UNICEF launches $9m Innovation Fund for emerging market startups


UNICEF has launched a US$9 million Innovation Fund for startups in emerging markets developing solutions with the potential to improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children.

The fund, which is still raising further capital, will invest in open source technologies for children, with UNICEF saying it is focused on areas – such as Africa – where funding is usually limited.

“We’ll be identifying opportunities from countries around the world including some that may not see a lot of capital investment in technology start-ups. We are hoping to identify communities of problem-solvers and help them develop simple solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing children,” said said Christopher Fabian, UNICEF innovation co-lead.

Applications for funding are open until February 26, with qualifying startups required to be open source with a working prototype. They can involve developing a new technology, or expanding or improving an already existing one.

The Innovation Fund aims to offer innovators in developing countries a pooled funding mechanism to help them take their tested projects to the next stage. It is looking for products for young people under the age of 25 to address a range of needs including learning and youth participation, real-time information for decision-making; and infrastructure to increase access to services and information.

“These three areas are ripe for investment due to rapidly changing technologies such as blockchain, 3D printing, wearables and sensors, artificial intelligence and renewable energy,” Fabian said.

Applications will be assessed according to criteria including the strength of the team, the project’s relevance to children, and the ability to see potential future value in the open source intellectual property being created.


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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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