By Fanny Ohier
Icecairo, the green technology innovation hub will celebrate the opening of its newly renovated space in downtown Cairo very soon, say its founders. The centre is open for business, but its official launch had been postponed due to the political situation in the country.
Icecairo is a “not-for-profit, community-powered green technologies innovation hub,” said Tobias Mathes, product-designer and head of the fablab, the Fabrication -Laboratory of icecairo. “We work together to solve environmental and social challenges using the brilliance of the icecairo community, and to turn these challenges into green businesses.”
He explained icecairo’s goals of solving Egypt’s environmental issues: “fablab’s rapid prototyping machinery creates and evolves these solutions into real world green products. These products can then be sold by sustainable businesses, powered by and employing young Egyptians,” Mathes said.
“There is a need for green technologies… and of course sustainability,” he added.
Icecairo was initiated by GIZ, the German provider of international cooperation services for sustainable development. After establishing two branches in Addis Ababa (iceaddis) and in Germany (icebauhaus), GIZ created icecairo in 2012. In order to fulfil its objective to employ local youth, icecairo later formed an Egyptian team made up by Adam Molyneux Berry, cofounder, Muhammad Radwan, space manager and Salma Adel, product designer.
Icecairo offers space to work and develop social and environmental projects, in collaboration with and supported by the icecairo team. There are “two spaces for innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship,” Mathes explained. “Our physical hub (in downtown) is a space where people can collaborate, attend and run events and use the fablab to make green products. Our online hub is a collection of platforms: a website, a wiki, a mapping system, an e-learning platform and an e-commerce site; all designed to maximise collaboration within the icecairo community.”
Icecairo is designed to not only offer tools, but also the skills, resources and networks of its community to help news ideas emerge. “[We] create new opportunities for economic, environmental and social benefit,” said Mathes, who leads workshops for laser-cutting and 3-D printing among others. Extra assistance for projects is provided on demand as long as the whole icecairo community can benefit from it.
“Anyone can come and suggest ideas,” Mathes stated, adding that users “can make use of the expertise within the community and begin using the co-working space to collaborate with others who may be interested in furthering their idea.” He added that they can use the fabrication laboratory to make prototypes, and test if their product is ready for business.
Icecairo has so far produced a solar water heater with locally affordable materials, and a biogas digester. Products expected in the near future are air-filtration masks, a vertical wind turbine and a mini-green-house.
“Together with our partners in civil society, the private sector, government and academia, icecairo believes it can turn almost any challenge in to a sustainable business opportunity,” Mathes said.