Global Scouting: Entrepreneurs Addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals
Equal Innovation has partnered with the United Nations since 2017 to connect innovators, social entrepreneurs and startups with various agencies and departments of the United Nations worldwide. Our work has focused on identifying solutions that address one or many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which were ratified by the 193 member states of the United Nations in 2015.
We believe innovation and entrepreneurial solutions are going to be critical to meeting the ambitious SDGs by the stated deadline of 2030. The goals call for an end to poverty, gender equity, the right to education and other important development challenges to be met. Unfortunately, the traditional method of achieving these goals – by providing more development aid and assistance at the government level, is unlikely to happen. The world is still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, and populist leaders worldwide are turning donor nations inward.
But startups and social entrepreneurs provide us with an important path forward. Innovation is critical to identifying better solutions to the problems we face – from health care to education and agricultural productivity. And entrepreneurs are critical to identifying business models that transform these innovations into low-cost products that can be mass produced and rapidly scaled up worldwide.
In 2021, Equal Innovation was proud that nearly 47% of the mission-driven startups we profiled are mapped to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This gives us hope that the world can achieve the SDGs by 2030 – if only they embrace, fund and scale the types of startups and social entrepreneurs we have identified here.
Sustainable Development Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
SDG 1 aims to raise the amount of money that individuals are living on per day, reduce the overall population of those in poverty, implement programs and policies that will help make available economic resources and build resilience. Before COVID-19, the world was not on track to end poverty by 2030. Indeed, we are moving in the opposite direction, as the pandemic caused the first increase in global poverty in decades. The current forecast now predicts 8.7 percent of people worldwide to be living in extreme poverty, whereas the forecast before COVID-19 estimated that about 7.4 percent of the global population to be living in extreme poverty. Further, 87 countries still do not have unemployment protection programs through any national legislation. Amongst the growing climate crisis, natural disasters have caused a further 23.6 billion dollars in direct economic loss by 63 countries.
Role of Innovation: Over the last decade, the share of the world’s workers living in extreme poverty fell by half, however, as of 2013 that progress has slowed. Therefore, new and reinvigorated efforts using new innovations, and technologies such as fintech, will be critical to achieving the desired outcome by 2030. Emerging technologies can bring about faster change, through access to basic services, mobilizing resources, developing or enhancing development cooperation and implementing new programs faster.
Trends: Equal Innovation has identified eight startups that can be instrumental in achieving the goals of ending poverty. One major trend towards the eradication of poverty focuses on different elements of smallholder farming. This includes Green Source, High Atlas Foundation,
Another trend identified has been working within the public and community systems to stop poverty at its source and build resilient communities. This includes Glasswing International, the Kadiwaku Family Foundation, Afrika Harambe Incubator,
Further, many look at the intersection of long-term economic gain, such as Goodness and Mercy Missions and Empirical Business Solutions. Similarly, the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences looks to eradicate poverty through education, nutrition, health and skill development.
Goodness and Mercy Missions is a group funding strategy where members save once per month and the money is immediately borrowed by members. Through their strategy they are able to help individual access capital who normally would not have the means to do so, develop leadership, return investments and increase group capital. This works to not only eliminate poverty for a short term period, but develop longer lasting economic stability and move away from the cycle of poverty and dependence.
Sustainable Development Goal 2: End hunger and achieve food security by improving nutrition and the promotion of sustainable agriculture
SDG 2 looks to ensure all people have access to food, but in particular, infants, poor people, and people in vulnerable situations. In order to achieve that, the goal is to double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale producers, with focus on minority groups, by 2030. Further, the SDG strives to implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, while maintaining the ecosystem and increasing the adaptability to climate change and its effects. Several factors have effects on food insecurity, the COVID-19 pandemic, has drastically impacted food security across the globe. Small-scale food producers, which produce 40%-85% of all food in developing regions were severely impacted by the crisis. Prior to the pandemic the percentage of population affected by moderate or severe food insecurity increased from 22.4% in 2014 to 25.9% in 2019. In 2019 21.3% of children under 5 were stunted and almost 7% were affected by wasting. Globally, the prevalence of malnourishment has remained virtually unchanged, slightly below 9 percent. Further the number of individuals that are hungry has been slowly increasing and undernourishment has increased by 60 million between 2014 and 2019.
Role of Innovation: Innovation can help to achieve the SDG by maintaining and improving the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals. Developing new and better technologies can help to increase productivity, whereby the emphasis should be on affordability for small-scale producers. Increasing small-scale farmers’ education will allow for better adaptability to climate change and weather events. This will help to overall increase food production and reduce the number of individuals who are going hungry and those that are undernourished. Public investment in agriculture will be needed to enhance productivity and reduce the number of those that are hungry. Innovation will allow for cheaper and more effective forms of reducing hunger and malnourishment.
