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Expo 2020 Dubai unveils new round of social entrepreneurs helping communities around the world


Anne Rweyora’s Smart Havens Africa project aims to develop affordable housing solutions by making use of a variety of technologies, including the “Interlocking Soil Stabilized Block”. Kampala, Uganda. Picture: James Oatway for the Royal Academy of Engineering.

August 20, 2020, 10:50 am

An Australian organisation providing work opportunities for refugees, a dementia breakthrough from Malta and an environmentally-sustainable Indian packaging company are among 23 new social innovators helping to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges as part of Expo 2020’s global innovation and partnership programme, Expo Live.
The Expo Live Innovation Impact Grant Programme (IIGP) began in 2016, and has since expanded from 29 Global Innovators in 22 countries to 142 grantees across 76 countries, with each offered funding of up to AED 367,000 (USD 100,000), plus expert advice and the opportunity to share their ideas with a global audience.
Cycle Five grantees were selected from a pool of more than 4,000 applicants from 170 countries, proving that meaningful innovation to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges can come from anywhere, to everyone.
Some of these global challenges, including rising levels of unemployment, inequality and poor access to quality healthcare, have been exacerbated by the current global health crisis, demonstrating a greater need than ever for collaborative solutions to address them.
Yousuf Luiz Caires, Senior Vice President, Expo Live, said: “Through Expo Live, Expo 2020 is demonstrating its commitment to driving solutions that will positively affect global communities and future generations, supporting social impact start-ups across the world.

“All projects supported by Expo Live so far – from improving access to mental health platforms in Egypt, Saudi Arabia or the UK, to innovative recycling technology in China – remain committed to improving people’s lives during the global health crisis. The latest cohort of Global Innovators will carry on this tradition, inspiring others to find solutions to challenges in their own communities, and playing a significant role in helping shape a better world.”

Expo 2020 will offer a unique platform to its Expo Live Global Innovators, including many from Arab nations such as the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon. It will provide them with the opportunity to showcase their solutions on a global stage, encouraging collaboration, sparking ideas and inspiring further positive change.
Global Innovators joining the IIGP include Australia-based Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB), which helps refugees and displaced people move internationally for work, leveraging their own professional skills to secure their futures. An international non-profit, TBB is engaging the global private sector and national governments to provide a safe, legal migration option for refugees, enabling them to generate income for themselves and their families, while also offering a solution to industries and communities who struggle to find the talent they need.
Malta-based BrainTrip, created by lifelong brain enthusiasts with backgrounds in cognitive science, neuroscience and medicine, offers an affordable, easy-to-use and mobile EEG-based (electroencephalogram) method to diagnose dementia – a major breakthrough in rapid screening and early detection of the debilitating disease.
Also among the grantees is GICMED, whose innovative tele-medicine platform and smartphone digital microscopy system allows women in rural areas of Cameroon to be screened and diagnosed for breast and cervical cancers. This takes place at the point of care by medical specialists ordinarily only present in a handful of big cities.
More than half the Global Innovators in Cycle Five are also led by women, highlighting Expo Live’s commitment to female-led entrepreneurship and building on the major contribution of women in the delivery of Expo 2020. To date, 35 per cent of all Global Innovators – 49 out of 142 in the IIGP – are led by female entrepreneurs.
They include India-based Ecoware, whose range of 30-pluscompostable, 100 per cent natural and biodegradable packaging products addresses two significant environmental problems in India – air and plastic pollution. Made from common agricultural residue that would otherwise be burnt in the open, its products directly benefit the planet and people, particularly children and those more vulnerable to air pollution.
Ms Rhea Mazumdar Singhal, Founder & CEO of Ecoware said: “Ecoware supports environmental sustainability and engages the community to be part of the solution. With Expo Live funds we will be able to source new types of agricultural waste for conversion into applications that will displace single-use plastics, take our products to smaller towns and cities, and expand our impact.

“This will make a real difference in India, where it is common to see littered streets, clogged drainages and overflowing dumpsites. By facilitating waste conversion, we help prevent the emission of greenhouse gases due to stubble burning, while creating jobs and opportunities for underprivileged communities in the process.”
Amal Work, a Palestine-based start-up, empowers construction workers through its online platform aimed at improving workers’ access to suitable employment opportunities with their safety and dignity preserved. Its app provides cross-examinations of worker/contractor profiles and has multiple filters, including reviews.
Rowan Alawi, Co-Founder, Amal Work, said: “Our relationship with Expo 2020 stretches back to July 2019, when we were extremely proud to be selected – from an initial pool of more than 4,000 applications – for our app that continues to change the lives of construction workers across Palestine.
“In March, we came to Dubai to pitch our idea to a grant evaluation committee made up of industry experts and key stakeholders. That pitch was successful, and now, with Expo Live’s support, we are able to further commercialise and develop our platform, helping our workforce to access the right opportunities, at the right time.”
Projects under the Expo Live programme look for solutions across 14 different sectors. These include innovators that help to address the challenges set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 17 global goals designed to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

Expo 2020, the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, will run from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022, and bring together some of the brightest minds and greatest ideas from around the world.

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