This year’s Virtual Challenge was launched as a part of the X-Innovation Challenge, and has now reached the second round. 200 students and young entrepreneurs from all over Africa submitted their ideas on how they would tackle Merck’s core business challenges, and the top 16 teams have now been selected.

The Virtual Challenge targets students in Africa and early-stage startups specializing in healthcare, engineering, natural sciences, communications, programming, and business. The competition succeeded in attracting a great deal of attention on social media platforms, with over 600 students registering on the Virtual Challenge website, and more than 70 creative ideas being submitted as a result of this. The first round invited teams of 2-3 people to develop innovative solutions for whichever of Merck’s core business challenges they decided to undertake.

The second round will enable the 16 teams selected to further develop their ideas under the guidance and mentorship of Merck’s business experts to prepare for the next evaluation round beginning of October. The three finalists will receive the opportunity to pitch at the Merck Innovation Summit in Dubai and can win prize money, sponsored business incubation, and a place on the shortlist of the Merck Accelerator!

The submissions cover a wide range of innovative ideas with a focus on health or the environment. “Zelij” from Morocco submitted an idea to use recycled plastic waste, which can simultaneously reduce construction time and costs. Kenya’s “My One-Farm” offers a cloud based app that allows farmers to easily track their work activities and income. The members of “Fix9ja” created a simple yet genius solution to make life cleaner and healthier for Nigerian households with point-of-use-water-filters. These are just three great examples from a long list full of inspiring business ideas, and there are plenty more great innovations to come as the teams work with Merck’s team of experts in round two.

The applications will be re-evaluated in the beginning of October and three final teams will then be selected and invited to an all-inclusive trip to the X-Innovation Summit in Dubai on November 22 and 23. During this time, finalists will pitch their ideas and showcase their prototypes. The winner will receive six months of sponsored business incubation and a guaranteed place on the top 15 shortlist of the Merck Accelerator.

We are looking forward to showcasing this year’s outstanding innovations, and we will be announcing our finalists of round 2 soon. The challenge is on – who will go to Dubai and – more importantly – who will win the Virtual Challenge and receive a guaranteed ticket on the Merck Accelerator Program shortlist?

Are you also interested in training, testing and developing your skills and working together with one of the world’s leading science and technology companies? Then check out Merck’s wide range of X-Innovation challenges here

Have you launched a startup that you want to bring to the next level? Find out more about our Accelerator Program and apply as soon as the application commences on September 5.