Trends: Innovation has been trending towards newer and more effective green solutions to ensure that food can be produced, improved agricultural practices and crop planning, more efficient home tools, better market opportunities and accessibility for smallholder farmers, financial opportunities, increased education and access to improved products and resources. Extrigate, Groguru, Connected Eco are startups focused on collecting rainwater, digging deeper wells, desalinating and providing the communities with sustainable water sources. Another large trend has been improving agricultural practices and developing a higher production level of food, which has been done by Genesis Feed Technologies, UDYAMA, Mercy Corps, Welthungerhilfe (WHH), PurePlus+, Jasberry Co. Ltd., Green Fingers Mobile and a research project regarding on-site nutrient analysis systems for smallholder farmers. Financing for agricultural workers has also been important, such as YouFarm Africa, High Atlas Foundation, Kitovu Technology Company, UNIBEST International, Inc., Ban Paen Environmental Protection and Development Group (BPE), the WasteProject Facilitator and Agro-Hub. Others such as Create Land of 10k Meals, Nature Preserve and NexGarden specifically look to deliver meals to those who cannot get it or maximize food production capabilities. Many are able to cross-sector different agricultural challenges such as supply, better precatives and a better market, such as Ricult Inc. Some other startups have addressed the challenge of waste such as Nature’s Natural Solutions and El-kanis and Partners.
Kitovu Technology Company specializes in data science mobile platforms that aggregate social and market demand enabling them to provide farmers with custom products. The market demanded data allows them to see what is needed by farmers. They are an end to end solution from farm to market allowing not only better agricultural protection but better financial outcomes.
Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Health and well-being spans across so many ailments - from tuberculosis, child health and maternal health to HIV and immunizations. Currently less than half of the global population is covered by essential health services. As of 2017, only 12 to 27 percent of the population in low-income countries were fully covered. If this pattern is to stay on track only 39 to 63 percent of the global population will be fully covered by 2030. Furthermore, illnesses and deaths from communicable diseases will spike and it is likely to see a 100% increase in malaria deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa. Previous programs for multiple essential vaccines have been halted or slowed and more individuals are at risk of not being fully vaccinated from other diseases. HIV, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases are also likely to see large spikes. The pandemic brought an even more dire situation with healthcare descriptions that could reverse decades of improvements and interrupted childhood immunization programs in around 70 countries. While the pandemic has raised awareness in preparedness, the need for more medical personnel and immunization services, many areas are struggling to cope with the impacts of the pandemic and many individuals have a decrease in trust or fear of their health-care facilities. Medical services are also reaching a point where many individuals are being pushed into poverty, compounding across other major issues. The proportion of the population spending more than 10 percent of their household budgets on health services rose from 9.4 percent to 12.7 percent between 2000 and 2015 and by 2014 it is estimated that 90 million people were pushed into extreme poverty due to out-of-pocket expenses. This led to an estimate that at least 1 billion people would be spending at least 10 percent of their household budgets on health care in 2020, primarily in low-middle-income countries. The SDG is looking to reduce global maternal mortality, end percentile deaths of those under 5 years of age, end epidemics and communicable diseases, strengthen prevention and achieve universal access to health care and overall strengthen the capacity of countries.
Role of Innovation: Despite the process that has been made, advances in health have not progressed at the rate necessary to meet the desired targets. Innovation can significantly bring about universal change. One major impact will be through the research and development of vaccines and medicines for different diseases. Further, through bringing about new forms of services that will bring services to areas in need. These new forms of services will be able to specifically address the issues being faced by those on the ground.
Trends: Healthcare has been a large and prominent sector of the new and upcoming startups with 124 startups focusing on this sector. This leaves a very promising message that the emergence of new technologies and research can help reach the sustainable development goals. Innovation trends have focused on different technologies and devices or surgical equipment, such as Cath Buddy for catheters. Some of these technologies have been a direct outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as 3d Shield with an air filtering surgical helmet system, ID3 at UNC antiviral drugs, Kiana contact tracing, Sitata which uses algorithms to detect disease outbreaks and JAMVENTS or ARMEE vent and Mad Lab COVID-19 Research ventilators. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the need for more mental health services such as the DACTR Group and One Seventeen Media. Another trend has dealt directly with connecting the public with doctors that they need. Insightiv has focused on connecting radiologists, Vasognosis looks for the best path of vertebral surgeries and LocuMatch for hiring temporary doctors. Further, Equal Innovations has identified not only technologies and products, but various different research projects. Some examples have been Ibudialast, a small molecule antagonist to reduce information and Kaminski Lab looking to reduce the effects of ARDS, Dermala. Other trends such as the use of AI for medical care or technology for medical records and databases such as Mosaic and mynurse.ai.
One very unique startup is PostEra which is looking to improve the way that we discover new drugs. Currently, it takes 10 years and billions of dollars to market a drug to the public. However, PostEra uses AI and machine learning to improve this process and change the way that drugs are marketed.
Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning
SDG 4 plans to eliminate gender disparities, increase supply of qualified teachers, expand scholarships to developing countries as well as increase literacy and numeracy rates. The UN aims to build and upgrade education facilities that are disability and gender sensitive to promote a safe and inclusive learning environment.
