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As Dubai’s much-awaited Expo 2020 promises to bring in opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs, one of its initiatives implementing this objective, Expo Live, has announced monetary grants to 29 social innovation projects from 22 countries, including five Middle Eastern startups. According to a statement, Expo Live, while not disclosing the amount for each project, says it would grant up to US$100,000 per initiative under its Innovation Impact Grant Program.
Launched by Dubai Expo 2020, Expo Live with a fund of $100 million on offer, seeks projects “offering creative solutions to pressing challenges that impact people’s lives or help preserve our world- or both.” Kicked off in January 2017, Expo Live says it will support winning projects through “funds, business guidance, promotion and acceleration.” In addition to the aforementioned support, the winners also get an opportunity to showcase their work at Expo 2020, a world Expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region that expects large-scale attendance from businesspersons and policymakers worldwide.
Among the 29 projects that have benefitted from the first set of grants are five Middle East-based startups -three from the UAE, and two from Egypt- that aim to improve lives of people across the globe with their digital solutions. The three UAE-based organizations include a digital learning platform for blue-collar workers Smart Labour, the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), a non-profit agricultural research center established to develop agricultural production systems in desert environments, and Ver2 Digital Medicine, an e-health services platform. The beneficiary startups from Egypt are Yomken.com, a ‘crowd-solving platform' that connects businesses to the right solutions from the crowd, and Transport for Cairo, a digital solution attempting to solve Egypt’s road congestion by mapping the city’s formal and informal transport networks.
Commenting on how the Expo Live grant can help bring a change, Expo Live Vice President Yousuf Caires said in a statement, “These are real change-makers addressing our world’s most pressing challenges; they are visionaries who are determined to see their projects bring meaningful change to those that need it. We are fortunate to have them on our program, and look forward to walking by their side on their path to success.” The other recipients of the grant originate from countries such as Bangladesh, Rwanda, Chile, Nepal, Kenya, Slovenia, among others.
The Innovation Impact Grant program is open for submission twice a year (next cycle opens in September 2017), and it recognizes creative solutions falling in the purview of Dubai Expo 2020’s themes of opportunity, mobility and sustainability. Organizers say they received 575 responses to their initial call for proposals, which was then narrowed down to the 29 winners.