• The World Economic Forum’s New Champion companies explore business models, technologies and sustainable growth strategies that will be needed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  • The 2021 New Champions awards recognize excellence in business governance, social responsibility, innovation and sustainability.
  • Winners brought education and healthcare to rural workers, helped small firms cope with COVID-19, created a new green fuel process and found innovative ways to overcome supply chain chaos.

In a fast-changing world, where inequality is widening and the environment is under unprecedented threat, we need new approaches to business centered around inclusivity and sustainability.

That’s exactly what the members of the World Economic Forum’s New Champions community set out to do.

The four winners and one honorary mention in 2021 New Champions Awards come from five continents: Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and Central America. Their projects all embody the values of innovation, sustainable impact and benefit to society.

Drawn from more than 40 countries, the over 100 members of the New Champions community are dynamic, high-growth companies that make a difference in the world.

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Bright future: The World Economic Forum New Champions aspire build a better world
Image: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Championing emerging technologies and sustainable growth strategies for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, these businesses are mindful of their impact on society and aspire to participate in building a better future.

Here are the New Champions Awards 2021 winners

1. Excellence in agile business governance - 360 DigiTech, Inc.

Shanghai-based financial technology company 360 DigiTech built a free Artificial Intelligence (AI) bot called Epidemic Talk to help small and medium sized businesses and public service organizations across China access up to date information about the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The World Economic Forum was the first to draw the world’s attention to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the current period of unprecedented change driven by rapid technological advances. Policies, norms and regulations have not been able to keep up with the pace of innovation, creating a growing need to fill this gap.

The Forum established the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network in 2017 to ensure that new and emerging technologies will help—not harm—humanity in the future. Headquartered in San Francisco, the network launched centres in China, India and Japan in 2018 and is rapidly establishing locally-run Affiliate Centres in many countries around the world.

The global network is working closely with partners from government, business, academia and civil society to co-design and pilot agile frameworks for governing new and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, blockchain, data policy, digital trade, drones, internet of things (IoT), precision medicine and environmental innovations.

Learn more about the groundbreaking work that the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network is doing to prepare us for the future.

Want to help us shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Contact us to find out how you can become a member or partner.

Derived from language recognition tools built by the company to automate marketing and customer service operations, Epidemic Talk was created in just 24 hours at the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020.

SDG 07: Affordable and Clean Energy Sustainable Development Fourth Industrial Revolution SDG 09: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure Book Overview: Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Image: 360 DigiTech, Inc.

It is able to investigate and present information about the state of the pandemic, provide call-backs in response to queries, analyse statistics and summarise information for users. In February 2020 it was extended to hospitals and community organisations across China.

Epidemic Talk has so far responded to 10 million queries and reduced the cost per call of providing COVID-19 information from over US$1 to less than US¢0.25. And, by responding faster than a human could do, it has cut the average call time from eight minutes to three.

2. Excellence in social responsibility - AgroAmerica

Latin American food company AgroAmerica donated ten hectares of its plantations in South West Guatemala to build a Human Development Centre providing education and healthcare for the 12 communities in which it operates.

The centre includes a medical clinic, research facility and a school for the children of the company’s employees. More than 170 students now study at the centre’s primary school and have won regional competitions for mathematics and language.

SDG 07: Affordable and Clean Energy Sustainable Development Fourth Industrial Revolution SDG 09: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure Book Overview: Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution
The clinic has provided a range of services to patients.
Image: AgroAmerica

To date, the clinic has provided a range of services for 35,000 patients including medical treatments, dental care and delivering babies. Community impact programmes have reduced the local level of child malnourishment from the national average of 50% down to just 4%.

Clinical researchers working at the centre have focused on the most common diseases in the region including Zika, Chingunguya, Dengue and COVID-19.

The centre operates as a not for profit supported by an alliance comprising the University of Colorado Project Cure, Guatemala’s Ministry of Health and Agroamerica. So far, US$3.3 million has been invested in the project.

3. Excellence in innovation - o9 Solutions, Inc.

Dallas, Texas, based supply chain and business planning software company o9 Solutions has harnessed the power of AI and big data to help companies dramatically improve their planning and decision-making.

In today’s world of disrupted supply chains and mounting environmental challenges, running a successful business requires faster and more intelligent planning and decision making. O9 Solutions’ Cloud based Digital Brain is designed to enable collaboration across the business.

The firm says that improved processes drive transparency, increase productivity and reduce silos. “This translates into empowered employees who are happy at work and contribute more to society,” they add.

SDG 07: Affordable and Clean Energy Sustainable Development Fourth Industrial Revolution SDG 09: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure Book Overview: Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution
O9’s Cloud based Digital Brain is designed to enable collaboration across the business.
Image: o9 Solutions, Inc.

“Good planning also means enterprises can achieve their business goals while using less of the Earth’s precious resources within their supply chain. We are on a mission to develop the best platform and solutions to help enterprises in this critical pursuit.”

Digital Brain combines innovations such as graph-based modelling to allow companies to change their business model rapidly to meet changing conditions and to grow and compete in the digital age. In the last three years, o9 has tripled its revenues and its workforce.

4. Excellence in sustainability - Ankorgaz

Ankorgaz, based in Pavia, Italy, has helped pioneer the production of bioLNG - a sustainable version of Liquified Natural Gas and a green substitute for diesel - from food and agricultural waste.

The continuous process starts with the production of methane from waste which is then liquified to produce bioLNG that can be distributed through conventional petrol station forecourts as well as direct to transport operators.

Ankorgaz says its end-to-end process is unique in Europe and that CO2 emissions from vehicles using bioLNG are much lower than conventional fossil fuels. Plus using waste ensures it is not sent to landfill where it would emit greenhouse gasses.

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There are already 1,200 biogas plants in Italy.
Image: Ankorgaz

The potential to replace diesel with bioLNG is huge, says the company. There are already 1,200 biogas plants in Italy alone which could be converted to produce biomethane, the raw material for making bioLNG.

Scaling up output from existing plants using Ankorgas’ process would produce seven million tonnes of biomethane, equivalent to 10% of Italy’s total domestic gas consumption, the firm says.

Honourable mention in Excellence in Sustainability - Risk Insights

South Africa-based Risk Insights is the first company in Africa to create an AI-driven tool for rating the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance of companies listed on the continent’s major stock exchanges.

Using machine learning, the tool assesses how well a company’s strategies are aligned to its ESG aims. Launched in 2020 in South Africa, the tool has already been rolled out to monitor companies listed in Nigeria, Kenya, Mauritius, and Ghana.