Arjuna Mohottala. Photo by Belinda Thompson.

Eyes on the prize

04 March 2014

Developing sustainable solutions to stop the growth of non-communicable diseases is one of the most pressing problems of our time and now a pair of Crawford School students may be part of the solution.

PhD candidate Arjuna Mohottala and Master’s student Ashleigh Fox are two members of a team of five ANU students taking their plan for a scalable social enterprise to address non-communicable disease in slums to Shanghai, China from 7-8 March for the regional final of the 2014 Hult Prize.

The Hult Prize encourages some of the world’s brightest minds to put their energies into a business idea that addresses a specific issue of global importance. Each year, a new theme is selected by Bill Clinton, former president of the United States.

More than 10,000 teams from universities across the globe entered the 2014 competition. They have been whittled down to just 200 teams that have the chance to present their ideas at one of five regional finals being held across the world.

Mohottala said he was inspired to enter by his experiences as a Rotaractor volunteer in Sri Lanka following the devastating tsunami in 2004.

“There were a lot of internally displaced people and the public health facilities couldn’t cope with the demand; up to 90 per cent of the beach areas in Sri Lanka were destroyed,” he said.

“What stood out for me wasn’t what people said when we arrived to help. It was their relief, the small smile at the corner of their mouth that said more than words. We were doing something worthwhile and really changing lives.

“Because this is an issue that is close to my heart, I thought the Hult Prize was a fantastic opportunity to test our ideas and expertise. We’ve built a mixed team with expertise in economics, finance, management and health sciences. I’m reasonably confident that we have a strong chance to get through to the final.

“We have a team that has a right balance of practical experience as well as the theoretical knowledge.”

The other members of the ANU team come from the John Curtin School of Medical Science and the ANU College of Business and Economics.

The winning team will receive $1 million USD in seed capital to move their idea into reality, as well as mentoring and advice from the international business community.

With more than one billion people living in the world’s slums, the prize offers the chance to make a tangible difference.

The Hult Prize has been named as one of the top five ideas changing the world by President Bill Clinton and TIME Magazine.

To learn more about the Hult Prize, go to http://www.hultprize.org/

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