Abu Dhabi's Ma'an rolls out accelerator for ventures focused on mental health

Six existing social enterprises from six countries have been identified to enter the first cycle of the online initiative

epa08866230 Israeli visitor Stuart Katz , Chairman Mental Health First Aid Israel, inspects the Virtual Reality (VR) of Etisalat company  at Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 06 December 2020. The 40th GITEX Technology Week includes some 1,200 exhibiting companies from 60 countries with 350 speakers from 30 countries. This year's GITEX features for the first time an Israeli pavilion. GITEX is running from 06 to 10 December 2020.  EPA/ALI HAIDER

Abu Dhabi's Ma’an has selected six social enterprises from around the world to participate in its first accelerator programme which will focus on increasing access to mental wellbeing services in the emirate.

The inaugural cohort are all ventures tackling mental health, a social priority identified earlier this year by the Abu Dhabi government in response to the growing need for initiatives in the region to help negate the social impact of Covid-19.

“The launch of the accelerator programme signifies Ma’an’s commitment to benefitting Abu Dhabi’s community through empowering social enterprises in the emirate, encouraging Abu Dhabi’s third sector and addressing key social priorities," Salama Al Ameemi, director general of Ma’an, said.

Communities around the world have experienced unprecedented demand for mental healthcare, spurring investment into ventures focused on supporting existing services.

In the UAE, demand for counselling via tele-health services surged during the pandemic, according to health authorities. The number of individual counselling sessions reached about 5,600 from April to October, according to data shared ahead of World Mental Health Day in October.

The six ventures are being provided with office space and licence registration at ADGM, Abu Dhabi's financial free zone, as well as one-on-one mentorship and coaching through Plug and Play ADGM, and introductions to potential customers and investors.

Ma’an will also offer market information and access to a network of industry professionals and government entities, including major healthcare providers and insurers to support the cohort’s theme of mental health.

One of the goals of the programme is to attract impactful global social enterprises to operate in the emirate, increasing the number of social enterprises legally licensed in Abu Dhabi and strengthening collaboration between the private, public and so-called 'third sector' entities through engagement and new contracts.

Participants include Healium, a US company that uses virtual reality goggles to monitor well-being. The device monitors brain activity and encourages users to self-regulate brain patterns when under stress. Users pay for a subscription service, which is seen as a drug-less solution to mental health issues.

Australia's Tali is also taking part. The company developed a kind of therapy to test and treat attention deficit disorder in children via an online game. The technology was patented in the US and Japan and has thousands of users in Australia. Some 136 million children are understood to have the condition, with Tali a non-medicinal approach to tackle a global issue.

Ma'an's new programme was launched earlier this month through an online orientation day and will conclude in March during a demo day where the enterprises will demonstrate their progress in developing applications for the Abu Dhabi market.

Ma’an was established in February 2019 by the Department of Community Development in the capital under the Ghadan 21 stimulus fund.

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