WWF Panda Labs builds the future of urban and rural areas

Young people with innovative ideas on environmental challenges in urban and rural areas

Dozens of school and university students from all over Bulgaria participated in the hackathons as part of the Future of Urban and Rural Areas semester of the WWF Bulgaria Panda Labs
. During the two hackathons, the young people spurred their imagination and used their knowledge to create solutions for more sustainable development of cities and villages.

The Panda Labs program is looking for the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs, who would generate solutions to overcome current environmental challenges. The hackathons were part of the Future of Urban and Rural Areas Labs Semester, for which WWF received applications from over 250 young people.

The two hackathons were held online on the first and the last weekends of November 2022 and participants had limited time to generate their ideas. They were joined by experts from the
business, science, and NGO sector, as well as by representatives of small and large companies, who shared their experience in building more sustainable and green cities and villages.

The official opening of the hackathons was attended by professionals, entrepreneurs, and environmentalists, including the executive director of WWF Bulgaria, Vesselina Kavrakova.
Among the speakers at the events were experts from the Panda Labs program supporter - Kaufland Bulgaria, who shared the company’s green energy and energy efficiency efforts and the retailer’s practice in working with local producers in Bulgaria.

Overall 10 teams participated in the future of urban areas hackathon and 12 teams in the future of rural areas, with almost 100 people taking part in both hackathons altogether. The ideas of the participating teams were presented to an expert jury, which had the task of evaluating the business solutions according to several criteria among which: whether they solve real environmental problems, whether they correspond to the assigned challenges, as well as their innovation potential and feasibility.

© WWF Bulgaria


The winning ideas covered diverse topics from cooling rooftop systems, vertical urban gardens, containers for collecting animal waste to repairing roads with recycled plastic and renovation of rural “architectural ghosts” buildings.

The first two winning teams from each hackathon will continue their way into the Panda Labs semester by entering a master class taking place in January 2023. During this stage, participants will further develop their ideas with the help of entrepreneurs, mentors, business professionals, and experts and will compete for a grand prize. The best idea will receive initial funding of 3 500 EUR for the development of a prototype.

The Panda Labs program is implemented by WWF Bulgaria with the support of America for Bulgaria Foundation and Kaufland Bulgaria.