Unleashed to do good: How one DBS talent is tackling one of the world’s most pressing issues

Lin Minghao, a senior associate from Treasury and Markets Operations, won the “Most Innovative Solution” prize at UNLEASH 2018 for his team’s idea on addressing rising urban temperatures.

In the first week of June this year, some 1,000 of the brightest young minds from around the world gathered in Singapore for UNLEASH 2018 – the world’s largest innovation lab dedicated to creating innovative, implementable and scalable solutions towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The talents were split up into teams to work on eight SDGS: Food, Health, Education & ICT, Water & Sanitation, Energy, Sustainable Cities & Communities, Responsible Supply Chain & Consumption, and Climate Action.

Nine DBS employees were chosen to take part in UNLEASH 2018. One of our talents, Lin Minghao, a senior associate from Treasury and Markets Operations, won the “Most Innovative Solution” prize for his team’s idea on addressing rising urban temperatures.

In this article, Minghao shares his experience at UNLEASH 2018, as well as the inspiration behind his solution.

‘The passion kept us going’

UNLEASH 2018 was a fantastic, humbling and extremely meaningful experience that I had the privilege to be a part of.

Based on my indicated interests and ideas during my application, I was grouped together with three other like-minded talents (from Ecuador, Singapore and India) in the climate action track (SDG 13).

For eight days, we woke up every day at 6.30am, working till around 1am on our solution. Although this was really exhausting, there was a passionate drive and motivation in everyone that kept us going.

From the get-go, our team collectively agreed that we did not want to do an app-based solution. In our opinion, there were already many app-based solutions in the market, and it would thus be hard to differentiate ourselves.

Our solution was called “Urban Cool”. Using a flexible financing model, we proposed to equip slum-dwelling communities in New Delhi with solar-powered evaporative coolers. This can potentially reduce their vulnerability to rising urban temperatures caused by climate change.

Minghao’s (second from right) team, Urban Cool, presenting their idea at the closing ceremony of UNLEASH 2018. Photo: UNLEASH

The coolers would be community-owned, paid back or rented through instalments. We proposed providing training on maintaining and modifying the coolers, which could result in new jobs for the local communities. Additionally, we envisioned creating franchise models for local business owners to carry on the operations or market it to other slums or communities.

Another aspect we foresaw was that the increased humidity from the coolers would aid the growth of air plants and climbers. From this, we proposed installing a green mesh on top of the roofs in the community, which can lower the ambient temperature again.

Although, our initial focus will be on New Delhi, we believe the solution can be implemented worldwide. Global warming has led to rising urban temperatures ins almost every city in the world. In Singapore it was reported last year that most urbanised areas can be more than 7 degrees Celsius warmer than more rural parts at certain times of the day, due to the urban heat island effect.

Minghao’s (second from right) team, Urban Cool, presenting their idea at the closing ceremony of UNLEASH 2018. Photo: UNLEASH

My team was honoured to receive the ‘Most Innovative Solution’ award, one of five awards that was presented at the closing ceremony of UNLEASH 2018.

A more incredibly pleasant surprise is that we have since been approached by a few parties interested in working with us to further develop and push our solution into the market. We are now working to see how we can come up with a prototype, and eventually push it to the market where it will hopefully create a positive impact in the community.

Besides work, we also had our share of fun during the UNLEASH 2018 programme. Besides attending the DBS Marina Regatta, all participants were split into groups for cultural tours around Singapore. These were opportunities for our foreign counterparts to get to know Singapore a little more intimately.

As a Nanyang Technological University alumni myself, I also had the pleasure of showing my team around the campus (where we were working) during our lunch breaks. They were amazed at the green architecture around the school. It was a rare and proud feeling that the country I was born, and grew up in, was held in such high regard by all the other foreign talents. This reinforced within me the importance of not taking things for granted, especially when we have it so much better than most others.