UpLink Challenges Start-ups to Present Ground-breaking Technology Solutions to Advance a Net-Zero Economy

29 Apr 2024

World Economic Forum, public.affairs@weforum.org

  • UpLink, the open innovation platform of the World Economic Forum, introduces new catalytic streams to address climate change and sustainability challenges, resource demands and ocean conservation.
  • A new collaboration with Saudi Arabia will help source early-stage start-ups with cutting-edge solutions to reduce, recycle and remove carbon from the atmosphere.
  • The Sustainable Mining and Regenerative Blue Economy Challenges call upon pioneering start-ups to help advance sustainable mining and protect and restore marine ecosystems.
  • Read more about UpLink and for more information on the Special Meeting 2024 click here. Share on social media using the hashtag #SpecialMeeting24.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 29 April 2024 – UpLink, the World Economic Forum community supporting early-stage impact-focused entrepreneurs, launched four new initiatives today. These aim to ignite innovative technology solutions that can accelerate the transition to a circular carbon economy, address the increased demand for minerals vital for clean energy technologies, rejuvenate and conserve vital ocean ecosystems, employ quantum computing to help solve sustainability challenges, and help build a more sustainable and equitable future for all.

With the world facing a climate emergency, a Circular Carbon Economy Partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will help advance and source cutting-edge carbon reduction solutions globally. The Sustainable Mining Challenge, launched in partnership with Prospect Innovation, will identify and scale innovations that can help sustainably reduce the environmental impact of the mining sector and increase the supply of minerals and metals required for the global energy transition.

Similarly, the Regenerative Blue Economy Challenge – launched in coordination with Saudi Arabia and WAVE, a collective action platform powered by the Future Investment Initiative Institute – will uncover and amplify innovations to mitigate marine pollution, promote conservation, restoration and rewilding, and create new value chains for the sustainable use of marine resources.

Meanwhile, C4IR Saudi Arabia shared that it will partner with UpLink to launch Innovation Challenges to source start-ups that maximise the potential of quantum technologies to address key societal issues, including climate change, health and wellbeing, clean and affordable energy and sustainable growth.

“These initiatives represent a forward-thinking commitment to addressing the immediate challenges of climate change, resource demand and ocean conservation,” said John Dutton, Head of UpLink, World Economic Forum. “UpLink, alongside its partners, is issuing a call to action for stakeholders across the globe to join us in this journey towards ensuring the prosperity of our planet, the wellbeing of local communities, and the economic viability of essential industries.”

Circular Carbon Economy Partnership
UpLink’s initiative on Circular Carbon Economy, launched in collaboration with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Economy and Planning and Ministry of Energy, will unearth and source cutting-edge solutions for reducing, reusing, recycling and removing carbon from the atmosphere. A key part of this collaboration will be the selection of a winning cohort of 10-20 early-stage start-ups that will benefit from support to scale and accelerate their impact over the coming year.

A circular carbon economy could bring with it multiple opportunities and stimulate economic growth and job creation by fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. The innovations supported through this partnership could help reduce carbon emissions by promoting greater resource efficiency, for example by transforming carbon – before it even enters the atmosphere – from waste into a valuable resource.

“The Kingdom announced its net zero ambition by 2060 through the Circular Carbon Economy approach, or even before 2060 depending on the maturity of technologies”, said H.R.H. Abdulaziz Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Minister of Energy, Saudi Arabia. “The partnership with UpLink will play a key role in stimulating innovation and advancing CCE technologies by repurposing captured carbon for sustainable use”.

Regenerative Blue Economy Challenge
With the ocean facing unprecedented threats, the Regenerative Blue Economy Challenge, launched in collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Economy and Planning and WAVE, is a competition calling for innovative ways to protect the well-being of the ocean while promoting sustainability and economic prosperity.

By providing a select group of early-stage start-ups with the resources, visibility and connections they need to realize their full potential, the challenge will help to preserve marine biodiversity, tackle ocean pollution, use data and technology to deepen understanding of the ocean and ensure the sustainable use of marine resources, with the ultimate goal of unlocking the promise of the blue economy as a viable growth sector and leaving a healthy ocean for generations to come.

“As part of WAVE's Innovation Initiative, we constantly come across tremendous founders with remarkable ocean solutions - particularly those operating in emerging markets. We strive to unlock the needed resources to catalyze the growth of these solutions so the ocean, communities, and economies can thrive in the Kingdom and beyond,” said H.R.H Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud, founder of WAVE. “We are happy to announce the launch of the Regenerative Blue Economy Challenge to further our support to ocean innovators. Collective action is an imperative for the health and future of the ocean.”

“The Ministry of Economy and Planning is excited about building on two years of collaboration with our partners at UpLink, which has provided a platform for entrepreneurs and innovators to positively contribute to sustainable progress,” said H.E. Faisal F. Alibrahim, Minister of Economy and Planning for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. “The launch of these two new initiatives will help fund and support the kind of cutting-edge solutions needed to rapidly reduce carbon emissions and restore vital marine ecosystems, in a further boost to tackling the widespread impacts of climate change.”

Sustainable Mining Challenge
The Sustainable Mining Challenge, launched with UpLink partner Prospect Innovation, is designed to help meet the escalating need for key minerals through a global call for innovative technologies that could reduce carbon consumption throughout the mining and metals lifecycle. Over the next three years, this collaboration aims to select and support 40-50 innovators and scale up solutions that can enhance the sector’s sustainability and help ensure the protection of the planet, prosperity of local communities and economic sustainability of the mining sector.

The collaboration aims to support these start-ups from the mining industry or related sectors in achieving market penetration with their high-impact technologies. This will be achieved through connections with flows of investment capital, engagement in a community of like-minded industry experts, and fundamentally shifting perceptions about the industry’s role in sustainable global decarbonization and the energy transition.

“The world will need an unprecedented amount of minerals in the decades to come, in order to meet demanding yet necessary climate goals,” said Vivek Salgaocar, Managing Director and Founder, Prospect Innovation. “The mining industry will continue to play a pivotal role in supplying the materials that will enable a greener future and Prospect Innovation is excited to continue its pioneering work which will enable the industry evolve through groundbreaking early-stage technologies, propelled by collaborations such as our multi-year engagement with UpLink.”

Quantum Innovation for the SDGs
UpLink also announced that it will embark on a partnership with C4IR Saudi Arabia to bring the power of quantum computing to bear on sustainability challenges, including climate action and economic development. Leveraging UpLink’s Innovation Challenge model, the collaboration will seek to identify and elevate the most scalable quantum technologies that can accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals in Saudi Arabia.

Basma AlBuhairan, Managing Director of the C4IR Saudi Arabia said: “The vision of the Centre is to be a world-class 4IR think-and-do-tank to enhance the development and application of emerging technologies for the benefit of Saudi society. This collaboration not only aligns with the Centre’s mission and its recently launched Quantum Economy project, but also empowers diverse stakeholders to drive impactful change within their communities.”

About the Special Meeting 2024
The World Economic Forum Special Meeting on Global Collaboration, Growth and Energy for Development convenes key global stakeholders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to enable comprehensive dialogue around global cooperation, sustainable growth and promoting a global energy transition that underpins sustainable development. For further information, click here.

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