Climate start-ups compete in Dubai for $50,000 Expo Live Innovation grant

Forty-three companies will pitch ideas to a judging panel during the three-day event in Dubai

Nicholas Kee, from Kee Farms, pitching at the Expo live Innovation event at Expo City Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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More than 40 climate start-ups are competing for $50,000 in funding offered by the Expo Live Innovation programme.

The event, which kicked off on Wednesday at Expo City in Dubai and ends on Friday, attracted innovators from countries all over the world including Nepal, Germany, French Polynesia, Tunisia, India and Brazil.

Each candidate has 15 minutes to deliver their ideas to a judging panel during a three-day pitching event at Terra, the Sustainability Pavilion at Expo.

They will address environmental challenges such as deforestation, biodiversity depletion and global warming.

Winners will be awarded a $50,000 grant to develop their projects, accompanied by valuable technical guidance along with the opportunity to display their work at Cop28, which is being held at Expo City Dubai this year.

Yousuf Caires, executive director of the Expo Live Innovation programme says he wants all participants to win. Chris Whiteoak / The National

"We want anyone with a solid solution that will transform communities and address the climate crisis to win," Yousuf Caires, executive director of Expo Live Innovation, told The National.

"The $50,000 will be a game changer for them."

Mr Caires emphasised that the diverse range of competing companies illustrates how climate change is a priority for innovators.

"It is clear that it is not just countries discussing climate change," he said. "Those directly affected by it are actively seeking tangible solutions."

This year the Expo grant is uniquely linked to Cop28 and will open doors for the competing companies to exhibit their projects and forge connections with other foundations and investors.

The funding will also allow them to make lasting contributions to the fight against climate change.

Measuring biodiversity value

Endangered Wildlife, a software company from Estonia, is one of the companies that pitched to judges on the opening day of the event.

The company's aim is to combat the climate crisis by assigning a financial value to individual biodiversity species through its software, Biodiversity Valuator.

With a unique and protected methodology, the software calculates the biodiversity value based on the species' location.

Shana Vida Gavron, chief executive of Endangered Wildlife, pitching at the Expo City Dubai event on Wednesday. Chris Whiteoak / The National

"We cannot address the climate crisis without saving our biodiversity," Shana Vida Gavron, chief executive of Endangered Wildlife, told The National.

She said that their software had calculated the biodiversity value of the Arabian oryx in the UAE at €81 million ($22.05) and that of the ghaf tree at €77 million.

"These concrete figures make it easier for sustainability reporting and integration of biodiversity into decision-making processes," she said.

"Winning the Expo grant would enable the company to expand our database – incorporating data for thousands of species from around the world."

Tree planting in Nepal

The Green Alliance is another start-up competing for the $50,000 prize.

The Dutch company, which focuses on planting trees in Nepal to restore landscapes, has an ambitious plan that involves planting 10,000 trees on 20 hectares of land and training 2,400 farmers.

But the company's plan extends beyond reforestation.

Matthijs van Rijn, co-founder and director of The Green Alliance, told The National that they are committed to empowering communities.

"We help people plant and take care of fruit-bearing trees that communities can harvest," he said.

If the company secures the Expo grant, Mr Van Rijn said his goal is to develop a user-friendly app that allows for tree registration using pictures and GPS co-ordinates.

"The app will serve as a vital tool to connect with farmers in remote areas, and advise them in taking care of the plants as well as give them financial stimuli for doing it," he said.

Among other companies vying for the $50,000 prize money is German company BioConsult, which aims to map the whale population using high-resolution satellite imagery of oceans to identify biodiversity loss in the oceans, and Tunisia-based Ecobees that offers solutions for remote monitoring of beehives.

The Expo Live Innovation programme received 430 applications and 43 start-ups from 37 countries made the shortlist.

The winners will be announced in the next two weeks.

Expo funds global projects - in pictures

Updated: May 11, 2023, 11:08 AM