“Think of it as a way in which we are trying to find global innovators, people who are working on innovations but at the same they would like to make the world a better place and that is in a nutshell what we are trying to do,” Fatma Ibrahim, Assistant Manager, Expo Live, Expo 2020 Dubai told Zawya.
In terms of funding, the programme provides global innovators with a grant of up to $100 thousand. Besides the financial support, the innovators benefit from media exposure opportunities and the showcasing in Expo 2020 in front of a huge number of visitors.
“As part of the programme we have different initiatives, one that has a global impact and another one that is based in the UAE,” Ibrahim said.
The global initiative is called Innovation Impact Grant Programme (IIGP) and the UAE-based initiative is called the University Innovation Programme.
On the IIGP front, the programme focuses on startups, SMEs, NGOs, social enterprises, people who are still at their early stages of the innovation journey and are looking for support from such a big name as Expo 2020.
“We wanted to focus on this part of the innovation journey just because there is actually a gap in the market when it comes to people at the early stages of their journeys. If you are at a very early stage and you go to a bank and you ask for a loan it will be extremely difficult for someone to actually invest in you,” Ibrahim said.
“They go as part of our programme, they apply through an online application form, they go through different stages and eventually we welcome them here to Dubai in order to pitch their ideas in front of an expert evaluation committee,” she added.
Cycle four (took place in 2019) of the IIGP was the largest so far, with 52 grants awarded (out of 120 grants in total over four cycles).
14 grantees in cycle four came from Arab nations: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon and Oman. The first three cycles of Expo Live’s IIGP had 10 grantees from the region.
The innovators coming from different countries are not only implementing their projects in their communities and within their societies but also have a wider reach.
“For example we have one of the projects from Netherlands being implemented in Zambia,” Ibrahim said.
Expo Live signs agreements with grantees for 12 months and continues the collaboration and support with them after the one-year period.
“Some of the global innovators receive additional rounds of funding from our side, so the cap on the support is not stopped at $100 thousand.”
Innovators need to meet certain criteria before applying to the programme. The first criteria is that it should be a legally registered entity; the second one is that the project needs to be at least at the prototype level, while the third and fourth criteria require meeting aspects of innovation and the sense of social impact respectively.
As for the University Innovation Programme, forty-six teams of students, from across the UAE, were granted up to 50,000 dirhams ($13.61 thousand) each, alongside exposure, mentorship and guidance to help develop creative solutions to pressing challenges.
Ibrahim said that Expo Live helps students as part of the University Innovation Programme to move from “an idea on a piece of paper into actual startups.”
“We have 3 great examples, Project You from Emirates Aviation University, U-Light from American University of Sharjah and Arcab from Amity university,” she added.
(Reporting by Gerard Aoun, editing by Seban Scaria)
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