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30 November 2023

Expo 2020 Dubai backs 26 projects that improve lives, protect the planet

By Wam

Dozens of innovations, ranging from agricultural initiatives that empower women and farmers to novel products that could combat desertification or plastic waste, are among the latest to receive a major boost from global social impact programme, Expo Live, run by organisers of the next World Expo, Expo 2020 Dubai.

Twenty-six projects from 22 countries have been selected in the third cycle of Expo Live’s flagship Innovation Impact Grant Programme, following a rigorous evaluation process that included live presentations in Dubai. The competition was particularly strong in this cycle, with more than 1,200 applications from 114 countries.

Expo Live supports projects whose creative solutions to pressing challenges improve people’s lives or preserve the planet, or both. These innovators will join an existing community of Expo Live Global Innovators, bringing the total to 70 grantees from 42 countries.

Among the new Global Innovators is a Ghanaian woman who is empowering other women by teaching them how to grow a local wild grain, "fonio" on abandoned lands.

Through her social enterprise, Unique Quality Products, Salma Abdulai engages disenfranchised women to farm abandoned land, helping them to provide for their families and gain financial independence.

Narrating a heart-warming story of one of her female farmers to Expo Live judges, Abdulai said, "While I was in hospital pregnant, a woman who had just given birth was next to me crying all day. She had just found out that her husband had run away because he could not pay US$2.5 a day to cover medical expenses.

"We offered her a job at the fonio farm and now she has been making a stable income for four years and has been able to send her children to school all by herself."

With the aim of helping such projects reach their full potential, Expo Live provides each successful initiative with a grant of up to $100,000. Projects are also supported with business guidance and promotion and may have the chance to showcase their work to visitors at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The Expo Live grant will help Abdulai purchase land from the community and prevent the women from being evicted once fonio cultivation makes the land arable enough to grow other profitable crops.

The Global Innovators operate in an array of fields, including healthcare, education, renewable energy, fintech, waste management and water management.

Germany’s Coolar, for example, has developed a solar-powered refrigerator that can store life-saving vaccines in off-the-grid, remote locations without the need for electricity. The Expo Live grant will help the firm pilot the refrigerator.

Christopher G?ller, Co-founder of Coolar, has larger ambitions. "Ultimately, we want to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional refrigerators worldwide," he said.

OTTAA Project from Argentina is giving a voice to the speech impaired with its portable, AI-powered device that predicts what users want to say and says it for them. In addition to reaching more users, the Expo Live grant will help the project to develop ground-breaking technology a brain-computer interface that picks up electrical activity in the visual cortex and then uses eye tracking to identify which image the user is focussing on.

Héctor Andrés Costa, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at OTTAA Project, said, "We are improving the lives of more than 2,500 people who have created more than half a million sentences using the OTTAA Project. This means half a million expressions of ‘I love you’, ‘I'm fine’, ‘I'm happy’ or even just a simple ‘thank you.’ That’s the real power of the OTTAA Project."

Yousuf Caires, Vice President – Expo Live at Expo 2020 Dubai, said, "Expo Live is based on a firm belief that innovation can come from anywhere to everyone. This is a major component of our redefinition of what a World Expo can and should do tap into its convening power well before the event to enable problem-solvers around the globe to promote innovation and build partnerships that leave a lasting legacy not only in the UAE and the region but across the world."

Expo 2020 Dubai will take place from 20th October, 2020, to 10 April, 2021, and will be the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, MEASA, region. It will be a festival of human ingenuity that gives a glimpse into the future, guided by its three pillars Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.