UpLink Raises CHF 37 Million to Accelerate Innovation for the SDGs

17 Jan 2024

World Economic Forum, public.affairs@weforum.org

  • UpLink announces CHF 37 million to date in funding commitments that will help early-stage impact entrepreneurs to scale their people- and planet-focused ventures.
  • The funding will play a critical role in reviving momentum in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Collaboration will help to build innovation ecosystems around topics including water security, circular economy, the ocean, reforestation and hard-to-abate sectors like aviation.
  • Read the Impact Report here. For more information on the Annual Meeting 2024, visit www.weforum.org. Share on social media using #wef24.

Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 17 January 2024 – UpLink, the World Economic Forum community that accelerates progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by building innovation ecosystems around early-stage impact entrepreneurs, announced today that it has raised CHF 37 million in funding through to 2027 to help create a more sustainable, equitable future.

The funding will enable UpLink, which was launched during the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2020 in collaboration with Deloitte and Salesforce, to expand into new thematic areas and enhance its support for early-stage entrepreneurs with solutions to critical challenges such as freshwater shortages, ocean degradation, deforestation and biodiversity loss, the circular economy transition and boosting the sustainability and resilience of tough-to-decarbonize sectors like aviation and mining.

“With less than 5% of impact investment currently going to early-stage start-ups and even less to ventures focused on nature and biodiversity, it’s crucial that the global community steps up to support entrepreneurs who are propelled by a profound desire to create positive impact, as well as making a profit,” said John Dutton, Head of UpLink, World Economic Forum. “This funding from UpLink partners is a testament to the power of innovation and collaboration to drive positive systemic change for people and the planet.”

The funding includes collaborations with a range of partners across thematic areas, including Manulife, which will ramp up its support as a multi-year funder focusing on solutions for well-being and longevity. UpLink is also strengthening its urban transformation partnership with Deloitte in San Francisco and will begin to explore how the place-based innovation model could scale to new cities around the world.

Prospect Innovation has joined forces with UpLink to unearth innovations that will make the mining and minerals sector more sustainable, and UpLink is also expanding its partnership with Accenture to create The Circulars Acceleration Network to scale circular economy innovations.

Meanwhile, UpLink’s collaboration with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will evolve to support innovations that promote the circular carbon economy and the health of the ocean, and Mercuria has also come on board for three years to fund innovation challenges that will source nature and biodiversity-focused ecopreneurs.

Innovation ecosystem

At the Annual Meeting 2024, UpLink also announces the winning solutions from three recent Innovation Challenges, including 10 winners of the Zero Water Waste Challenge run in collaboration with HCL, now in the second year of a five-year partnership with UpLink, known as the Aquapreneur Innovation Initiative. HCL’s contribution also includes CHF 1.9 million in prize-money to be shared amongst the winners of the challenge.

UpLink also announced 16 winners of the Sustainable Aviation Challenge run in collaboration with the First Movers’ Coalition, Deloitte and Salesforce and 12 winners of the Trillion Trees: Restoration at Scale Challenge led by 1t.org.

These early-stage start-ups will join UpLink’s Innovation Ecosystem as Top Innovators and receive opportunities for global visibility, capacity building and networking to help them scale their ventures. UpLink has also instituted a robust impact management and measurement (IMM) strategy to measure the impact of these Top Innovators on the economy, society and the natural world. This impact data is consolidated in UpLink’s Annual Impact Report, released today, demonstrating the impressive potential of early-stage start-ups to achieve the SDGs.

UpLink Top Innovators have also safeguarded over 56 million hectares of natural habitats and managed over 458,464 hectares for restoration. Ocean Innovators have protected more than 17 million hectares of marine areas and collected 23,910 metric tons of marine waste. Advancing the circular economy, Top Innovators have collected 10,458 metric tons of waste, facilitated the reuse/recycling of 2,920 metric tons of materials, conserved 17 million litres of water and decreased food waste by 850 metric tons. Water-focused innovators have treated over 350 million litres of wastewater, conserved more than 46 million-plus litres of water and captured or reused more than 7.3 million litres of rainwater.

Roshni Nadar Malhotra, Chairperson of HCLTech, said: “The first 10 winners from the Aquapreneur Innovation Initiative have now successfully raised $54.5 million worth of funding between them. In the second year of our collaboration with UpLink, our focus on Zero Water Waste aims to capture and protect freshwater supplies, water reuse and recycling of materials and saving water in agriculture. We anticipate this cohort will also achieve great success in scaling and generating impactful solutions for freshwater challenges.”

Roy Gori, President and CEO of Manulife, said: “Solving the longevity crisis will require a comprehensive approach to promoting healthier lifestyles, addressing socio-economic inequalities, and investing in new research and technologies. By working across sectors and with partners like the World Economic Forum, we can focus on driving the longevity economy for the future of society’s health and well-being.”

About UpLink
UpLink is a World Economic Forum initiative that connects entrepreneurs to investors, corporate partners, experts and others to scale their innovative technologies to create a sustainable and equitable future.

About the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024 convenes the world’s foremost leaders under the theme, Rebuilding Trust. For further information, click here.

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