Advancements in access to education and school enrollment rates occurred over the past decade as approximately 7 in 10 children aged 3 and 4 were developmentally on the right track in 2019. However, 260 million children were still out of school in 2018. Over 50 percent of all adolescents worldwide are not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics. COVID-19 has reversed years of progress in accessing education and created added risks for the health and safety of vulnerable students. Prolonged absence from school is associated with lower retention and graduation rates and poor learning outcomes. Additionally, over 500 million students face challenges to remote learning. The UN strives to ensure that all students receive equal access to affordable, inclusive, and quality education at all levels. Education enables upward socioeconomic mobility, helps reduce inequalities, and encourages gender equality.
Role of Innovation: Innovations can help advance the UN’s education goals by developing empowerment programs to eliminate gender disparities as well as upgrading education facilities to promote a safe, nonviolent, and inclusive learning environment. EdTech is another emerging innovation that is being used in a variety of ways. Tablets and other mobile platforms are a great substitute for textbooks and other basic resources that many students lack. Material that can be downloaded solves the problem of poor internet access and connectivity. Online teacher training programs can increase the supply of qualified teachers and technology allows teachers to stay connected with students outside of class and students to more effectively collaborate with each other. EdTech addresses diverse learning styles and has the potential to increase literacy and numeracy rates. AI systems are also being used as tutors and monitoring systems. Learning analytics enable educators to measure and report student learning efficiently to better understand and optimize learning. Online learning platforms and tablets are more accessible and also reduce education costs in the long term.
Trends: Most education startups (31) have developed a digital platform for personalized learning, customized curriculum, language learning, and teacher training programs to make quality education more accessible and affordable. Six startups developed products that provide internet free content; Out of the Box is a mobile classroom in a box, Simbi Interactives has developed an AI-powered product, EDUPi is a low cost embedded computer powered up using a power bank, World Literacy Foundation’s Sun Books Initiative is a solar powered digital library on a tablet, 40K PLUS offers a cloud based dashboard to manage lessons and track learner data, a learning app, and a SpeakerSync Wi-Fi router for offline content, and 1Room Learning created a tablet that offers an offline and flexible curriculum. Lumen Labs (Africa), Hello Future, IndexPortal Globe, iamtheCODE, Recode/CDI International, Kamaleon are digital literacy programs. Juhua Educational Technology, Amie, SpellAfrica, BeeLine Reader, and Ambani Africa are programs working to increase literacy rates. Amie is an English learning software for Haitains who speak Creole and Juhua provides a customized learning experience for collegiate students studying Mandarin. Five startups, Orbit-Ed, Brain Leap, 3DuxDesign, Dyslexia International ASBL, Practical Education Network, SenMobile, and Small World Initiative, are supporting the STEM curriculum in both digital and in person ways. Orbit-Ed is a classroom learning tool with digital STEM curriculum enhanced by 3D models and simulations, Brain Leap helps individuals with autism and ADHD lead fuller lives through science-based interventions, and 3DuxDesign offers an Architectural Modeling System with an engaging, hands-on tool that blends art, design and creative play with STEM learning. There are also startups focused on teacher assistance and training. Lupi AI prepares and processes student work to increase efficiency, Gage Ventures provides a data visualization tool that monitors student behavior, and iACT trains refugee teachers to expand teaching techniques. There are also a few gender equity programs focused on leadership and empowerment. Additionally, five startups offer financial support for students. Hubbli Inc. offers a hands-free, marketing solutions to increase enrollment, Juntos Boston provides financial and relational support to help undocumented, Brighter Investment establishes an investor and student partnership to increase access to higher education, unaccompanied Central American students graduate high school in the Boston area, and IndexPortal Globe takes care of billing and organizes school fees record in an easily understandable way. Five programs that offer activities that ensure innclusive, cost-effective access to education are Stitchting War Child, which works with refugees, Dhaka Ahsaania Mission, Edukasyon, which works in the Philippines, Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, and Anaadi Foundation. There are also seven leadership and empowerment programs to increase equity in education, including Change the Tune, Acrobatics Circus Troupe, Education and English for You, iamtheCODE, OneYouth OneHeart Initiative, and Grandmother Project. Acrobatics Circus Troupe supports education and empower youth with after school acrobatics activities, Change the Tune operates in underserved communities to drive social impact, and CollegeConnect is an online platform that helps first generation students navigate the college application process.
Simbi Interactives is working to solve the problem of poor education in Africa by making quality education easily accessible, affordable and available to every child, on any device, regardless of low internet penetration, erratic electricity supply, gender inequality, poor teacher-to-student ratio, lack of access to schools & quality educational resources and other access to quality education hindrances. Simbibot is an AI-powered product which uses the maieutic learning style to ignite the creative thinking of students thereby encouraging self & lifelong learning while helping students develop their problem-solving skills and making learning fun and interactive. By studying the learning pattern of students, the use of an offline personalised learning platform and solar-powered devices, Simbi Interactives will scale their solution without the struggle of infrastructural challenges.
