Ground-breaking digital hub and multimillion dollar fund set to tackle the world’s most pressing development challenges
On 20th February 2018, the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) launched Engage, a new digital platform which will promote technological and scientific solutions to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The President of the IsDB, Dr. Bandar Hajjar, announced the launch of Engage at an event hosted at Bloomberg’s European Headquarters in London, alongside the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Dr. Hayat Sindi, Chief Scientific Advisor to the IsDB and a group of business, innovation and development experts.
The IsDB has launched Engage in recognition of the crucial role that science and technology play in enabling the Global Goals. The Engage platform will create a global innovation network, connecting the latest scientific and technological knowledge with market opportunities and funding. It will provide a space for innovators to interact with each other and incubate unique ideas that can be translated into real development solutions.
Speaking at the launch event, H.E. Dr. Bandar Hajjar, President of the Islamic Development Bank said: “The Islamic Development Bank understands the need to innovate and collaborate across all sectors to help build capacity within countries to address their own development requirements. Engage will provide the right tools and a supportive environment, so innovators and businesses can harness the great potential of science, technology and innovation as strategic drivers for economic growth among their local communities.”
Dr. Hayat Sindi, Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of the Islamic Development Bank said: “Engage offers three main services: match-making, technology transfer and Calls for Innovation. Through Engage, innovators, SMEs, private sector companies, Governments and NGOs will benefit from tailored mentoring services and expert knowledge-sharing that will help activate their ideas and proposals to an internationally recognised standard.”
The platform will focus on six SDGs, specifically working towards achieving greater food security, healthier lives, inclusive and equitable education, sustainable management of water, access to affordable and clean energy, and sustainable industrialisation across the developing world; ultimately helping to improve the lives of millions of people.
Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Under Secretary General of the UN and Executive Secretary ESCAP said: “Engage and Transform will power the policy shifts needed for science, technology and innovation to have a positive impact, not just on our economy, but on our society and the environment. The initiatives will also spur a new era of open and collaborative innovation to ensure no country is left behind in the technological revolution.”
She added, “The partnership agreement between IsDB and ESCAP will bring together the skills and sources of capital needed to support innovation solutions for sustainable development.”
To ensure its members have access to financing for innovation, the Islamic Development Bank has established a new Fund – The Transform Fund – which will finance innovative ideas linked to development solutions. It will provide seed money for innovators, start-ups and SMEs, as well as funding partnerships between researchers and entrepreneurs that will tackle development challenges in line with the SDGs.
The event also saw the signing of two landmark MoUs by the IsDB. The first, with the United Nations ESCAP, committing to build a global network of scientists, technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors; and to nurture and scale high potential innovations to achieve sustainable and inclusive development.
The second, with the Shell Foundation, an independent UK-registered charity, is a commitment to share market insight and investment opportunities to support social enterprises that are providing energy access and affordable transport for people in low-income areas. By providing critical early-stage support to pioneer innovators, the partners aim to lift millions of people out of poverty and improve their quality of life.
Mr. Sam Parker, Director of the Shell Foundation, said: “Most innovators lack the capacity, risk capital and market connections to build sustainable businesses and attract commercial funding to scale. Over the last two decades we have worked with entrepreneurs to prove that the private sector can deliver essential goods and services to low-income customers: enhancing access to energy, education, healthcare and employment. We are delighted to partner with IsDB to show how foundations and development banks can provide and leverage this support, as a cost-effective way to achieve the SDGs.”
The Engage platform was developed for IsDB by Nordic Innovation Accelerator Ltd. Nina Harjula, Chairman of the Board of the NIA said: “We are pioneers of Open Innovation platforms and for us building a global reach has been the mission from the beginning. We are thrilled to work with IsDB especially since this is the first collaboration to reach innovators from the developing communities. To reach the sustainable development goals we need to engage innovators globally and ensure that their business ideas and tested and scalable sustainable solutions find their way faster to places where the demand and markets are.”
H.E. Dr. Bandar continued: “We recognise that ideas can come from anywhere, but ideas need to be nurtured so they can grow into long-term projects that can make a lasting difference to the world. We are grateful to our partners at UN ESCAP and the Shell Foundation for their support and look forward to collaborating with many more companies, entrepreneurs, investors, governments, academics and NGOs as we focus on the importance of investing in science, technology and innovation.