Expo 2020 Dubai to fund small start-ups with big impact

Visitors can pitch their idea at the Good Place pavilion for a shot at a $100,000 grant

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Walk into a white origami-inspired pavilion at Expo 2020 for a chance that your socially relevant project will be backed with $100,000 in funding to reach a bigger audience.

A senior Expo official said organisers continue to look for promising grassroots ventures with the potential to change lives in sectors ranging from health, clean energy and technology, to accessibility, education and women’s empowerment.

People look at famous entrepreneurs, big business people and say I could never be them. We want to change that
Yousuf Caires, senior vice president, Expo Live

Expo Live’s grant programme has funded 140 initiatives from 76 countries after receiving more than 11,000 applications.

“We have not stopped looking for start-ups that are run by people interested in doing work for the community,” Yousuf Caires, senior vice president, Expo Live, told The National.

“Expo Live has been around for five years and we are continuing to search for entrepreneurs and changemakers who want to improve lives and protect the planet. Our search is not over. Anyone who walks in could be next.”

The pavilion built to resemble a Bedouin tent is in Expo’s Opportunity theme district across from the UK pavilion.

The lower half is dedicated to organisations that have won the funding, from coffee farmers in Peru who use solar-powered equipment to a route-planning mobile app for wheelchair users in Japan.

The Expo programme connects the start-ups with government entities and multinational corporations to support the scaling up of ideas.

Workshops and panel discussions have begun at the pavilion led by innovators from around the world to highlight their journey from concept to delivery of solutions that address global issues from reusing waste to education for all.

“We want to help people understand that nothing prevents any of us from creating a better future,” he said.

“People look at famous entrepreneurs, big business people and say I could never be them. We want to change that.

“If we can be bold enough and committed enough to take that first step. That is what we encourage people who come to the pavilion to do. Then let’s talk about how you can turn that into a business that is sustainable.”

The area is open to students with a project and investors looking for a new venture. Mr Caires and his team brings them together in networking events to see if a match-up is possible.

Accenture, DP World and Siemens are among partners who interact with innovators in sessions to provide counselling and tips on moving on from the development stage.

The initiative is the first of its kind at a world fair and aims to change lives by backing innovations anywhere on the planet.

Applications for Expo Live’s innovation impact grant programme are available at The Good Place pavilion.

Updated: October 28, 2021, 1:47 PM