- Launched at Davos 2020, UpLink is a digital platform to crowdsource innovations that will accelerate the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- UpLink is open to anyone and gives visibility to innovators from around the world and sub-sections of society that are often overlooked and under-resourced.
- The Oceans Solution Sprints, COVID-19, Circular Economy, Future of Protein the Trillion Trees Challenges have supercharged efforts to find solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
This article was updated on 25 January 2021.
As nations around the globe struggle to cope with the manifold disruptions of the COVID-19 crisis, a digital crowd-engagement platform has been helping to source entrepreneurial solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to build a greener, fairer and more resilient world as we emerge from the pandemic.
UpLink, created by the World Economic Forum in partnership with Salesforce and Deloitte, responds to the consensus that innovation is not a nice-to-have, but essential to the achievement of the 2030 Global Goals. UpLink connects the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs to networks of contacts that have the resources, expertise and experience to help bring about change.
The platform gives visibility to geographies, sectors and communities that have thus far been overlooked and under-represented and unites key stakeholders who are championing and impacting the SDGs: young change-makers, social innovators, thematic experts, investors and technology leaders.
Innovation, innovation, innovation
Announced during the 2019 Sustainable Development Impact Summit, UpLink was launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos and is now live with nearly 10,000 users, over 900 solutions, 15 challenges, 12 digital communities, nearly 60 million views of UpLink social posts and 80 high-quality UpLink Innovators selected by experts and investors.
With support from the Marc and Lynn Benioff Foundation, and collaborations with the Forum initiatives Friends of Ocean Action and 1t.org, UpLink’s early focus honed in on two major issues that will support a more sustainable environment for our planet: the ocean and reforestation.
The inaugural Ocean Solutions Sprint brought together solutions from six continents to tackle a range of challenges, from illegal fishing and plastic pollution to the degradation of precious underwater reef habitats. A final cohort of 11 UpLink Ocean Innovators has now been supported through a 6-month programme designed to accelerate their impact.
One of these is Cubex Global, a digital marketplace which sells unused space in shipping containers. Every year, 100 million containers cross the ocean almost empty, producing 280 million tons of carbon emissions and costing $25 billion a year in lost revenue. This ocean-friendly model for shipping was founded by a young group of Pakistani Global Shapers has seen connections, visibility and digital media coverage drive 2000+ business leads for their company.
At the Forum’s Davos Agenda Week UpLink will announce its second Ocean Innovation Cohort featuring impressive innovations with a focus on ocean-led solutions, growing food in water, coral-reef solutions and technology for supporting marine-protected areas.
Co-designed with a series of influential impact partners (International Union for Conservation of Nature, The Nature Conservancy, International Coral Reef Initiative and Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust) and investors committed to a flourishing ocean for our planet (Blue Natural Capital Financing Facility, Hatch Blue, Katapult Ocean, Aqua Spark and Blue Oceans Partners), this is just one way in which UpLink and the Forum’s Friends of Ocean Action coalition is working to accelerate ocean innovation.
The nature-based solution sprint, which ran during the month of July, attracted over 250 solutions and began building a community of innovators at a scale that allowed UpLink to demonstrate the power of digital collaboration across time-zones and continents.
A few of the Trillion Tree Innovators who have made significant progress include:
Pachama is developing a modern market for forest carbon credits using remote sensing and machine learning to validate and monitor reforestation and avoidance of deforestation projects.
Reforestum & Ecosphere+ deliver an end-to-end solution that brings transparency through technology to scale climate action, connecting companies and individuals to vital conservation and reforestation projects.
SUGi allows anyone anywhere to invest in nature in order to build biodiversity in urban centres and create the healing and learning sites for future generations.
Over the course of 2021 UpLink and 1t.org will be collaborating, with the continued support of the Marc and Lynn Benioff Foundation and Salesforce, to launch regional Trillion Tree challenges with the Sahel, Amazon and India as well as several nature-based efforts that further emphasise the importance of innovation for the conservation and reforestation efforts worldwide.
Fighting the pandemic
Over the summer, a COVID-19 innovation sprint was also championed in partnership with the World Health Organization, 500 Startups and other Impact Partners to support the global response and focus on social justice amidst the pandemic.
The range of innovations and solutions brought to the fore by UpLink are as diverse as they are inspiring.
Here are three from the COVID Challenge that address the immediate impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and its long-term consequences:
Carbon Health is a primary care provider delivering a premium experience through its modern clinics and virtual care, making world-class healthcare accessible for everyone.
Intelehealth is a telemedicine and case management platform connecting patients and frontline health providers with remote doctors to deliver high quality health services to last mile populations.
Desolenator helps remote communities in critical need to build sustainable water resilience in the face of climate change and the pandemic by using solar panels to purify water.
UpLink also powered a COVID Social Justice challenge that called for policy perspectives and innovative solutions to identify and address systemic inequalities in the COVID response and outcomes in local contexts.
Four solutions were selected to become UpLink COVID Innovators – citiesRISE, TheraWee, Noora Health and Family Mask's #PPEforALL. They are addressing systemic inequities that shape the mental health and wellbeing of marginalized young people, provide training and make therapies more accessible to families with children with disabilities, and tackle the inequal distribution of PPEs.
Innovation for the Circular Economy
Over the course of the fall UpLink partnered with The Circulars to kick-off our drive to source innovation for the circular economy.
Led by Accenture, in partnership with Anglo American, Ecolab and Schneider Electric, and in collaboration with UpLink, The Circulars Accelerator programme will connect industry leaders with 15 ground-breaking circular entrepreneurs to scale disruptive cross-value chain innovation at a pace not achieved until now. The UpLink Circulars Innovators will be announced as part of a launch event hosted by the World Economic Forum on 11 February.
What comes next?
The early success of the platform has created the momentum for UpLink to explore which further SDG areas are prime for developing innovation ecosystems that encourage a fresh wave of entrepreneurs from around the world to get involved.
During the Davos Agenda Week UpLink kicks-off an ambitious programme for 2021 and is pleased to announce the following challenges which are launching that expand UpLink’s ability to surface and support impact-oriented SDGs to 10 different thematic areas.
- Climate – Mobilizing action on climate change and ensuring climate adaptation
- Education – A Deloitte-powered innovation challenge focusing on the education inequality gap.
- Energy – Accelerating the clean energy transition
- Food Systems – Mobilizing ‘protein diversification’ to transform how we produce food
- Health – Addressing the social determinants of health
- Mobility – Pursuing clean air for all
- Responsible Consumption and Production – Resetting consumption for a sustainable future
We’re calling on impact-oriented entrepreneurs, investors, experts and changemakers to join the UpLink movement to power innovation to achieve the SDGs.
UpLink has been built as a digital ecosystem that allows anyone with an innovative solution to seek the support they need to scale. Will you join us?