17th Annual KPMG Ideation Challenge Winners — CleanTechnica Exclusive

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They are the 17th annual KPMG Ideation Challenge (KIC) winners! They’re a group of students from the Indian Institute of Technology who developed a solution to pinpoint exact locations of minerals to be extracted during mining, thus creating a more sustainable and safer mining process. The team is currently in the process of patenting the solution to be used in India and potentially around the world.

KPMG Ideation Challenge winners!
Image provided by Zeno

KPMG’s recent 2020 CEO Outlook forecasts that CEOs of the world’s most influential companies have cited talent risk as one of the most significant challenges to growth. As a means to solve that problem and identify the next generation of thinkers, KPMG International hosted its 17th annual global KPMG Ideation Challenge 2020 from August 24-25, 2020.

“The panel of judges selected the student team from the Indian Institute of Technology because they addressed a problem with global relevance – safety and sustainability in the mining industry – and developed a solution that was commercially and technically viable,” said Phil Thornley, Partner with KPMG Australia and a lead practitioner with KPMG’s Global Lighthouse Center of Excellence for Data, AI, and Emerging Technologies. “This technology shows great promise; it has the potential to offer significant safety, environmental, and cost benefits.”

What Does It Take to Become Hackathon Winners?

With the goal to generate a new idea that could change the world, create a prototype, and then pitch it to business leaders, the Challenge pushes students to use innovative thinking to solve complex business issues using data-driven solutions. Along the way they work with KPMG’s data scientists, coders, business specialists, and tech gurus to help teams bring their idea to life.

Out of more than 8,000 applicants across 19 countries, 17 student teams were chosen from 500 leading universities to advance to the final phase of the event. The top three finalist teams were the Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines), Zhejiang University in China, and University of Florida.

Team NAVACHARITAM (“Technology Replaces Repetitiveness”) was announced as the KIC winner for developing a solution that brings disruptive innovation to the mining industry, helping enable safer and more sustainable extraction.

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Interview with KPMG Ideation Challenge Winners from the Indian Institute of Technology, Indian School of Mines

You’re a group of 4 engineering students. Tell us your names and give us a little information about each of you. What are your stories?

Sanchit Kumar – Currently, I am pursuing a Bachelor of Technology degree in mining engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Indian School of Mines in Dhanbad. I am in my final year. My hobbies are making movies and playing basketball.
Parth Hetamsaria – I am also in my final year as a mining engineering student. My hobbies are painting, reading, and I love to play board games.
Varnika Kumari – I am currently in my final year of mechanical engineering. I love to cook, and I practice martial arts. I’m also a national level player in Taekwondo.
Srajan Gupta – I am a pre-final electrical engineering student. I have participated in various other student competitions over the years and developed many robots. In my free time, I love watching anime and playing games online.

What have your studies focused on at the Indian Institute of Technology?

Sanchit: Each of us attended the School of Mines at the Indian Institute of Technology with a focus on engineering; however, some of us had different degrees. Parth and I majored in mining engineering, while Varnika majored in mechanical engineering, and Srajan majored in electrical engineering. These different majors were incredibly valuable during the KIC competition because we were able to tap into our individual strengths to make our idea stronger.

Why was India’s pollution problem so important for you to help solve?

Varnika: India emits a large amount of pollutants in the world and the vast majority of that comes from the mining industry alone (approx 83%). As a group of students who have studied the mining industry for years, we knew this was an important problem for not only our industry but also the world. If we can reduce the amount of pollutants emitted, that will significantly reduce the world’s pollution.

What was your process like to create the custom algorithm for the sensor imaging and drone technology?

Srajan: We used advanced analytics and cognitive computing to develop our algorithm. We use image processing to know about the minerals, and, with the help of different levels of models, try to increase our accuracy.

KPMG Ideation Challenge winners!
Image provided by Zeno

You’ve developed a solution for the mining industry to pinpoint the exact location of minerals to be extracted, creating a more sustainable and safer mining process. Please tell our audience at CleanTechnica about the algorithm. How does it work? How does the algorithm for the sensor imaging and drone technology fill in an existing gap?

Parth: Using the algorithm and a mixture of drones and sensors, we can identify minerals with just a single picture. Meaning, if you go to a mining site, workers can click an image with the help of a sensor that has been enabled in the drone. Within 2 to 3 hours, you will see where the minerals are present above and below the surface. This allows miners to pinpoint a mining location more precisely and eliminate unnecessary drilling. Therefore, pinpointing a mining site prior to drilling allows miners to reduce pollution, save time, and reduce costs.

You developed the solution as part of the annual KPMG Ideation Challenge (KIC) event. What was it like to complete in a global, hackathon-style competition that virtually gathered 17 teams of business and STEM students from 500 top universities?

Varnika: KIC was a great experience. Over the last 9 months, we learned to hone both our analytical and presentation skills as we received constant feedback from our university’s alumni base and many others. Our team often met twice per day, which became more challenging amidst COVID-19, but we made it work. In particular, the final round of KIC was one the most intensive and exciting two days we’ve had. Overall, the competition taught us the importance of cultivating out-of-the-box ideas and building our confidence.

How do you foresee best utilizing the $50,000 in seed funding to bring your idea to market (in addition to coaching and support from KPMG professionals)?

Parth: We remain passionate about our solution, so our plan is to use the KPMG seed funding to help bring this idea to life. We’re already in contact with patenting companies, with the goal of patenting our technology in major mining countries. To secure additional funding, we will continue working with investors and leverage our large alumni base to secure additional funds from our university. We’re grateful to have our idea already backed by KPMG and for the KIC event, which helped us get started.

In winning this year’s competition, you’ve been cited as a team that is “bringing disruptive innovation to the mining industry.” You referenced how the mining industry in India contributes 83% of the country’s major pollutants. How will you persuade the mining industry that your algorithm will be a practical, efficient, and cost-effective solution for them?

Sanchit: Since we’ve been testing our algorithm for a while, we have concrete data to show how our solution will truly make a difference in the mining industry. With our solution, we are reducing the time it takes to drill by about 90%, increasing accuracy by about 85-90% and reducing the cost by 25-30%. Most importantly, we are helping the world fight climate change by reducing carbon emissions by 25-30%. Over time, as we gain credibility in the market – and our model improves its accuracy – we are confident we can reduce carbon emissions by up to 75%. We have shared our idea with few mining professionals in India and have gotten a very good response.

How does your team intend to spread the word globally about your algorithm for sensor imaging and drone technology?

Srajan: We hope to use the KPMG Ideation Challenge as a starting point to raise awareness of our solution across the globe. We are also fortunate to have a large and well-connected alumni base at the Indian School of Mines – we plan to leverage those connections to be introduced to key stakeholders in the industry. We will be participating in international organizations like Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) among others to know more about the mining industry globally.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack: https://carolynfortuna.substack.com/.

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