The second edition of the Arab Innovation Academy (AIA), a collaboration between Qatar Science & Technology Park and the European Innovation Academy (EIA), concluded with a grand pitching and graduation ceremony recently.
AIA is the first and largest entrepreneurship programme in the region, aimed at equipping entrepreneurs in Qatar, the Mena region, and the global community with the skillset to build their startup in just 10 days. The accelerated mode of experiential learning introduced participants to cutting-edge methods and tools in entrepreneurship, from team formation and idea creation to pitching to venture capitalists and angel investors. During the competition, participants developed and launched new tech ventures in a real marketplace, with genuine customer feedback.
QSTP is part of Qatar Foundation Research, Development and Innovation.
The programme, which began on January 2, brought together world-renowned technology collaborators; more than 160 participants selected from a pool of over 900 applicants; 25 speakers; and 37 mentors and investors, representing 30 different nationalities. The second edition of AIA also witnessed even greater participation in the programme from Arab women.
The startup ideas produced by the participating teams addressed many global problems – from retaining children’s interest in reading and re-utilising industrial wastes, to simplifying the search for blood donors – and spanned several industries, including health, education, construction, real estate, and tourism.
Two days before the graduation ceremony, the techpreneurs presented their start-up ideas to other participants, mentors, and visitors in a public Startup Expo, answering questions about their products, services, and business concepts. 
The AIA 2019 first place winner was team ‘Salamat-e’, which developed a mobile app that serves as a ‘health passport’. The app is connected to GPS, and contains information about epidemic diseases in the region of a particular travel destination, as well as prevention methods and necessary vaccinations. 
The team is composed of Bashar Shawar from Palestine Polytechnic University; Chaimae El Mahdaoui from Mohammed VI University of Health Sciences, Morocco; Polina Ladchenko from Higher School of Economics, Russia; Tareq Osman Babiker from Al Neelain University, Sudan; and Yafa Abd AlRahim from Birzeit University, Palestine.
The second-place award went to team ‘Fly Stories’, which created a platform that provides children with an interactive reading experience, and authors with an outlet to publish their stories. Members of the team include Aboubakr Aqle, Ghadeer Abuoda, and Omer Abad from Hamad Bin Khalifa University, a member of Qatar Foundation, Qatar; Jalila Rashid Al Sharqi from Sultan Qaboos University, Oman; and Tasneem Ismail from Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Qatar.
Teams ‘EyeTalk’ and ‘WheelsOnClick’ were tied in third place. ‘EyeTalk’ presented a concept of a software-hardware system that can help people with disabilities communicate using just their eyes, by blinking. Team members include Abdelkader Keddar and Samia Cherifi from the University of Abou Bakr Belkaïd, Algeria; Abdullah Abdulwakil and Do?ukan Aksu from Istanbul University, Turkey; and Shaikha Alsubaey from Qatar University, Qatar.
‘WheelsOnClick’ created a platform that connects owners of underutilised cars with people in need of cars for a short period. The platform follows the popular Airbnb concept, which users can use to look for, or list cars, for rent. Members of the team include Abhimanyu Saini from Indian Institute of Science, India; Fathalrhman Adam from Al Neelain University, Sudan; Garima Natani from Indian Institute of Technology, India; Omaiyma Hilal Alkathiri from Ibri College of Technology, Oman; and Wisal Ahmed Khatir Bakhat from Alzaiem Alazhari University, Sudan. 
Yosouf Abdulrahman Saleh, executive director of QSTP, said: “I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved in the second edition of AIA, with the majority of the teams completing their projects throughout their journey with us. We look forward to educating the public and raising further awareness about the substantial benefits of the AIA programme, while encouraging greater participation from the youth of Qatar and the region in our third edition."
Alar Kolk, president of EIA, added: “This year, we have welcomed a record number of participants from all corners of the Mena region. Here, students develop the skills and confidence needed to develop startups from scratch, and learn to create unique value in the world of entrepreneurship and innovation.” 
The expo served as a dry run for the teams ahead of the final grand pitching day, where the top 10 teams presented their startup ideas to investors, received valuable input from the attendees, and were directed toward areas where their business concepts should be further developed.
Related Story