The President’s Innovation Challenge

By MainGate Staff
Fall 2020/Winter 2021

AUB launched its first President’s Innovation Challenge during a turbulent year, in part to “assert that the will to construct is stronger than the will to destruct,” in the words of Mouhamad Rabah, CEO of the Beirut Digital District (BDD). In the pitching and award ceremony that took place over several hours in the BDD’s Talal and Madiha Zein AUB Innovation Park on October 28, start-up ideas were presented by 132 entrepreneurs with 13 finalists making presentations finely honed to one-minute elevator pitches, plus five minutes of interrogation by a panel of judges.

AUB professors Massoud L. Kraiche and Hassan Zaraket took first place with its $30,000 in prize money for their medical device Acoustosens. Five years in the making, Acoustosens is a scalable, low-cost, at-home, saliva-based test, which has recently been tailored to include testing for COVID-19. Unlike most other testing devices, Acoustosens does not require amplifying the virus in order to test. “Our sensor is our edge,” Kraiche explained. The second prize of $15,000 went to PETCRETE, which works on transforming used plastic bottles into fibers that can reinforce concrete, replacing steel reinforcement. Two third-place winners received $5,000 each: RAM Polymer, a novel composite surgical mesh for hernia repair; and Synkers, an online learning platform that connects students with personal tutors. Each winner will have access to full incubation and mentorship support at AUB Innovation Park.

Watch a short video on the award ceremony here: