Three UAE start-ups among first to scoop Expo Live grants

Pic: WAM

Three UAE start-ups among first to scoop Expo Live grants aimed at improving lives around the world.

Adult workers who struggle with life skills such as reading or writing are to receive a helping hand in the UAE to improve their job prospects thanks to a digital learning project, Smart Labour, supported by the Expo Live programme.

Smart Labour is among three organisations in the UAE that between them are receiving more than AED1 million in funding through Expo Live’s Innovation Impact Grants.

Expo Live is an innovation and partnership programme launched by Expo 2020 Dubai to fund, accelerate and promote creative solutions that improve lives while preserving the planet. Through Innovation Impact Grants, the programme awards grants to support the growth of social enterprises, start-ups and grassroots projects around the world.

Expo Live is not disclosing the amount for each project it is supporting, but has said it would grant up to US$100,000 per initiative for the programme.

Smart Labour, a digital learning and smart services platform that provides voice-enabled content to educate blue-collar workers in their language and provide them with useful smart services to make their lives easier, is among the first to receive funding.

Abu Muadh, Founder of Smart Labour, said, "There are 2.2 million blue collar workers in the UAE and about 16.5 million workers in the Middle East, most of them are not connected to the smart world and are only using technology for entertainment purposes such as talking to their families. In life, they face many challenges due to the lack of, and barriers to, education. As a result, they are unable to express themselves well, which has a direct effect on their productivity, happiness and overall contribution to the economy.

"The Smart Labour App is specifically designed for blue-collared workers and labourers. It assists them by teaching them life skills in their own language and provides them opportunities to win vouchers for food, shopping, etc. and telecom rewards to connect to their families for free."

Another grant recipient in the UAE is the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture, ICBA. The Dubai-based non-profit agricultural research centre was established in 1999 and its mandate is to develop agricultural production systems using marginal land and water resources which are available in desert environments.

The grant from Expo Live will support the development of inland and coastal modular farms in the UAE.

Dr. Dionysia Angeliki Lyra, a Halophyte Agronomist at ICBA, said, "Almost 15 percent of farmers in the region install desalination units in their farms to desalinate the groundwater which has high salts content and cannot be used for crops irrigation. However, the produced reject brine is dumped back into the soil, further contaminating the groundwater.

"The grant from Expo Live will help the centre in its work on developing and improving innovative inland and coastal modular farms using marginal saline water resources such as seawater, water coming from fish farming and the reject brine from desalination to grow unconventional crops in order to enhance food, nutrition and income security of rural communities that are struggling to produce in desert environments."

The third recipient is the "Connected Health and Education" firm, Ver2 Digital Medicine, which is an eHealth Services Platform that uses connectivity to solve healthcare’s biggest challenges.

Expo Live is giving Ver2 a grant to support the development of an innovative medical education model that is being replicated across Africa.

Brian de Francesca, CEO of Ver2, said, "In Africa, there is a chronic shortage of doctors and creating more doctors the traditional way takes a very, very long time. Doing it the old-fashioned way of building and staffing medical schools using ancient teaching methods and models will not work. It has been estimated that it could take as long as 300 years for supply to catch up with demand. Africa can and will leapfrog other countries when it comes to medical education, because they must."

"The Innovation Impact Grant from Expo Live will help support innovative ways of using connectivity so remote medical educators can teach in Africa and then establish locally based ‘train the trainer’ programmes to sustain and accelerate the process." When it comes to having access to high quality medical education, there is an unfortunate global supply demand imbalance; it is our intention to provide access to high quality medical knowledge to everyone, all of the time, everywhere. The Innovation Impact Grant from Expo Live will help us realise this goal."

Expo 2020 Dubai’s Vice-President of Expo Live, Yousuf Caires, explained, "The past few months have been extremely productive for Expo Live. We launched the first public roll-out of Innovation Impact Grant Programme on 15th January, having initiated the project through a pilot last year.

"People didn’t come here to compete, they came to collaborate, to network and build new connections. To Expo Live and Expo 2020 Dubai as a whole, this was a manifestation of our theme ‘Connecting minds, Creating the Future’ in action," he added.