Doha: The resounding success of the second cycle of Challenge 22, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy’s (SC) flagship innovation programme, in 2017 has inextricably linked the field of technology to the World Cup.
They were never mutually exclusive entities in the first place. Technology helps to communicate easily across regional and national boundaries, while the World Cup is a global celebration where the idiom of football wipes out barriers and shatters stereotypes.
We, at the SC, are proud that we spotted the fit and developed it further in our attempt to leave a lasting economic legacy for the MENA region, while in the process giving football a new dimension.
A look at the list of ten winners from the second cycle across the four challenge categories – sustainability, tourism experience, internet of things and health and safety – indicates the diversity of the second cycle of Challenge 22. Teams from Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Qatar prevailed in the second cycle, which has expanded its reach to include ten countries across the region.
We have always stated that the aim of Challenge 22 is to transform the ideas and entrepreneurial zeal of the winners to tangible products through the support of an integrated network of global experts and partners. To enable this, each second cycle winner received $15,000. Additional funding of up to $100,000 awaits each of the winners in the incubation phase in 2018 when they further develop their idea to the proof of concept stage.
Our ultimate objective is for these ideas to flourish and play a part in our hosting of the 2022 World Cup. We sincerely believe these ideas will enhance the hosting experience as well as ensure a sustainable future for Qatar and the region.
The spirit of innovation of the contestants was praised by the incubation partners during the two-day start-up pitch preparation workshop hosted by Astrolabs, the regional entrepreneurship platform.
Subsequently, the 25 finalists earned plaudits for their strategic vision and professionalism from the panel of experts to whom they presented their proposals on the day of the final.
The vibrant pitching and question and answer sessions were a clear signal of the scrutiny placed on the finalists by the judges.
The winners from our first cycle are already building viable businesses. Qatar-based ARVEX uses virtual reality technology to create a better fan experience, while Dr Khaled Saoud designed a sustainable way to produce a less flammable insulation material than polystyrene.
It has been less than a month since the winners of the second cycle were announced but there has been significant interest from the corporate sector and private incubators in the winners and finalists.
We are proud that global industry has recognised our efforts – Facebook was a strategic partner during the second cycle. So too have the global media. The second cycle received positive coverage from mass media platforms in the US, India, Japan, Germany, Russia, Singapore and Malaysia, along with our own Arabic platforms.
The support has given us further motivation to reach greater heights in 2018 and hopefully take the programme to other regions.