Change the Tune aims to reimagine the extended learning space and create systems of equity. They want to dismantle the inequity in the education system and create a woven web of programming where individuals, and the education system are unified. They offer professional development programs with teachers and after school programming. Change the Tune locates itself in underserved communities where they serve targeted populations with activities that drive social impact. Afternoons, they cater primarily to youth (ages 11-18) through a multidisciplinary STEAM, Entrepreneurship, and Social Emotional Learning Lab that arms youth with 21st-century social, vocational, and entrepreneurial skills. Their programs also target urban working professionals through their semi-annual event, “For the Change,” through which they create conversations about social challenges as they raise funds for local youth after school activities. Currently, there are no other organizations within the South Los Angeles region organized to drive the kind of social impact Change the Tune fosters.
Despite the digital revolution in Kenya, 70% of Kenyans still live without computer access and education. There is also a lack of infrastructure and technology, making it difficult to gather data on the region. Lumen Labs integrates digital literacy with data collection to create a sustainable model for rural computer education in East Africa. There is a gap in computer literacy in Africa particularly for ages 13 to 19. Lumen Labs works with schools and NGOs to influence the rote learning system to a more project based learning approach. They work with schools to create or refurbish a computer lab and train instructors at the school to facilitate a custom curriculum. Then student surveys are collected to provide data on digital skills.
Sustainable Development Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
SDG 5 looks to end forms of discrimination, domestic violence and harmful practices, recognize the value of unpaid and domestic work and ensure the rights for participation and the rights accrued in accordance with past international platforms. Much work has successfully reduced the number of girls forced into early marriage and more women are in leadership roles. However, gender equality has not been reached. Currently, women only represent 25% of national parliaments and 36% in national governments. Women are instead spending significantly more time, about three times as many hours, in unpaid domestic and care work than men. Child marriage and female genital mutilation is still occur, while 20.2 percent of the women between 20 and 23 were married before the age of 18 and at least 2 million girls and women have been subjected to female genital mutilation in 21 countries. While more women are being able to make decisions when it comes to sexual and reproductive health and rights and 91 percent of women have autonomy in deciding on the use of contraception, only three in four women are making their own decisions regarding health care or whether or not to have sex. Unfortunately, the pandemic has halted many programs that have been working to stop women from facing these barriers. The pandemic has worsened the living conditions for women with an increase of domestic violence by 30% and women bearing the brunt of household gardens despite women accounting for 70% of the frontline of fighting the coronavirus as health and social workers.
Role of Innovation: Innovation can play a role in gender equity by allowing women access to technology that will empower themselves, increase access to sexual and reproductive health information and resources, economic resources to allow for financial services, greater educational opportunities and information on land ownership rights.
Trends: Equal Innovations has identified 19 different startups that are focusing on gender equality. Trends in innovation have shown a focus on women's financing tools and micro-franchising, such as Radikal which looks to tackle the root causes of economic gender disparity through investments in enterprises and Storie which looks to put women into more independent roles through various platforms. Goodness and Mercy Missions has also sought to identify ways for long term female financial stability. Female sexual and reproductive health products were also prominent such as AnelleO. Some startups have addressed the issues of women in public service and how male leaders still out number female leaders. Women in Public Service Project has worked to collect and analyze data worldwide in order to track developments and identify the best practices to engage women in these positions and Education and English for you looks to organize leadership roles for reading for young women. This parallels with some other trends in digital literacy, such as iamtheCODE and Internet Society Kazakhstan Chapter. Similarly, Stitching War Child looks to change the way that education is delivered in conflict regions, addressing a lack of educational means. Female health is also a trend that has been identified such as, Aga Kahn university health system SMS messaging, Sono Care mobile diagnostic medical imaging or Be Girl menstrual kit and Kabask Love pregnancy Kit.
Armann is an NGO that has been continuously scaling up to reach more mothers and children to educate them on their health and address the health gap. Founded by Dr. Aparna Hedge, they noticed the gaps in the system and began working to reduce high risk pregnancy challenges. They have implemented the largest mobile based messaging program that includes educational opportunities for women and training refreshers.
The Women in Public Service Project has aimed to tackle the challenge of the lack of female leadership. Female leadership has consistently made a positive impact on governance, economic growth and sustainable development. Thus, the Women in Public Service Project is looking to analyze data to track developments and identify the best practices and opportunities to make change. This is through the Global Women’s Initiative Leadership Index and will include advances made in different regions, in various capacities (legal, policy, electoral, etc.)
Sustainable Development Goal 6: Ensure Availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation
Before COVID-19 there has been progress to achieve this SDG, but billions of people are still lacking water and sanitation services. Fortunately, the proportion of safely managed drinking water services increased from 61 to 71 percent from 2000 to 2017. However, in 2017, 2.2 billion people did not have safely managed access to drinking water and 4.2 billion people were lacking safely managed sanitation. Over 3 billion people are missing basic hand washing facilities at home. This was especially tragic during the pandemic, as hand washing is the most effective method to prevent COVID-19. Further, water stress will have serious threats towards sustainable development. If this trend continues, an estimated 700 million people could be displaced by 2030.
