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03 December 2023

Region’s first sustainability-focused startup accelerator opens for applications

By Wam

The Catalyst, a startup "accelerator" initiative between Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, Masdar, and the international oil and gas company, BP, was relaunched at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, ADSW 2018, and is now accepting applications from local and international entrepreneurs.

Based at Masdar City free zone in Abu Dhabi, the Catalyst is the region’s first sustainability-focused startup accelerator. It prioritises businesses at the commercialisation stage, offering expenditures, training, mentoring and office space. The initiative is also collaborating with the Masdar Institute, part of the Khalifa University of Science and Technology, the core tenant of Masdar City.

Successful applicants will be those developing innovative products and solutions that are potentially patentable, with priority given to UAE-based startups.
Formally unveiled at ADSW 2018, the Catalyst runs in two cycles per year split into two phases. The first three-month phase is devoted to scouting up to 50 applicants. The second phase of up to four months involves choosing startups from a 10-strong shortlist, deploying the capital and hands-on training and support.

The Masdar-BP joint venture hopes to select up to six startups per cycle per year. Licensing will be managed through the Masdar City free zone, recently voted "best free zone for startup support" and "best free zone for renewable energy" by the Financial Times’ fDi magazine.

To raise awareness and attract interest, the Catalyst is participating in the Climate Innovation Exchange, CLIX, during ADSW, a platform endorsed by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment connecting youth, entrepreneurs and innovators with investors to promote climate change solutions.  

Businesses chosen through the Catalyst will receive ongoing support as part of the programme’s long-term mission to help incubate UAE-based knowledge industries and intellectual property-based partnerships.

Mohamed Al Fardan, Director of Masdar Free Zone, said, "The Catalyst completes our comprehensive portfolio of services catering to businesses of all sizes, from large corporations to startups and individual entrepreneurs. With homegrown clean-tech businesses now emerging in the UAE, as well as other accelerator initiatives such as CLIX at ADSW and Krypto Labs here at Masdar City, now is the time to relaunch the Catalyst to further incentivise the business ecosystem in sustainability taking root in the Middle East and international markets."

Today, Masdar City free zone hosts more than 530 tenants, a number expected to exceed 800 by 2020.

"We are delighted with the partnership between Masdar and BP and the formation of the Catalyst Joint Venture, aimed at creating technology-based businesses and entrepreneurs for the youth in the UAE. Following the vision of UAE leadership and in support of Year of Zayed, the Catalyst will encourage and contribute to sustainable innovative thinking. Innovation remains crucial to the energy industry for maximizing economic recovery and reducing cost as well as securing long-term sustainability. This will support the creation of high-quality jobs, strengthening and diversifying economic performance aligned with Abu Dhabi’s 2030 plan" said Salem bin Ashoor, General Manager and Chief Representative for BP Abu Dhabi.

"Our vision is to help build a robust startup ecosystem focused on sustainability in Abu Dhabi that is aligned with the UAE’s overall innovation mandate," said Cinar Kurra, Chief Executive Officer of the Catalyst. "The track record of Masdar as a global renewable energy leader, the experience of BP as one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies, as well as the access to clean-tech partnerships provided by the Masdar Institute and the support of the Masdar free zone are distinct advantages of the Catalyst’s business model."