetary prize out of a pool of combined 20,000 Euro, will be able to jointly develop their proof-of-concept with DHL, and will display their solutions at DHL Innovation Day on November 17, 2016.

“We are convinced that doing well comes from doing good. The challenge is to give fairness and responsibility a business-oriented approach. Our concept is that companies should focus on creating shared value, turning social and environmental challenges into sustainable, fair and potentially profitable business models,” DHL’s Chief Commercial Officer Bill Meahl stated in the press release.

“The ‘Fair and Responsible Challenge’ aims to find new and innovative ideas to advance this vision.”

The ‘Fair and Responsible Challenge’ is seeking original ideas and practical solutions that address and solve environmental and social challenges with “new and innovative” logistics-based business models. The idea can be anything that “generates value for the society, environment and businesses,” whether a new product, a service solution, a packaging concept or something else – perhaps connected to using logistics to facilitate the circular economy or using transportation networks to provide fair trade and production.

Shipping and logistics competitor UPS recently released a Circular Economy Research Study that captured the sentiments of sustainability executives and thought leaders to provide a deeper understanding of the business drivers and challenges associated with the circular economy. Respondents stated that logistics companies can offer customers unique value by incentivizing greater participation in the circular economy through a seamless and convenient take-back model. Offerings such as pre-paid shipping labels, smart packaging and convenient take-back mechanisms help fuel market demand. Additionally, consumer and customer costs can be reduced through the use of backhauling as well as through load and route optimization.

The second challenge is the ‘Robotics Challenge,’ which requires entrants to have a prototype self-driving delivery cart that can autonomously accompany staff during last mile delivery. The prototypes must be able to traverse typical urban and rural landscapes at walking-speed while at the same time carrying parcels.

The pre-selection process will be based on the functionality, potential to solve the given problem and its perceived commercial feasibility. Next, a panel of logistics experts will select three finalists for each challenge. The finalists will present their idea or prototype in front of 180 senior supply chain professionals at the DHL Innovation Day on November 17, and a winner will be determined for each challenge through a live-voting process. Those who receive the highest numbers of votes will receive monetary prizes, will have the opportunity to discuss opportunities to work with DHL, and can display their idea at the DHL Innovation Centers in Singapore and Troisdorf, Germany.

Numerous circular and robotics solutions have been brought into the limelight through previous challenges, many of which can deliver clear environmental and/or social benefits. For example, the latest Cradle to Cradle Product Design Challenge highlighted packaging, footwear, housing and food waste innovations, and a recent FIRST® LEGO® League robotics challenge focused on solutions to the world’s waste problem.

Furthermore, many organizations are turning to technology in hopes of tackling sustainability and social problems: New analysis prepared for the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) by Accenture Strategy demonstrated how digital solutions can drive progress toward the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); Singularity University and Amnesty International partnered to investigate how tech can address human rights issues; and circular textile and fashion company Dutch Awareness recently launched an online software tool to help track and trace garments and their materials, enabling transparent supply chains.

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