After reviewing nearly 100 entries in the QBE and Ashoka Urban Resilience Challenge based on their impact, innovation, and sustainability, Ashoka Changemakers and QBE North America are excited to announce the 25 semifinalists. These transformative for-profit tech innovations are helping to build more resilient, safe, healthy, and equitable cities. Read on to discover bold, new ideas creating impact across the U.S. urban ecosystem.




The Tie Controller allows the existing electricity grid to host up to 3x more distributed energy resources. The device, created by Switched Source, allows neighboring power lines to operate as a networked platform and provides all energy consumers with two sources of power. After a fault, those left without power can instantly recover.

Urban Footprint equips urban planners to address daily challenges through its software tools. The company’s experience-based solutions—which include land use databases, data mapping, and a scenario design toolkit—help cities, NGOs, urban planning firms, and environmental analysts translate their ideas into data-driven conversations aimed at more sustainable and resilient communities.

Laava Tech develops and manufactures smart LED lighting solutions for a variety of industries, helping communities to be economically sustainable and energy-efficient. With its proprietary software and hardware, Laava Tech can cut lighting energy costs in half for vertical farming, street lighting, and residential, commercial, and industrial lighting. 

Omega Grid’s  local energy markets are an alternative to the traditional electric grid, which is underutilized for most of the day and limits the amount of clean energy we can add. Omega’s software determines the most efficient design for local grids and uses blockchain architecture, eliminating the need for expensive centralized infrastructure. As more energy will come from local sources in the future, Omega offers a sustainable way forward.

HazelFlood provides urgent water supply solutions for an uncertain world. Its models pinpoint where stormwater is produced to identify strategic opportunities in urban watersheds for implementing decentralized, low-carbon green infrastructure. With their geospatial tool, communities can visualize water-sensitive urban design scenarios and evaluate options early in the planning and design process.




Citysense believes that right now “smart cities” are a game restricted to the elite few. A massive open network of sensors and communication hubs installed across cities, Citysense is empowering residents to act on problems and export their solutions to other cities so that “smart cities” become an open, collaborative game.

Vesta Smart Packaging offers smart containers that know when they’re empty and automatically reorder their contents in compostable refill packages. The solution reduces single-use plastic and helps consumers and businesses manage their supplies in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.

Cityflag's community apps allow citizens to easily interact with local governments through the first social platform for city services. It includes apps and web services for citizenship, as well as programs of digital inclusion and civic innovation, all aimed at a more transparent relationship between city governments and the people. So far they’ve put around $9M in taxpayer dollars to work in city infrastructure repairs.

SensCity empowers city decision-makers with the necessary tools and knowledge to measure and manage climate change. SensCity gauges the performance of green spaces–like parks, trees, and green walls—to see how an urban environment reacts to climate impacts and learn how programs are performing in real life. The platform offers governments and organizations insights for a sustainable future.




CleanRobotics addresses recurring challenges in recycling: human inconsistency and confusion over what can be recycled. Trashbot, a robotic bin that automatically sorts waste into the correct stream at the point of disposal, is 3x more accurate than people, increases the diversion of recyclables, and decreases contamination. Thanks to Trashbot, recycling becomes more affordable for buildings and profitable for plants.

Goodr addresses hunger as a logistics issue, not a scarcity issue. Goodr ensures that surplus food is safely delivered from businesses to nonprofits and those who need it. Food donors pay for Goodr’s services — which include data, supplies, and logistics— to help them increase profits, reduce their carbon footprint, and optimize inventory while feeding their communities.

Exergy revolutionizes water and recycling solutions to confront pervasive overconsumption in the manufacturing industry. Purifying and recycling resources like water at the point of use, Exergy’s sustainable response brings valuable water back into the production process while minimizing the water treatment and disposal costs.

Rain Systems helps communities become more sustainable by reducing water consumption while preserving important public green spaces such as parks and playing fields. Their “Precision Injection Machines” implant hydrogel into the turf —which absorbs the water usually lost in drainage and evaporation — and slowly release it back into the soil as needed, keeping grass pristine and reducing turf irrigation up to 50%.

