Despite COVID-19 hitting economies hard this year, the Global Innovation Index 2021 illustrates a boom in innovation around the world. This goes to show that ideas are crucial for overcoming the economic challenges of post-pandemic economic growth. Therefore, Ecovation Awards, inaugurated in 2019 to create an innovation culture and empower Sri Lankan eco innovators, could not have resumed its second edition at a better time. 

Dilmah Tea CEO Dilhan C. Fernando said: “Ecovation seeks to encourage practical or scientific innovation from youth, women and men in academia or any field, in designing creative and impactful solutions to our most urgent ecological issues. 

“Our schools and universities have an abundance of brilliant ideas and our hope is that we can deliver recognition, support the creative innovators with mentorship to refine the idea into an actionable plan, and initiate collaboration that will deliver positive impact on our environment while benefiting the innovator.”

Having received an overwhelming number of applicants, this year, 16 eco-innovators have qualified to the next round. The shortlisted contestants (A to Z) are Anupama Kulasinghe, Banuri Gammanpila, Couleur (group), Danushka Jayasooriya, Food for All (group), Gamini Alexander, Hesith Rajakaruna, Keshala Amarasena, Manjula Jayampathy, Prof. R.U. Halwatura and Himahansi Galkanda, Ransirige Dhammika, Sandani Wijenayake, Selvarajah Thevakumar and team, Sudhara Suneth,Sujatha Weerasinghe and team and Tharaka Weddagala.

Sustainability, cost-effectiveness, simplicity, and practicality are what the shortlisted innovations have in common. The 16 eco-innovators are hopeful that their eco-innovations will contribute to waste management, resource efficiency, and sustainable packaging – the key focus areas at this year’s awards.

Making up the judge panel are University of Moratuwa Faculty of Graduate Studies Dean Prof. Ajith de Alwis, ITI R&D Additional Director General Prof. Ilmi Hewajulige, Saks Global Group CEO Jeevan Gnanam, Ministry of Environment Operational Focal Point Biodiversity Secretariat Director Pathma Abeykoon, Ananta Sustainables Founder Savera Weerasinghe, and Biodiversity Sri Lanka Advisor Shiranee Yasarathne. 

Innovation requires collaboration across a wide range of constituencies including corporate leaders, start-up entrepreneurs, university leaders, faculty members, and students, investors, and public officials.

“Ecovation is not about innovation in a silo, it is about supporting and scaling social enterprises that can contribute to a sustainable and robust ecosystem of products and services that can make our daily consumption a little more conscious; a little more impactful,” said Savera Weerasinghe.

Therefore, moving forward in the competition, the top 16 will be privy to one-on-one mentor-mentee Sessions with the Ecovation judges. The constructive criticism and insights contestants receive during the mentor-mentee sessions will help contestants improve their innovation in time for the finale. 

The Ecovation Awards’ aim is not only to select the best eco-innovations but also to nurture eco-innovators and empower them to take their innovations to market while safeguarding their intellectual property rights.

The tea brand is no stranger to innovation. “Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando was the original disruptor, the first tea grower to break out of the colonial economic model and offer his tea direct to customers around the world. 

“He built Dilmah on a Foundation of Taste, Goodness and Purpose. We want to support the many women and men who have the same dream, unique perspective and commitment to do good for the environment,” said Dilhan C Fernando.

Some of the tea company’s noteworthy innovations are Dilmah’s Seasonal Flush Tea, School of Tea, and Tea Gastronomy Program. The brand is also one of the first, to have introduced value-added tea products with flavoured teas, infusions, iced tea, and real tea cordials. 

This article was originally published in the Daily FT

This article was also published in The Island

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