Established in 2016, UNICEF’s Innovation Fund invests up to $90,000 in open-source technology startups. The fund is open to startups from more than 150 UNICEF programme countries which include almost every country in the Middle East & North Africa. The fund since launching has made 63 investments with three of them from MENA.
The idea behind establishment of the Innovation Fund is to identify “clusters” or portfolios of initiatives around emerging technology – so that UNICEF can both shape markets and also learn about and guide these technologies to benefit children.”
It raised $14.38 million so far and focuses its investments on three portfolio areas: products for youth, infrastructure, and real-time information.
The Innovation Fund is currently accepting applications (expression of interest) for investments and the eligibility criteria is pretty straightforward.
- The company/institution must be registered in a UNICEF programme country (list – PDF)
- It’s working on open source technology solutions or willing to be open source under the following licenses or their equivalent:
(i) for software, a BSD license,
(ii) for hardware, a CERN license and
(iii) for design or content, a CC-BY license,
- It has an existing prototype of the open source solution with promising results from initial pilots.
- The solution has the potential to positively impact the lives of the most vulnerable children.
- The project generates publicly-exposed real-time data that can be/is measured.
Even if a startup is not incorporated, they can apply as proof of incorporation is not required at the time of submission of application. But if the startup makes it to the next stage, they will be asked to submit proof of incorporation and will have one month to register as an entity.
It’s a great option for startups who don’t have issues in making their product/tech open-source and are currently looking for investment to accelerate their efforts to maybe further develop their first prototype/MVP.