Watchtower Robotics developed a robot to reduce water waste from pipe leaks, an increasing issue worldwide. The robot scouts out pipes to quickly find leaks before they become a problem. It works in all pipe materials, precisely detecting the leaks and mapping pipe networks in three dimensions.

Arqlite developed a low-cost, scalable technology that can recycle plastics of all kinds, including complex plastics that previously had no sustainable destination. Arqlite uses these plastics to produce the first “commodity” for the construction industry that’s made entirely from garbage: a plastic gravel to be used in concrete production or landscaping.

Dox cuts down the carbon footprint of batteries, which companies often waste and recycle prematurely.  Dox helps companies predict battery behavior through a data-driven dashboard, notifications sent out 3 months prior to battery failure, automatically-scheduled maintenance, and integrated software, reducing cost in the process. 

BioCellection changes the fate of packaging plastics, which usually end up in landfills and oceans, by using them to replace fossil fuel in sustainable supply chains. Biocellection developed a use for polyethylene plastics, like the kind found in grocery bags, bubble wrap, and food packaging. Their process created the first chemical intermediates made from post-consumer waste, which can be used instead of petroleum to manufacture materials, coatings, and more.


Public Health & Safety

Acreto is taking on a top tech concern in our rapidly-changing world: securing internet-connected devises, known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Due to their non-standard design, high accessibility, and wide distribution, IoTs present challenges traditional security tools weren’t designed to handle. Acreto’s technology helps cities to embrace innovation without compromising security.

Dorothy helps home owners and buyers better prepare for major hurricanes or storms. Dorothy’s technology maps flood zones more accurately — in the case of Hurricane Harvey, their map was 60% more accurate than FEMA’s. The platform also helps people know their flood risk and compare insurance quotes for the best coverage. 

Drugviu is making medicine more inclusive by documenting real-world medication experiences from communities of color. Pharmaceutical clinical trials have low participants of communities of color, so there's little meaningful data to understand the true impact of medications. Drugviu combines reviews from people of color with pharmacist expertise and FDA data to offer a clearer idea of what to expect when taking medication and to supply paid data subscriptions for physicians and pharma companies.

Green Stream Technologies monitors the environment with smart technology aimed at creating safer, more resilient cities. Their platform uses micro-local flood data, a flood sensor network, and Internet of Things technology to inform the public via real-time environmental assessments.

Sentry uses artificial intelligence to help cities identify and respond to social threats. Unlike traditional security cameras, Sentry’s software sends real-time alerts to prevent crime, and its accessible solution can be creatively adapted to different contexts like campus safety, home security, and public services.

Grillo Holdings is building earthquake resiliency for smart cities. Their early-earthquake warnings let people know what to do before an earthquake, and sensors let business owners know when earthquake damage is detected. Grillo offers their seismic data for free to developers and scientists to help build more resilient cities for everyone.

ODN's tech solutions can change how insurance carriers promote safe driving and price their coverages. ODN’s intelligence, based on geospatial calculations, predicts where car crashes will likely happen. Insurance carriers can then evaluate the risks customers will face behind the wheel, alongside other factors, to reduce crashes and build safer cities.

Flood Concern uses machine learning and AI to help emergency officials prepare and respond to severe riverine flooding.  It's created by One Concern, which offers high-tech platforms to identify the near real-time impacts of natural disaster for cities and neighborhoods. Officials can access risk and vulnerability scenarios and collaborate with each other to share knowledge to prepare for future disasters.


What's next?

Each semifinalist receives feedback and the opportunity to edit their entries before entering the next phase of the challenge. QBE North America and Ashoka will then review and select ten finalists. These finalists will be invited to pitch their ventures before a distinguished panel of business and social impact leaders in New York City on Wednesday, October 16, 2019. Two winners will be awarded a cash prize of $25,000 or $75,000.

Stay tuned to discover the ten finalists on Monday, August 5th!

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