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How a new generation of entrepreneurs is tackling the world’s biggest challenges head on

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In the last two years, UpLink has launched over 30 challenges, driving innovation and progress Image: UNSPLASH

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  • From the climate crisis to the destruction of natural ecosystems, the world faces an unprecedented set of interconnected challenges.
  • Innovative entrepreneurs are building businesses that protect and restore the planet and everything that lives on it.
  • UpLink is helping over 260 entrepreneurs find the resources, experts and funding they need to take their promising solutions to the next level.

The impact driven by innovative entrepreneurs.

From drones that detect illegal fishing and robots that sort plastic waste, to sustainable solutions for the world’s forests and remote learning tools for students struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic – these are just some ways entrepreneurs are using their creative energy to tackle issues within their communities and beyond.

The World Economic Forum created UpLink, an open innovation platform launched in partnership with Salesforce and Deloitte, to unlock an entrepreneur revolution and support positive systemic change for people and planet. Its mission is to create the necessary bridges to the expert help that entrepreneurs need to take their innovations to the next level.

Since its launch in January 2020, UpLink has identified over 260 individuals with highly promising solutions and is working to support their growth through visibility, access and introductions that allow them to scale their businesses. These entrepreneurs are already achieving tremendous impact and, in 2021-2022, they were able to collectively secure more than $942 million in funding to support their activities.

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UpLink’s 2021-2022 Impact Report highlights how Top Innovators are addressing issues spanning the environment, economy and society, including protecting or actively managing some 10 million hectares of natural habitat and restoring over 812,000 hectares. They have provided 16.4 million people with access to essential health services and ensured 1.87 million people have gained access to basic sanitation. Additionally, they have successfully educated or trained 5.5 million people and ensured more than 25 million people benefited from greater market access.

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"We must ignite an ecopreneur revolution, which is why I'm so excited about UpLink."

Marc Benioff, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Salesforce

Which challenges are entrepreneurs facing today?

The world faces an unprecedented set of global issues. From the climate crisis and the destruction of natural ecosystems to the COVID-19 pandemic and rampant income inequality, there is a critical need to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Yet, there are a number of entrepreneurial solutions that can already accelerate the SDGs. Indeed, as US Climate Envoy John Kerry recently said, almost half of the emissions cuts needed to achieve net-zero will come from early-stage solutions and future technologies.

But for many of these entrepreneurs, finding the mentorship, resources and – crucially – funding they need to scale their operations, expand their teams and widen their impact is often beyond their reach, especially for those operating in developing economies.

Unleashing the creative energy of the world’s brightest entrepreneurs is essential and it is crucial to build a collaborative framework around them that can support their innovations and help them thrive.

"Problems and issues that we face as a global community cannot be solved by individual entities or governments. We have to collectively address these issues."

Punit Renjen, Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte

Our approach to collaborating with entrepreneurs.

Since its launch, UpLink has been dedicated to creating this collaborative environment for the world’s entrepreneurs.

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The platform is building a digital space where investors, experts and other organizations can work together to elevate and support innovations.

This innovation ecosystem is enabled by:

  • An open digital platform, which sources entrepreneurs from all over the world through innovation challenges in a range of critical areas, including nature, the ocean, plastics, climate change, the circular economy, water, health and education – with many more to come. These are designed and run in collaboration with a diverse set of partners across the public and private sectors, including Accenture, HCL, IKEA Foundation, Friends of Ocean Action, Nestlé, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization.
  • The convening and amplification power of the Forum, which offers increased access to events, initiatives, multi-stakeholder communities and funding opportunities for innovators.

Over the last two years, 46,000 users have joined the UpLink platform and entrepreneurs have submitted 3,500 solutions via 34 innovation challenges. The community has recognized 265 Top Innovators in four categories who are now receiving support to grow their companies.

"Initiatives shouldn't just come from enlightened business leaders or governments. We have to engage people. They have ideas. We have to give them the means to translate their ideas into action."

World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab.

How can you get involved?

We invite visionary leaders, organizations, businesses, governments and philanthropists to join UpLink in driving the entrepreneur revolution. Through UpLink, we are accelerating progress on the SDGs by sourcing and scaling innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues, raising awareness for key sustainability issues and unlocking funding opportunities.

If you and your organization are interested in leveraging innovation to drive progress on key SDG topics, such as sustainable food systems, the ocean, plastics, education, climate and more, contact us to learn more.

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Marco Aguilar
Marketing Communications Lead, World Economic Forum
Related topics:
BusinessClimate ActionJobs and the Future of Work
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Driving impact: UpLink journey towards a more sustainable future

Marco Aguilar and Prachi Jha

January 17, 2024

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