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Awards: “Design to improve life”: The winners of Index Award 2021 announced

LONDON, UK — The Index Project has revealed the winners of Index Award 2021, the biennial awards programme that celebrates design that improves quality of life. Previous winners include LifeStrawTM (2005), the Tesla Roadster (2007), Kiva (2009), Hövding (2011), Raspberry Pi (2013), The Ocean Cleanup Array (2015), Zipline (2017), and MARSHA (2019).

The award’s mission is to ‘design to improve life’, seeking to promote design solutions to social, environmental and economic problems. Beyond celebrating progressive creativity, the organisation also celebrates diversity, inspires hope and acts as a catalyst for groundbreaking innovation. Each cycle recognises five designers from across five categories:

  • Body – Design that keeps us physically and mentally healthy
  • Home – Solutions that support and enhance better living at home
  • Work – Ideas that make our jobs safer, fairer, more accessible and sustainable
  • Play & Learning – Design that makes learning more fun and effective through play
  • Community – Large-scale design solutions that we all share

This year, the following five companies are being awarded in each category:


Body category: OUI

OUI are being awarded for their innovative non hormonal contraceptive. Based on a completely novel approach to birth control, the OUI capsule reinforces the natural mucus barrier that exists in the cervical canal thereby making ovulatory cervical mucus impenetrable for sperm cells. OUI encourages women to take ownership of their bodies by utilising the female body’s own defences to aid birth control.

Home category: Flash Forest

Flash Forest is an elegant and well-executed way of applying technology in a meaningful way to heal our shared home. The reforestation company uses aerial mapping software, drone technology, pneumatics, automation and ecological science to accelerate reforestation worldwide and secure the future of our home and planet. Flash Forest is dedicated to developing a community around their work, including NGOs, governments and corporations in order to successfully reforest.

Work category: BIOHM

BIOHM produces environmentally regenerative and natural insulation grown from mycelium: the root network of mushrooms. The building industry is one of the industries with the largest environmental footprints in the world, with limited recycling and often harmful side effects for workers. Sustainable insulation is drastically needed, both in cool and warm climates to lower operational energy consumption, to reduce our energy consumption. BIOHM is opening the door for a tremendous amount of opportunities for other areas to use mycelium.

Play & Learning category: Truepic

Truepic uses groundbreaking technology to authenticate images and videos as they’re captured to ensure what goes online is real. Truepic addresses a huge global challenge and will help in democratising technology. The online world can be a misleading place but Truepic is using universal technology to bring clarity to what’s really real out there and what’s not. Truepic offers a compelling solution paving a path towards truth and trust.

Community category: Algorithmic Justice League

Algorithmic Justice League is a movement uncovering racial and gender bias in AI systems to shift the wider AI ecosystem towards an accountable, transparent and equitable future. As well as being an awareness movement, Algorithmic Justice League offers a range of practical solutions to tackle AI bias. They offer ways to report AI biases, datasets available for AI research, workshops to help educate people about AI bias and harms, and services to audit company AI systems to see how they stack up in terms of ethics.

This year, Index Award 2021 offers a hybrid ‘phygital’ celebration. There will be 10 globally streamed digital events featuring a range of design experts and innovation thought-leaders, and a live finale with the winners announced in Copenhagen. The programme will run from September 21st – September 30th with more details on speakers and events themes to be announced nearer the time. The Index Award 2021 statuettes were designed by architect Morten Emil Engel and brought to life by premium Danish furniture manufacturer Brdr. Krüger, uniting Danish craftsmanship, Nordic aesthetics and ancient Japanese design to create an environmentally friendly artefact.

The winners will each receive a prize package worth over €250,000, including, but not limited to, business development sessions with top-tier global consulting agency Boston Consulting Group, creative branding sparring from award-winning AKQA, a feature on the Google Arts and Culture platform, and bespoke design thinking and leadership workshops with The Index Project as well as reviewed for investment by Design to Improve Life Funds.

Liza Chong, CEO of The Index Project, commented: “It is an honour to award these five teams with an Index Award. Over the past year humanity has endured extreme hardships and as such never before has solution-driven design deserved such recognition and celebration. From companies addressing social, racial and gender bias to designers seeking to restore and support the natural world, this year’s winners reflect the shift we have seen globally in the past 18 months towards a more egalitarian, sustainable and progressive future. I wish each of our winners much success and look forward to supporting them in their endeavours.”

Joe Gebbia – co-founder of Airbnb, entrepreneur, industrial designer and humanitarian advocate – is guest of honour at this year’s ceremony, delivering a keynote address as a call to action for the creative community. Gebbia commented: “‘Design to improve life’ has always been my guiding principle, and one I share with The Index Project. It’s my honor to be a part of this year’s awards ceremony celebrating the true power of design and, more importantly, inspiring the next generation of creative minds to find innovative solutions to the challenges that lie ahead.”

The Index Project and Index Award 2021 is under the royal patronage of H.R.H. The Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and supported by the Danish Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, and The Danish Industry Foundation. The Index Award is considered a forward-thinking voice in the global sustainable design industry. Beyond award-giving, The Index Project helps pioneers in design and innovation reach their full potential through their investment entity, Design to Improve Life Capital Management. The Index Project intends to seek further investment opportunities in this year’s finalist and winners pool, having invested in 12 companies to date including medical drone delivery service Zipline and global addressing system what3words.

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