Role of Innovation: Innovation will bring forward new technologies that are meant to deal with the specific elements needed to ensure water and sanitation. This will play a large role in bringing sanitation to areas that are more remote or struggle with access to water. Innovation can also find ways to mitigate water stress issues and potentially work to create further cooperation needed to reach the 2030 goals.
Trends: Equal Innovation has identified 22 startups looking to address the challenges of water and sanitation. Trends in water and sanitation show a focus on water quality elements (phosphorus, etc.). Further, desalination and purification techniques were a large trend with startups such as, NALA Systems, APP Technology Inc. and NanoSafe, Inc. Solarpure Core used solar distillation to replicate natural hydrologic cycles for rain purification and Mama Maji developed rain tanks for consistent access to water. Further, Safe Water Network further worked in these same areas and looked to reduce the number of those in need of safe water down from 2.1 billion globally through investments in their community-level water treatment and sales facilities that balance market principles and maintenance costs to increase sustainable access to safe water for the poor. Filtration systems and piping systems were further identified as a large trend.. This has been seen through Zipper's underground pipeline technology and Think Outside, which focused on the hydropower industry. Extricate looked to develop the best water solution for smallholder farmers. Similarly, Groguru looked for strategic irrigation management, aQysta works for reliable irrigation and Depression Global Group looked to connect smallholder farmers with water piping systems.
The goal of APP Technology is to desalinate ocean water with the help of solar energy to provide drinking water supplies in developing countries with a focus on coastal regions. Local producibility of the equipment provides employment opportunities. Furthermore, the techniques used are easy to explain and the environmental impacts are minimal which leads to maximum expediency.
Sustainable Development Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Sustainable energy is necessary to maintain a functioning society. Before COVID-19, 789 million people still lacked electricity and the pandemic has further affected this challenge. Progress has been made with electricity reaching over 1 billion people from 2010 to 2018, increasing the population with access from 83% to 90%. However, many people are still lacking clean cooking solutions, which impacts the health and wellbeing of many populations. It is estimated that 2.8 billion people still remain without access to this kind of technology, which has hardly changed over the last two decades. Some progress has been made in Asian regions, but sub-Saharan Africa has been seeing challenges with its population growth and ability to have enough access to these services. Healthcare facilities still suffer from a lack of affordable and reliable energy with 1 in 4 health facilities not being electrified. While energy efficiency is still falling short of the 3% target, finances are still being directed towards renewable energy. The largest increase in renewables comes from the electricity sector which has been driven by the expansion of solar and wind power. This goal will look to ensure universal access, increase stability, double the rate of improvement in efficiency, enhance cooperation and expand the necessary infrastructure.
Role of Innovation: Despite some positive trends, at the current rate of progress, it is projected that 620 million people would still hack access to electricity in 2030, without taking into account the impact of COVID-19. Innovation will be instrumental in finding new forms of technology and ways to access technology. Technology will need to bring stability and reliability to areas that need it in order to successfully develop the goals. Those innovating have a sense of what it is like on the ground and the best way to bring these technologies, allowing successfully achieve the goals.
Trends: Five startups have been identified working towards Sustainable Development Goal 7. These startups are focused on solar energy. Sun Buckets collects solar energy for cooking devices. Grameen Shakti has also done work with cooking, but has focused on electrification. One research question, Hybrid Solar Panel for Radiative Thermal Exchange addresses converting sunlight into heat during the day and collective radioactive cooling during the night to be used for heating water, space and commercial industrial and agricultural processes with the long term goal to move beyond fossil fuels. With the necessity of power and electricity, Tespack has focused on mobile energy and ensuring that nobody loses energy again. This line collects solar energy and stores it to be able to use to charge devices after. Further, Power Market uses data analytics to provide information to governments, energy companies and financial institutions. All of the startups identified by Equal Innovation address solar energy in various aspects and forms to address the goals clean energy, clean appliances and accessibility.
Power Market proved solar analytics and insights to governments, energy companies and financial institutions. Power Market is powered by satellite data, weather data and proprietary deep-learning to enable organizations to monitor the solar impact on global energy infrastructure. This intelligence will provide policy makers and solar installers what they need to locate the ideal prospective solar sites.
Sustainable Development Goal 8: To promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
Before the pandemic, global labor productivity increased and unemployment was back to pre-financial crisis levels. However, global economic growth has been slowing — GDP per capita growth decreased from two percent (2010-2018) to 1.5 percent (2019). COVID-19 has greatly disrupted the economy as nearly half of the global workforce risks losing their job. The pandemic also poses a serious threat to occupational safety and the health of workers. The world faces the worst economic recession since the great depression with a 4.2 percent expected decline in GDP per capita. Sustained and inclusive economic growth results in the creation of decent jobs and improvement in living standards. The UN promotes sustained and inclusive per capita economic growth, full and productive employment, equal pay and decent work for all. Development-oriented activities and programs are needed to support productive activities, job creation, entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity. The UN is working to increase economic productivity, protect labor rights, encourage safe working environments, eradicate forced labor, and promote sustainable tourism.
