Global Grad Show 2020: A sign language translator and 10 other innovative ideas for a better future

Creative solutions underscore the projects that form this year's exhibition at Dubai Design Week

A vending machine that converts plastic to rope, a toy that eases childhood diabetes and a “melt-in-the-mouth” dish made from chicken feathers. Every year, Dubai Design Week presents solutions proposed by some of the world’s most forward-thinking minds: students.

The Global Grad Show exhibition is a platform for graduates to present innovative ideas and products that will change the world for the better. The projects are the outcome of thorough academic research conducted by students and their professors, with the aim of attracting interest from the general public as well as potential investors.

This year, the show received an unprecedented 1,600 entries from universities around the world, of which 100 projects will be brought to life for the first time in an interactive digital exhibition. Starting Monday, November 9, visitors can access the research materials as well as engage with the virtual prototypes of each product on, including the 11 highlighted here.

Protein from chicken feathers

University: Central St Martins, UK

A Lighter Delicacy aims to create an alternative, lean source of edible protein from the 2.3 million wasted tonnes of chicken feathers from slaughterhouses in the European Union. The feathers are made of the protein keratin, which can be converted into “a melt-in-the-mouth food product that is safe, light in calories and provides essential amino acids”.

A vending machine for plastic

University: Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore

The Up-cycling Vending Machine allows users to feed in their used plastic bags, which are instantly turned into rope. This can be used in place of certain grades of plastic ropes used in fields such as aquaculture, agriculture and civil engineering.

A toy to ease childhood diabetes

University: Nottingham Trent, UK

Hero Helper Dex is a toy that helps children with diabetes get used to their treatment, featuring a functional and interactive injection pen that lights up when the correct spot is found. Dex also comes with a storybook, with illustrations and quizzes to educate young readers about their understanding of type 1 diabetes through a fun rhythmic narrative.

Food containers made with date seeds

University: Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation, UAE

Judhur uses the by-product of date seeds, which would typically go to waste, to create a range of all-natural products such as biodegradable food containers, cosmetics and textile dyes, providing an additional revenue stream for date farms.

Pillow alarm for the hearing-impaired

University: Loughborough, UK

An alarm is of little use to those who cannot hear, which contributes to an everyday struggle as well as making the deaf ill-equipped to deal with emergencies. The two-part Milli is a smart bedside clock, which can detect the sound of an emergency siren. It transmits a signal via Bluetooth to a wireless under-pillow alarm that then wakes the user up using vibration.

Crib gadget to prevent Sids

University: Cardiff Metropolitan, UK

mBaby Monitor actively observes an infant’s sleep to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which is less common among children properly secured on their back while sleeping. The device attaches to a baby’s collar via magnets within a child-friendly silicone strap. It uses tilt-sensor technology to alert parents via an app if their baby rolls over.

A belt to cushion falls

University: Limerick, Ireland

The Fallsafe airbag belt is designed to be used by the elderly who are at risk of falling. When a user starts to fall, the system automatically inflates two lateral bags to protect the hips and sides from injury.

Shoes made from plastic 

University: Makerere, Uganda

A student team have built a machine that can create low-cost shoes from discarded plastic, such as water bottles, to help impoverished girls walk long distances to school.

A camera to translate sign language

Man showing gesture in deaf and dumb language on yellow background; Shutterstock ID 1712944213; Purchase Order (valid Channel 5 PO only): -

University: Politenico di Milano, Italy

Catcher wants to solve the communication problem between hearing-impaired people and people who don’t know sign language. The camera is used to perceive sign language, which is then broadcast aloud.

A light to promote communication

University: Dubai Institute of Design & Innovation, UAE

Aibo is a light that was created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has alleviated mental health issues and feelings of social isolation. The signalling product helps users stay connected and reach out for help from their neighbours in times of crisis, be it for medication, food or just someone to talk to.

Paper receipts to cup sleeves

University: East China Normal, China

For Receipts Recycling Factory, the team designed a device that can instantly recycle paper receipts and other waste, such as coffee and tea grounds, into paper cup sleeves.