Big plans, tiny creations win at world’s largest design prize

Editor’s Note: Every two years, the prestigious INDEX: Award seeks out designers working on innovative solutions to global challenges. In this special CNN series, we profile a selection of the nominees.

Story highlights

The winners of the biennial INDEX: Award 2013 were announced Thursday readers voted for the People's Choice Award, which was won by Smart Highway

The €500,000 award is the biggest in design, with five innovations sharing the reward

CNN  — 

The winners of the world’s largest design prize have been revealed – with miniature computers, food-saving paper, and a birthing simulator among those taking home a share of the INDEX: Award 2013.

Judges at Thursday’s award ceremony in Helsingør, Denmark announced the five victors, plus the winner of the People’s Choice Award – as voted for by readers of – with glow-in-the-dark road concept Smart Highway taking the popular prize.

The €500,000 award recognizes design innovations that address the large-scale challenges the world faces. INDEX’s panel of judges deliberated over five categories of award – Body, Home, Work, Play and Community – aimed at rewarding design that improves lives across many different spheres.

More from INDEX 2013: Exclusive coverage of this year’s award for Design to Improve Life

Taking home the Play category award on the night was the most recognizable of this year’s winners: the credit card-sized computer Raspberry Pi earned judges’ praise for the scope of its ambition.

The $25 Pi was originally designed to teach coding skills to children, but has already found an incredible range of applications: from flying into space and snapping sky-high photographs, to controlling the temperature of a craft brewery.

The judges said that the objectives of the microcomputer echo INDEX’s own goal of improving everyday life. “If we want the young generation to design the future, we need to make them computer-literate,” the jury said, adding that Raspberry Pi holds the power to make this a reality.

This year’s Home Award-winner Fresh Paper may be less well-known – but could soon be having as strong an impact on lives around the world, judges believe.

The square sheet of paper makes use of the natural bacteria- and fungus-inhibiting properties of spices like fenugreek to keep fruit and vegetable produce fresh for two to four times as long.

Judges praised its simple design-based response to “one of the world’s largest challenges.” The affordable Fresh Paper requires no instruction or special skills to use but the jury believed it could play an important role in cutting the estimated 25% of the world’s food supply lost to spoilage.

More from INDEX 2013: Designs for when disaster strikes

From a strong field in the Body category – which also included a syringe that prevents unsafe injections and a wearable robot that allows paralyzed people to walk – judges picked the Natalie Collection.

The collection comprises a trio of small devices which aim to confront the terrifying statistic of 3000 daily neonatal deaths worldwide, with judges hailing the success the device has already achieved

The collection’s two simulators – one replicating a newborn baby, the other a birthing mother – aim to educate midwives to prevent neonatal asphyxia, while a specially-developed suction device empowers them to overcome some of the most common breathing obstructions in newborns.

The widespread benefits of the devices can already be seen, as judges explained: “More than 100,000 thousand midwives and birth helpers in 54 countries have been trained using the Natalie Collection, applying their new-found knowledge to save lives by as much as 47%.”

More from INDEX 2013: A day in the life of the future city

In the Community category, the jury made the unprecedented decision of selecting two winners – electing to forgo a Work Award in 2013. The Community Awards recognized INDEX’s home city of Copenhagen for its ambitious plans to equip itself against the threat of climate change, in addition to Roosegard’s Smart Highway – which became INDEX: Award’s first double-winner, having scooped the People’s Choice honor on the same night.

Copenhagen’s Climate Adaptation Plan aims to prepare the city to face the environmental challenges of the future and avoid the widespread devastation seen when Hurricane Sandy hit the USA’s coastal cities.

Judges praised the Danish capital for taking the lead in addressing “the most pressing immediate challenge for successful urban life in this century” and spearheading the pursuit of “a vibrant and resilient habitat for the 21st century.”

Before picking up both a People’s Choice and Community category award, Smart Highway inventor Daan Roosegaarde told CNN: “I’m not so much interested in design – I’m more interested in reforming things.”

His wide-ranging concepts for reforms to our highways caught the attention of the jury of design professionals, as well as a public tired of unchanging gray streets and judges. Among his revolutionary ideas were streetlights that produce their own electricity, road lanes that charge electric cars, glow-in-the-dark road markings, and icy road warnings that appear in the cold.

The INDEX judges applauded Roosegaard and lauded his reinvention of the “dumb” roads of the past into intelligent, safe, communicating highways for the future.