Role of Innovation: Innovation can achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification and technological upgrading. Online platforms can help connect buyers and sellers or investors and producers. Other initiatives include innovative projects for job creation and COVID-19 recovery strategies.
Trends: There is a wide range of trends for economic development and growth including focuses on financial support, ecommerce, sustainable tourism, workforce resilience and business efficiency, income generation, agriculture, as well as female and youth empowerment and education programs. Four startups are offering financial support to small businesses through online platforms including TrueSaver Limited, a fintech platform for small businesses to access zero-interest loans, OZÉ, a mobile application to help small businesses with financial record keeping, Smidyo, an online platform for small businesses to sell products, and iCEIBA a platform for rightful financing so that small and medium businesses save money on unresolved commercial disputes and litigation. We identified another five companies that offer financial support. Quantis Labs developed financial technology to automate trading currencies to make international financial markets more accessible to investors in Nigeria, Vesicash is a financial technology to provide payment security for businesses in Africa, The Waste Project Facilitator finances and provides expertise for feasibility studies required by investors, HealRWorld leverages data on businesses to accelerate sales and trading of sustainably produced goods and encourage investments in sustainable companies, and Table Banking is a group funding strategy to lend capital to female owned businesses in the rural Boyo Division of Cameroon. Augie, a marketplace to sell unsold items and The Call List, an interactive video shopping platform, are two emerging ecommerce platforms. Redes de Apoyo Inteligente y Sostenido AC and Socialgiver promote sustainable tourism. Three companies developed solutions to empower the workforce and improve work ecosystems. Mobiva is a cloud based business mobility solution to empower the workforce and increase productivity and efficiency while reducing overhead costs, Leadhr is a platform that provides tools to help companies improve hiring, decrease turnover, and improve team dynamics, and Well Principled is a software that uses artificial intelligence and custom workflows for improved planning and execution for marketing, sales and supply chain teams. Nine companies provide income generation opportunities, primarily in developing countries, including coffee companies like Sipi Hills Coffee Limited and Kayunga Nairo Coffee Association, the High Atlas Foundation program to expand tree nurseries in Morocco, Wabbani’s program that works with villages to develop their crafts into products that can be commercialized, RE:BUILD construction system developed by Building Peace Foundation that employs underskilled workers to build temporary, modular, and re-deployable structures that become houses, schools, clinics, canteens, or anything the community needs, AFIRRD, which organizes communities into groups and trains each one on different economic activities to promote job creation, and the Art For Life (AFL) program that professionalizes traditional cultural skills and supports development of sustainable and viable community-based cultural industries. There are also online platforms that are mapping merchant locations to help them grow their customer base including Poket and Ayolab. The agriculture sector also has numerous innovations; we identified six startups in this area. YouFarm Africa offers smallholder farmers in Africa access to finance and encourages low/middle income earners to invest in crops and livestock, Greensource provides smallholder farmers in Africa with machinery, education, and networks to improve incomes and livelihoods, Ricult Inc. is a digital platform technology that empowers farmers with information to increase employment throughout the agriculture sector, MaiFARMLAND is an ecommerce platform for locally produced crops to create financial stability for local farmers, Elkanis Foodstore’s app is a marketplace for smallholder farmers to connect with agro-value chain players and Agro-Hub is a production and marketing agency to help farmers make additional income. Six startups are offering women and youth empowerment and education programs to reduce gender inequalities and expand access to skills training and development. Poket empowers female entrepreneurs since Nigeria has the highest rate of female merchants, Table Banking lends capital to female owned businesses, PLUS Africa by CEDA is a data driven empowerment solution linking young women to training and coaching, Youth Network for Reform (YONER-LIBERIA) provides a hands-on and practical entrepreneurial training establishing experience and skills that help participants build essential life and workplace skills, so that they can more easily find jobs, or create their own jobs, Mercy Corp accelerator program in Gaza includes mentorship and technical training, and Design and Technology Institute (IDIT) offers coaches and promoters to reduce unemployment.
YouFarm Africa established an impact investment platform that provides farmers with access to collateral free finance by getting people to invest in crops and livestock and share the profits with the farmers when the produce goes to market. The YouFarm Crowd Farming platform allows anyone to invest from anywhere in the world via their website or mobile application. Investments can either be short term, medium term or long term. It provides an opportunity to earn money and become a part of the agricultural value chain. YouFarm also ensures that farmers receive support through extension services provided by YouFarm agents, training, crop insurance, and access to markets.
Wabbani is a social enterprise that collaborates with indigenous communities to develop their handmade, culturally-authentic crafts into products that can be commercialized. This is important because this tradition is dying out. These crafters are creating appealing products but lack access to global markets. Most valuable assets are protected by the least powerful people, so Wabbani is trying to build the capacity of the least powerful people to earn the means to develop for themselves. Wabbani customizes interiors with beautiful, handcrafted add-ons to exactly fit IKEA furnishings, while indigenous artists earn income.
