How a competition about innovation is teaching HK's young people about empathy

How a competition about innovation is teaching HK's young people about empathy

The nine shortlisted university teams have come up with products that will help the elderly for the 2017-2018 JOS Innovation Awards

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Eric van der Hoeven said the focus should be on problems caused by a product.
Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP

Nine university teams from Hong Kong have been shortlisted for the 2017-2018 JOS Innovation Awards. This is an award which seeks to cast a spotlight on innovative ideas from trade school, university and postgraduate students.

This year’s awards are themed around the concept of happy ageing, with a focus on developing products that would help the elderly live more independently.

The CEO of the JTH Group, Eric van der Hoeven, said the most important thing when developing an entrepreneurial product is to focus on the problems of the people who will use the product.


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“The new technologies … offer a lot of opportunities with what we can do with it, but there isn’t always a need for it. You need to first identify a problem, then work backwards and say, ‘this is what we’re trying to solve’.”

One of the shortlisted teams, the Elderly Fall Tracker, said they were given the idea for their product by the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association, an organisation which offers support for elderly people who live on their own.


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Johnny Poon Chun-yi, 22, from the University of Hong Kong, said “[the association was] interested in various Internet of Things [objects with software components] products at first, but they asked us whether we had any products that were geared towards the elderly, like for when they fall down or have other kinds of accidents.”

Another shortlisted team, the Sleeping Monitor, wants to use music to influence quality of sleep. They were able to refine their pitch after seeing other projects in the competition. The team said each of the other group’s products had a unique quality or was made to a very high standard. After that, they realised some of the drawbacks of their own product, and made improvements.

The winner of the JOS Innovation Awards will receive HK$30,000 and a chance to intern at the company.

Edited by Ginny Wong

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