The capacity for innovation to reach beyond boundaries and unite people from different countries in pursuing their collective goal of shaping the future was recently showcased at the first Arab Innovation Academy (AIA).
The 10-day startup boot camp was organised by Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) in collaboration with the European Innovation Academy (EIA).
The programme, held from December 31 to January 11, provided more than 100 aspiring university students and other young entrepreneurs from countries across the Arab world with the experience of developing and launching new tech ventures.
Under the guidance of leading global tech startup mentors, teams whose members had never met before were challenged to take an idea to a viable startup after just two intensive weeks of working together, the organisers said in a press statement.
Through the AIA, participating students from universities in Algeria, Lebanon, Oman, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan and Qatar had the opportunity to leverage an extensive global network of leading tech entrepreneurship experts, who introduced them to innovation tools and methods developed by leading universities and companies, including University of California - Berkeley, Stanford University, Google, Amadeus IT Group and QSTP, part of Qatar Foundation Research and Development (QF R&D).
As well as enhancing participants’ skills, insights and the determination to bring game-changing technology onto the market, the programme “created a new and dynamic network of more than 150 international advocates and message-bearers - from students to mentors and speakers - for Qatar’s mission of unlocking human potential and becoming a regional innovation hub whose efforts can benefit both its own society and the world”, the statement noted.
Dr Maher Hakim, executive director of QSTP, said: “What we’ve achieved through AIA is to help young people build their confidence, not only in their ability to do things other people cannot do, but also to demonstrate that they can make a positive contribution to our world.”
In a Grand Pitching Session at the end of the AIA, participants live-pitched the startup ideas they had developed from scratch during the programme to investors and experts from around the world. The winner was AG Automation, a startup that aims to use technology to transform indoor farming.
AG Automation CEO Sinan al-Obaidi, from Iraq, said: “We are all totally committed to making our idea more than just an idea, through developing it into a solution that serves society and meets a global need, and this is because of what we learned at the Arab Innovation Academy.”
The Grand Pitching Session was followed by a special edition of ‘QSTP Technovate’, where Ravi Belani, co-founder and managing partner of Alchemist Accelerator – a Silicon Valley-based leading tech accelerator, and Ali Karabey, managing director of 212 – a venture capital firm based in Istanbul, Turkey, participated in a fireside chat with Dr Hakim on ‘Investing in Mena Tech Startups’.
The AIA concluded with a closing gala event attended by members of the local technology community, including QSTP incubatees and resident companies, who networked with participants, mentors, investors, and other attendees.
Dr Hamad al-Ibrahim, executive vice-president of QF R&D, said: “We look forward to expanding the Arab Innovation Academy in the coming years as we continue to offer aspiring entrepreneurs the support and guidance necessary to drive regional innovation.”
Alar Kolk, president of EIA, added: “The first Arab Innovation Academy went into the future – the 30 teams from 27 nations invented the future of the region.”
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