Saudi Arabia’s KAUST launches third phase of startup accelerator

Successful applicants receive $20000 in grant funding and access to a co-working space

Employee works on his computer at the office of CloudFactory, a Canadian startup that based itself in Kathmandu. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Employee works on his computer at the office of CloudFactory, a Canadian startup that based itself in Kathmandu. Image used for illustrative purpose.

REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

JEDDAH: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) launched the third phase of its flagship startup accelerator at its headquarters in Thuwal.

TAQADAM gives Saudi students, staff and recent graduates the tools and support to start a successful tech-based company through mentoring and training.

Successful applicants receive SR75,000 ($20,000) in grant funding and access to a co-working space.

The program’s first phase was launched in 2016 and has helped 39 startups and granted more than SR4.5 million in seed funding based on grants.

The university said Friday it had received 518 applications for the third phase and that 42 had been accepted.

The number of businessmen and businesswomen had reached 133, and 35 percent of these were women.

A number of universities in the Kingdom participated: Prince Mohammed bin Salman College, Umm Al-Qura University, Princess Nourah bin Abdulrahman University, Taif University, King Saud University, Prince Muqrin University, Prince Sultan University, Jazan University, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and King Abdul Aziz University.

TAQADAM covers many sectors such as agricultural technology, artificial intelligence, e-commerce, energy, fashion and health care.

The university said the program raised awareness about branding and also increased the attention on startup accelerators.

It also aims to enhance KAUST’s role in contributing to a knowledge-based economy and encourages participation on social media platforms.

“We’ve seen really good outcomes in terms of specific technologies, such as in energy or artificial intelligence in the last two cohorts,” Hattan Ahmed, entrepreneurship collaboration manager in Innovation and Economic Development at KAUST, told Arab News last October.

“They are resolving some key challenges, not just for Saudi Arabia but the world.” Another startup developed laser lights to help crops grow indoors, he added.

The Kingdom has been investing heavily in startups to achieve its Vision 2030 reform plan objective of moving away from dependency on oil.

Young entrepreneurs are expected to play a key role as the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority tries to boost foreign direct investment.

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