Launch of XFire Innovation Challenge against Wild Fires
Cyberjaya: WWF-Malaysia has always believed in the potential of technological innovations to combat environmental problems. Unsurprisingly, large and out-of-control forest fire is one of such problems.
Forests are precious for water catchment, oxygen production, carbon sequestration and as wildlife habitats. Current methods of suppressing forest fires include using retardant, fire barriers, re-wetting peatland, water bombing and cloud seeding. However, these methods can be dangerous, costly, weather dependent, slow and ineffective in remote and difficult terrains.
Therefore, WWF-Malaysia in collaboration with the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), Universiti Putra Malaysia’s (UPM) Institute of Tropical Forestry and Forest Products (INTROP) and Sabah Forestry Department (SFD), calls on innovators and makers with expertise in engineering, chemistry, logistics, robotics, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), internet of things (IoT), fire management and so on, from Malaysia and all over the world, to take up the challenge to transform fire suppression in Southeast Asia.
The XFire Innovation Challenge seeks scalable technological solutions to suppress large wildfires in Southeast Asia’s inland and peatland forests. The winning team will transform firefighting in remote forests with solutions that can be deployed from a permanent or mobile base to a distance of 50km within four hours in bad air quality, and suppress a large fire (>50 hectare) in 48 hours.
This aims to reduce deforestation, carbon emission, respiratory health issues and economic loss caused by forest fires and resultant haze. Large forest fires often cause haze which travel long distances and cover large areas. The air pollutant affects people’s respiratory system, health, livelihoods as well as lifestyle; and in severe cases, closure of schools and airports. Firefighters risk their lives to put out forest fires; with innovative solutions, their safety would be enhanced.
At the launch today, the Conservation Director of WWF-Malaysia, Dr Henry Chan welcomed the guests and thanked the event partners, “The problem of wildfires, haze, deforestation and climate change are some of the threats our planet faces today. No one person or group can tackle them alone. But together, we can protect the very things that keep us alive, our forests, fresh water and planet. ‘Together possible’ embodies the way WWF-Malaysia works – in collaboration with people, partners and institutions to achieve lasting conservation impacts.”
The Deputy Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC), YB Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis said in her opening speech, “The government is committed to protect and restore forests which are degraded by fire. This is to ensure these forests are not cleared for other purposes. We want to send out a clear signal that burning down forests does not mean you can convert it to other land use.” Her speech was delivered by Associate Professor Dr Ramzah bin Dambul, the Deputy Secretary General for Science, Technology and Innovation, Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC).
Ashran Dato’ Ghazi, the CEO of MaGIC added, “We are excited to be in collaboration with WWF-Malaysia, UPM and SFD for the XFire Innovation Challenge. As Malaysia’s driving force to push the cultivation of the impact driven sector that aims to create a positive impact on marginalised communities as well as address environmental issues, MaGIC has introduced a variety of initiatives designed to support the aspirations of our nation but there remains more to be done. We need to start looking for solutions that can suppress issues like this using innovation. The XFire Innovation Challenge is the beginning of an empowering movement across the region – a movement to catalyse social innovations that could potentially revitalise and preserve our forests.”
The challenge is hosted on the ACTIVATE platform of MaGIC. It will be conducted in three phases. Phase 1 focuses on ideation, a Proof of Concept must be submitted by end of December 2018, where participants explain the concept, technology, set up and pre-conditions for the innovation in written and video format. Qualified participants from Phase 1 will enter Phase 2: Prototype (April – August 2019), where participants will have to submit technical description and a video showing a prototype, how it works and ease of deployment. Qualified finalists will be selected to proceed to Phase 3: On-site Lab and Testing (January – April 2020), and there will be a sponsored on-site lab with testing facility which will involve suppressing real fires. Judging will be carried out by a panel of judges.
The challenge is now open to the public, both local and international. Applicants must be of age 18 years old or older and can be from an individual, a team, startup or institution. For more details and to participate, visit MagicActivate.com/challenge/12
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