Elegant solutions
Great answers to some of the world’s most difficult problems can be surprisingly simple, with a dash of innovative thinking.
Introduction by Roger Highfield

Some of the greatest minds of all have been engaged in a lifelong quest for elegance, not in the conventional sense of something that appeals to a refined taste but in the scientific sense of a simple yet powerful solution, such as a little equation that can say something profound about the way the universe works.

Over the years, this spirit has been captured by some of the winning ideas backed by the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, where a beautifully straightforward solution has been found for a problem that has blighted lives, damaged the environment or destroyed our heritage.

An ingenious pot that can help keep food fresh for longer, lamps that are safe enough to use in developing countries, a way to light an entire village with just 100 watts, and making every raindrop count – these all feature in projects where basic yet effective ways have been found to solve pressing problems. Rolex should be commended for recognizing how a deceptively simple idea can change the world.

Roger Highfield is a Science writer, broadcaster and author.

The desert refrigerator

Mohammed Bah Abba, 2000 Laureate

Stable lamp prevents burns

Wijaya Godakumbura, 1998 Laureate

Stable lamp prevents burns

Sri Lankan surgeon Wijaya Godakumbura has battled apathy and ignorance to save people from fire caused by home-made lamps. His simple solution to this devastating problem — the Safe Bottle Lamp – has saved thousands from death and disfigurement.

Solar-charged LEDs brighten lives

Solar-charged LEDs brighten lives

Dave Irvine-Halliday, 2002 Laureate

Thanks to solar-powered, LED systems developed by Dave Irvine-Halliday, more than 100,000 people in 51 countries in Asia, Africa, Oceania and Latin America have access to safe, healthy and affordable lighting.

Reining in wasted rain

Reining in wasted rain

Makoto Murase, 2002 Associate Laureate

Waking up city dwellers to the appalling waste of pure rainwater has been a 20-year campaign by Japan’s Makoto Murase, who has designed a system for collecting water that is now in 500 buildings in Tokyo alone.

View Laureates who have found elegant solutions