Innovation Challenge of the Year Award

Chitkara University Research & Innovation Network

Finalist of the Innovation Challenge of the Year Award

"Let us make a difference to somebody near us"

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NOVATE is the annual innovation challenge of Chitkara University. Each year we identify problems, which affect our lives and of those around us. We call upon thinkers, innovators, makers and implementers to find innovative solutions to the problems, so that we can make a small difference to somebody near us. NOVATE is organised in three different verticals for addressing problems from different domains :

1. NOVATE (Annual Problem Solving Challenge for Communities)– Identification of problems of community partners (b) Village panchayats and (c) K-12 schools, working for 8 months cycle every year (from Oct to March next year) to find solutions to these problems. This is being done through the sarpanches of the five adopted villages, NGOs and NSS wing.

2. NOVATE+ (Annual problem solving challenge for campus): Chitkara University houses 10,000 students and 2000 employees on any given day. This township faces challenges on day-to-day basis, which requires multidisciplinary solutions to emerge out. These problems are similar in campuses of HEIs of the region. NOVATE+ would identify these challenges and encourage students to work and find solutions, for which they earn credits. Industries such as NXP, Applied Materials, Mahindra and Mahindra endorse this movement.

3. NOVATE++ (Annual problem solving challenge for SMEs): Being in the land of entrepreneurs and jugad innovators, Chitkara University has established close tie-ups with SMEs. NOVATE++ hackathon will focus on SME problems and PG and PhD students would work in CoEs and research centres to find solutions to their problems.

The uniqueness of the NOVATE is in its purpose and continuity, and that it lets students to earn credit for each problem they solve. The focus of each vertical is on a set of stake holders and yet it weaves intricately into the academic framework. NOVATE lets students from different disciplines to come together and bring workable solutions to the table, letting longitudnal and lateral movement of knowledge and skills.

Key People

Dr Madhu Chitkara

Mr Mohit Chitkara

Dr Archana Mantri

Dr Sachin Ahuja

Mr Sagar Juneja


Acknowledge DST’s newgen IEDC funding


NOVATE 2019 Jury

Prize Ceremony

Prize Ceremony 2

Prize Ceremony 3








Impacting lifes

It started with a first year student, who came from a decent background and went on to community engagement trip to a nearby village in her very first year of graduation. On her maiden visit to the village, she found that most of the houses in the village did not have potable water. The water from the tube-wells was contaminated with pesticides and the villagers were not even aware of the water quality that they were drinking. Deeply moved, She approached her chemistry teacher, who also happened to be a water scientist and questioned “Madam, what is the use of your high quality research papers, if its outcome cannot provide real value to the most needy?” The duo then went on to form a water literacy club and also conceptualised and designed the low cost water filter made of earthen pot and processed risk husk as water purifying system. Soon the network of NGOs came to help by and 500 earthen pots were distributed nearby as part of CSR of the university. The rural population got benefitted. Today ‘Swachch-Neer’ is all set to become a social start up and is looking out for funds to scale up.

Yet another PhD student who was working on speech and multimodal processing area, once came across a troupe of kids from a blind school, who were part of an educational trip to the university. While shaking hands with one of the kids, he found that his finger tips were really rough. On questioning, the otherwise chirpy kid told that it is because of using the braille slate (which requires punching of the cards using sharp stylus) that his finger tips were rough. The PhD student, who is from an humble background went on to make an award winning product “Briltab Edukit” which circumvents the use of mechanical stylus with that of a magnetic one. It also has the vernacular speech support, which makes a blind person speak, write and hear back in vernacular language.


Lessons learned

The very Idea of NOVATE sprang up from the simple saying - “Where there is a challenge there is an opportunity”. Besides hundreds of hackthons happening around the world, we wanted NOVATE series to be the REAL “Problem solving challenge”. The solutions may or may not be innovative, but they should be catering to real need of real people. The quest is about finding and designing global solutions to local problems. While implementing the solution, we kept the local social connect of the three verticals – NOVATE, NOVATE+ and NOVATE++ intact by involving all the stakeholders right form beginning till the deployment. The NOVATE series gives right platform for the students to work in interdisciplinary teams and bring POCs and prototypes to the table. The real challenge for the policy makers is to design frameworks – supplementary or core - to enable students function in such multidisciplinary teams. The next challenge is to let the students realise that there is value in working on these problems. The last biggest one is to train the educators to be design thinkers. It is great to see, however, the educators work and learn with the students and communities as teams. What came as a pleasant surprise was the diminishing boundaries of teachers and the taught. The real satisfaction is when the students deliver these solutions to the community and when they see it working. Many students from decent backgrounds and families have moved on to become social entrepreneurs, mentored by their faculty members. Industry which saw these open challenges as disconnected once-in-a-life kind of projects, started to find value in the horizontal connect of these solutions. More and more students were talking about the value they were drawing from in-built design thinking approach in building these solutions. For once, the projects were becoming real and giving value and were making difference to somebody near us.


What's coming?

NOVATE’s reputation is built on bringing breakthrough solutions to issues of importance. We are committed to maintaining our strong position and increasing our output by investing in our research and development capabilities - but we also want to broaden the scope of impact and with it, the canvas. We are committed to serve the community even better, and develop innovations of the future by taking the NOVATE Innovation Challenge to the next level - NOVATE++. In the plan for NOVATE 2020, besides a bigger & better NOVATE & NOVATE+, this new level would be added to primarily focus on SME problems, where PG and PhD students would work in CoEs and research centres to find solutions. The canvas would be bigger as the problems will be invited from SMEs and the proposed solutions will be built in collaboration with research labs and SMEs.



Prototypes/POCs displayed


Students/Innovators Participated


Patents filed

USD 900,000

At disposal for building the prototypes

USD 2000

Cash prizes to be won every year

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