India has a young and growing population with a workforce estimated to touch 700 million by 2030. Indian workspaces are undergoing massive transformation spurred by the digital revolution, global economic shifts, and resource scarcity. But the country has barely engaged with the reality of such an evolving employment landscape. Studies and solutions for innovative workplaces have been primarily focused on US and European contexts.
A reimagining of Indian workspaces is critical not only to India’s future economic success, but also to the future of the global knowledge economy itself. According to Dr. Ravina Aggarwal, Director of Columbia’s Mumbai Center, “India must lead the way in creating working conditions that attract, nurture and retain top talent. This means generating and promoting new ideas, designs, skills-sets, and inventions that can support workspaces that are sustainable, secure, healthy, creative, and inclusive.”
In light of this, the Urban Works Innovation Challenge 2018 that will run from July 2018 to March 2019 will provide mentorship and infrastructural and financial support for innovative solutions on environmentally sustainable workspaces to passionate young professionals and entrepreneurs. Broad areas for solution development in workspaces include green technologies and infrastructure, decentralized energy-efficient solutions, ergonomics, sustainable resource use, and waste/pollution reduction.
Participants will get the opportunity to work with faculty and alumni from the prestigious Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, as well as benefit from hands-on mentorship from distinguished entrepreneurs and academics in India. “We are very pleased to participate in the Urban Works Innovation Challenge in partnership with Columbia University’s Global Center in India and the CoWrks Foundry,” said Mary C. Boyce, Dean of Columbia Engineering. “Design challenges are a wonderful way to spur engineering creativity and foster cross-disciplinary collaboration. Columbia Engineering faculty and alumni will mentor students as they design sustainable work spaces, and a winning student team from Columbia Engineering will travel to India to implement their ideas in India next May. All involved will share their expertise and gain a better understanding of the Indian context for environmentally friendly work areas.”
Shortlisted teams can also avail themselves of a tech-first collaborative workspace at The CoWrks Foundry, located at CoWrks in Mumbai and Bengaluru for a six month period. “The sense of purpose that drives young entrepreneurs and professionals in India has already made a dent globally. This is evident when we look at the Indian startup ecosystem—although it is young and still emerging—it is the third largest startup ecosystem in the world. RMZ Foundation and The CoWrks Foundry's partnership with Columbia brings together world-class mentorship and education, while paving way for innovation led by a modern and young workforce on a global stage”, said Anu Menda, President of the RMZ Foundation
As representatives of a future workforce, participants are encouraged to use their own vision to co-create an ideal workspace. Teams with successful design prototypes will have the opportunity to pitch their design to leading corporations and investors in March 2019.