POKET is an Android application that pays users to map their communities. In emerging markets or developing countries, there are numerous merchants, almost all who cannot be found on maps. 60% of adults globally work in the informal economy, meaning they tend to be offline and unmapped. POKET has created a platform that crowdsources this information. They partner with brands seeking insights about small merchants to engage crowd sourced community members, create a new form of work to map places around them and create a digital identity for these merchants.
Sustainable Development Goal 9: Build Resilient Infrastructure, Promote Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialization and Foster Innovation
Manufacturing growth was declining as tariffs and trade tensions. Only 35% in developing countries have access to credit in developing countries and research and development still need more investment than what there is currently. Furthermore, fewer than 1 in 5 people use the internet in LDCs. COVID-19 has severely impacted the infrastructure, industrialization and innovation. Particularly, the pandemic has impacted the aviation industry, which is a driver of economic development. The aviation industry has suffered an estimated 2.7 trillion dollar global economic impact, which equated to 3.6 percent of the world’s GDP. This goal looks to develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, increase access of small-scale industrial and other enterprises, upgrade infrastructure, enhance scientific research, facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure, support domeisci technology development and increase access to information and communications technology.
Role of Innovation: To achieve the goals desired by 2030, investments in research need to accelerate. Innovation can achieve many of these goals by enhancing research with creative and modern technologies that can bring forth change. Innovation can reach all sectors in order to modernize and enhance industries performance, sustainability and resilience.
Trends: Infrastructure and innovation has been a large proportion of the startups with Equal Innovations, identifying 72 startups in this realm in various capacities. Trends in innovation include using artificial intelligence and machine learning such as “Forestry for decision making”, V2X Network automating development, Programmable Lithography Mask and Mela Works for real time data sharing to increase efficiency and transparency. Similarly, with modernizing intelligence, Skaffoler helps to make coding more efficient and reduce wasted time on simple coding for large enterprises, agencies and customer software web agencies. Other trends include improving health, such as Kiana and their digital contact racing solution. There has also been a large growth of innovation in the realm of health research. For example, Nouri has developed a new way to use probiotics for gut health. Many of the innovations are focused on tracking trends, commerce, risk assessments, climate related, individual patterns and evaluating business efficiencies.
Niriscon is a drone based infrastructure and risk management system that looks to take the subjectiveness and human judgement out of infrastructure. This startup looks to digitalize the whole process, using drones, to cut down on safety problems and make infrastructure more cost efficient.
Icetana Limited is a global software company that provides data analytics to automatically identify anomalous actions for large scale surveillance networks. Using existing systems, they use artificial intelligence and machine learning to filter out routine motion and identify unusual behavior in order to respond in real-time and act as a precursor to ac incidents. With this unique startup, they can work across various verticals.
Sustainable Development Goal 10: Reduce Inequality within and among Countries
SDG 10 looks to progressively achieve and sustain income growth, empower and promote social, economic and political inclusion, ensure equal opportunities, adopt policies to achieve greater equality, improve regulation, ensure representation, facilitate safe migration, encourage official development assistance and financial flows and reduce or eliminate transaction costs of migrant remittances. Income inequality has been failing in many countries, indicating that wealth is being shared more equally among citizens of many countries. In 73 of the 90 countries with comparable data, the bottom 40 percent experienced income growth higher than the overall national average. Further, 54% of countries with data have a comprehensive set of migration policies. However, the global recession is impacting the development aid earmarked for developing countries. This was further worsened by COVID-19 which impacted most heavily vulnerable groups.
Roll of Innovation: Innovation can achieve many of these goals through bringing proper development to regions and communities that need it the most. Through various forms of technologies and creative work that look or seek to form parity either fiscally or through social means to vulnerable groups, innovation can positively impact communities. A focus on new innovation can ensure that every group of individuals can be uplifted.
Trends: Thirty nine startups have been identified to be working towards reducing inequalities within and among countries. Trends in innovation are focused on health care that minimizes inequality between communities. GeroCare is a health tech company that provides the entire spectrum of primary healthcare to the elderly in their home converting it to a primary healthcare center and help-full looks to reduce loneliness for those in older age. Practical Prosthetics II and Invictus BCI also address healthcare in bringing affordable and accessible prosthetics to individuals. OTOjOY similarly looks to help fit individuals with hearing aids and Live Chair looks to reduce chronic diseases amongst African men and women. Dogalov uses tried therapy or service pets and an additional intervention, assisting special needs children throughout African countries. Many others have focused on health care in various aspects to reduce inequality for marginalized individuals and communities. Further, many focus on different forms of artificial intelligence, such as Vybrnt which uses artificial intelligence to provide resources for underrepresented students. Another trend has focused on education for marginalized groups. BrailEazy looks to increase Braille literacy. Recode/ CDI International seeks to transform the future of young people living in social vulnerability in Brazil by offering a system to engage individuals in education to be able to thrive in society. Some forms of reducing inequalities identified have been focusing on gender disparities., such as GOLIFIC. Another trend has focused on financing and accessibility, such as the Kadiwaku Family Foundation to empower those with disabilities. Power for All, OrderPaper Nigeria and Civil Society App both focus on community engagement and having appropriate data available. The International Institute for Sustainable Development offers communities an easy-to-use tool and builds capacity for data collection, verification and use to enable local governments and civil society groups to track SDG process. For further community equality, FXB International looks to bring capital for those who do not have it and Global Ecovillage Network works to regenerate natural environments, preserve cultural heritage, increase social relief and improve livelihoods and become powerful agents of change.
