PhD Researcher at the GDI Wins Prestigious Entrepreneurial Prize

Biciola, un giro para cambiar el mundo. Ganador 2023, Categoría Social. Concurso IDEAS. 0-53 screenshot

Mariana C. Hernández, a first-year PhD student at the Global Development Institute, has been awarded first place in the social category of the IDEAS Contest – a competition celebrating new businesses and social ventures in Venezuela.

Beyond her doctoral studies as part of the Sustainable Forest Transitions team, Mariana leads the Biciola Project. The IDEAS Contest recognised the project as the best of 395 applications – a testament to its potential to support healthy oceans and protect communities in Venezuela.

Designed to clear beaches of microplastics, the Biciola is a static, pedal-powered device that sifts waste materials from sand using vibrational sieves.

As well as protecting local environments and fighting marine pollution, the Biciola offers communities an enjoyable exercise opportunity and will soon provide local artisans with the materials they need to make new products.

In the upcoming months and years, the Biciola team, comprised of Venezuelan biologists Jemimah Rivera and Igor Castillo, along with designer María José Barrios, intends to obtain the necessary equipment to recycle microplastics into materials suitable for artistic creations and everyday essentials. Through this initiative, Biciola aims to boost local employment and contribute to the establishment of a circular economy.

Developed during lockdown, the Biciola has already featured in a range of media outlets and has been recognised as one of the top 50 proposals of 2023 by the Ocean Solutions Fund.

Having achieved such fantastic milestones, Mariana and the Biciola team have ambitious goals for the future. By scaling up the project and building strategic partnerships, they aim to eliminate around 100kg of microplastics per month from Venezuelan beaches. Within five years, they want the Biciola to have cleaned at least five beaches in the country, preventing the accumulation of around 3,000kg of plastic pollution.

The team will also prevent plastics from entering the ocean in the first place by providing educational talks and other incentives to strengthen citizen participation in conservation practices. As part of this goal, they plan to host community events featuring tents, music, and other recreational activities to build awareness surrounding the Biciola.

Thanks to the multi-layered approach of Mariana’s project, it manages to tackle several UN Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), SDG 13 (Climate Action), and SDG 14 (Life Below Water).

For more information about the Biciola Project, watch the video celebrating Mariana’s win (English subtitles):