At Sustainable Finance Live last week, a concurrent hackathon was held alongside the keynotes and panel sessions.
Finextra, Responsible Risk and Nayaone provided rooms and mentors for those who entered the hackathon to allow the teams to consider problems, develop ideas, and collaborate with attendees. After the conference, held in London on 29th November 2022, the teams that were formed continued to work together to develop their ideas further.
Today, the final five teams presented their work, including those Genpact, Soverio, Deloitte, and Endangered Wildlife OÜ and the winner of the inaugural Sustainable Finance Live hackathon was announced.
The winning team was made up of Priyank Patwa, formerly with Morningstar and M&G; Grace Colverd, PhD student at the University of Cambridge; and Amogh Borkar, lead data scientist at M&G, who presented on democratising geospatial data.
On winning, Patwa said: “What we are most passionate about is that this hopefully helps address something that is meaningful and moves the needle into a space which is making analysis easier. Hopefully we can save some lives, some of the planet, and something which is better for the greater good. That’s what keeps us going.”
Finextra caught up with some of the judges to discuss their involvement in the hackathon and what they’re looking for from the hackers at Sustainable Finance Live.
The judges for this event were Darshna Shah, director of innovation at Elastacloud Digital, David Gristwood, Azure architect at Microsoft, and John Donovan, senior developer at SparkGeo.
When embarking on a hackathon, the initial question for many is: what is the purpose of a hackathon in the sustainability context? Gristwood's view is that “often you’re giving people permission, two or three days to step away from their normal stuff and just focus on this.
"You need to get them out of the office so they can’t be distracted, so you can’t have a boss or colleagues taking you out of it. That gives them permission to try stuff out with no preconceptions that it needs to be successful. Teams need to be able to fail fast - it is much better to spend a couple of days on an idea and find out that it doesn’t it not work, and learn from that, instead of possibly wasting months on a big scale project.”
Donovan added some of his experience: “The hacks I’ve been to have taken the completely non-technical, and the very technical and smashed them together. One of the best was an NHS Hackathon. We had half a dozen to eight NHS workers and that same number of techies who don’t know about healthcare. In this hackathon, the problem faced was that a number of older people who wear panic buttons would push them to have someone to talk to. The solution became to create a sort of ‘party line’ that these people could access through pushing a different big button.”
Shah, who also took part in a sustainability panel at the main conference, said: “I have been doing Sustainable Finance Live events for a while, and it is nice to see it organically grow.”
She continued: “Within the hacks you bring people from different backgrounds together and I think that’s the perfect base point to have those really cool innovative ideas grow. I have been working in sustainability for a long time now and it’s great just to see it gain so much momentum and bring such a diverse range of people together from finance, tech, science, legal, energy and more.”
The judges also pointed out what they were looking in the final presentations. Shah said that through the platform provided by NayaOne, the hackers have “access to loads of data. One of the biggest blocks is usually testing out your ideas. So I’d like to see them come up with an idea that would have a huge impact on our area. Maybe they need to think about how that aligns to different industries, and then use the data to validate these ideas.”
Gristwood described it as “like Dragons Den. It’s the opportunity to bring people together in teams, who are passionate about an idea, and giving them time to research and test it out and come up with a plan. We’re encouraging as much creativity and innovation as possible and that’s what makes it so amazing.”