Ownlabs: The Ericsson Innovation Awards African Adventure

We are four Senegalese students from the Polytechnic University and Ziguinchor University. Our adventure with the Ericsson Innovation Awards began when we received email that Ericsson organized a contest for students. We then submitted all the necessary elements, telling ourselves that we had nothing to lose even if we did not go through the selection phase.


We had the idea of this project because we grew up in an area of the world in which  limited financial means do not allow young people to be able to express their creativity in science because of lack of materials and laboratories. By doing our university course, we thought that it is possible to use  virtual reality to simulate a scientific laboratory, which is how Ownlabs was born.

We were very surprised to be selected as regional winners for Africa and the Middle East and we were very happy. Thus begins our phase of mentoring which was very difficult because of the language barrier. Indeed all of our mentors except one were anglophones, while our working language is French. We had Skype meetings of about an hour each to refine the deliverables for the semifinal. By the way, I would like to say thank you to our mentors Brian Sangudi, Alex Ofori, Tatiana Ouedanou Nwankpa, Audrey Muvezwa, Giampaola Lauri, Kavir Bhoola.

In the meantime, one of the members of the group went to France for his end-of-study internship and another started his end-of-study internship, so it was difficult to coordinate with each other knowing that only two of us were in the same city. It was very difficult to work remotely with different time zones. But, during the meetings with the mentors we learned to trust our project because we often heard from our mentors that our project is innovative, relevant and from the best. In addition, our mentors brought us a broader vision of our project.


Going to the Ericsson Innovation Awards Finals

When we learned that we were in the final of the Ericsson Innovation Awards, we did not believe it because of the stereotypes about Africans that exist – that we do not shine often in the world of technology. Then, there was an incredible media infatuation in our country. We even went to the television news of the national channel.

We did pitch sessions with Ericsson Senegal staff to prepare our pitch for the final. While we were training, there was for us the language barrier being francophone. This experience was very constructive because we were able to present our project to people with good professional experience and to have beneficial feedback from them, which moreover gave us a media visibility in our country and opened doors for us.

We wish to win Ericsson Innovation Awards 2018 to be able to change the lives of our fellow citizens by allowing them to be able to have their creativity and thus stop being frustrated by the lack of means in high school and allow this new generation to do what their elders could not do.

Watch team Ownlabs in the Ericsson Innovation Awards Grand Final!

Team Ownlabs is on of 4 finalist teams competing to win the Ericsson Innovation Awards and 25,000 EUR. Click here to mark your calendar for the Grand Final livestream on May 17 at 7 pm CET. 

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