As part of Nestlé’s focus on homegrown innovation, its Nestlé Connect University Innovation Challenge has awarded three undergraduate teams out of 200 participants for their winning ideas in nutrition and sustainability. The competition was launched in late 2020 for undergraduates from four universities – University of Kelaniya, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, University of Colombo and University of Moratuwa – to support and encourage innovative thinking among youth in these two areas. Tharushi Mandulika, Ishanika Seneviratne, and Vindula Perera from the University of Jayawardenapura won first place; while Mohamed Shakib, Wageesh Rajapakshe, and Isuru Udayanga, also from the University of Jayawardenapura, won second place. Bimali Bhagya, Michelle Wijesuriya and Dinendrika Sewwandi from the University of Colombo were placed third.
“It has been an absolute pleasure and privilege to interact with our young local talent, and hear their thoughts and ideas for the future. Sri Lanka has many natural resources and bright young minds, and in line with our Nestlé Needs YOUth programme, we want to ensure that they have the opportunities they need to reach their full potential and make meaningful contributions to the country. This competition also supports our desire to heighten the positive impact we have had on Sri Lanka over the last 115 years, via deeper insights and relevant innovations. We want to use more local ingredients and offer products that are not just more nutritious but also sustainable. We believe that we can only bring about lasting positive impact by working closely with the local community for solutions that can benefit all Sri Lankans. We look forward to many more such interactions in the future” said Fabrice Cavallin, Nestlé’s Managing Director.
All participating teams brainstormed ideas for nutritious products that use local ingredients, and initiatives that can enhance the company’s environmental sustainability. The programme helped them connect with experts and mentors to take their ideas from concept to prototype, and apply design thinking and lean agile methodologies.
In addition to university students, Nestlé Lanka has been conducting similar innovation programmes and hackathons in the areas of nutrition and sustainability with local start-ups and entrepreneurs as well. The company aims to combine the insight and ingenuity of external innovators, with its scale and expertise as the world’s largest food and beverage company, to launch projects that will make a genuine difference for Sri Lanka.