The UgoRound App offers authorities a quick and easy way to send alerts. UgoRound provides cities or agencies focused on citizen well-being a way to send anonymized geo alerts based on where you are. Users do not have to register and are completely anonymous. Users will be able to receive alerts and be aware of different essential messages that are needed to ensure community safety.
Sustainable Development Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
SDG 11 strives to make cities and settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable by ensuring access to adequate, safe, and affordable housing and basic services including reliable public transportation as well as inclusive and accessible public spaces. This goal also emphasizes the need for financial and technical support in least developed countries to build sustainable and resilient buildings. By 2030, the UN hopes to significantly reduce the number of people affected by disasters and the adverse environmental impact of cities. Rapid urbanization has resulted in inadequate and overburdened infrastructure and transportation systems, an increase in slum dwellers, worsening air pollution, and unplanned urban sprawl. Between 1990 and 2016, the proportion of the global urban population living in slums fell from 46 to 23 percent. However, Global progress in reducing the percent of slum dwellers has been reversed and the pandemic has further intensified their vulnerabilities. Today, 828 million people live in slums and this number continues to rise. Furthermore, overcrowding in these areas makes it difficult to follow CDC health guidelines. Additionally, cities occupy just 3 percent of land, but account for 60 to 80 percent of energy consumption and 75 percent of carbon emissions.
Role of Innovation: Innovations in urban planning is essential for improving public health and mitigating vulnerabilities to hazards, particularly natural disasters. Innovations in urban planning will enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and development planning, reduce devastation wrought by natural disasters, and decrease environmental impact on cities. Expanding reliable and accessible public transport reduces traffic and pollution and also improves road safety. Improved access to public spaces promotes better health and productivity. Technological innovations to improve air quality and waste management can reduce the adverse environmental impact of cities.
Trends: Trends in innovation include protecting buildings and homes, improving roads and highways, and promoting sustainable urban planning and development. Five startups have developed technology including Flo devices that prevent water damage from ice buildup, Natrx that protects infrastructure from flooding and storm surge erosion with a digital, nature-based technology, Archive Global is working to advance housing designs to improve health outcomes, VODA.AI is an AI system to reduce pipe breakages, and GARV Toilets created portable and durable toilets that are automatically maintained to improve sanitation infrastructure. Six companies are working on improving highways and roads. TRAXyL invented a new way to lay optical fiber on pavement without cutting into the surface, Resensys-INDEX monitors infrastructure to prevent aging highway bridges from deterioration, COTTON7 Global Enterprises developed a geologic and chemical process to construct climate resistant roads, Colab is an app for reporting issues on roads and suggest improvements concerning public infrastructure, RoadPrintz Inc developed a robot to paint roads, reducing costs and improving worker safety, and The Kikandwa Environmental Association developed a method to keep community roads clean and prevent damage through community rainwater harvesting. Two startups are promoting more sustainable urban planning throughout cities. Roofscapes improves urban resilience and also fights urban densification, raising temperatures, and widespread biodiversity loss with rooftop gardens and Resilience Brokers utilizes technology and networks to catalyze the transition to sustainable planning and development.
50% of physical infrastructure in the US is exposed to flooding and storm surge erosion. Natrx uses digital technology to protect infrastructure through nature-based techniques in digital manufacturing. They offer clients lower cost, enhanced worker safety, and improved ecological outcomes. The core problem is that infrastructure (bridges, roads, railroad tracks, houses, etc.) is exposed to environmental threats. The typical approach is dumping rock, which is very expensive, along the water or to build a concrete wall, which is expensive and unsafe, and both are environmentally devastating. Natrx forms structures placed outside of infrastructure that protect it and encourage natural growth. Their adaptive approach to core asset protection costs less than traditional methods and it is faster and safer to install with positive ecological outcomes. Their solution has been hurricane tested and proven to promote healthy habitats to protect shorelines.
Roofscapes is committed to improving urban resilience and developing innovative solutions to fight urban densification, rising temperatures, and widespread biodiversity loss. ROOFSCAPES enables the transformation of untapped rooftops into an accessible green roof. They combine exquisite architectural design with in-depth research from MIT in the climatic, structural, and legal realms, to mitigate climate change locally and provide new spaces from where to admire the city. Roofscapes deploys accessible wooden platforms to vegetize dense urban centers’ roofs, reduce solar radiation absorbed by the building, filter air pollution, and prevent sewage water overflow.
Sustainable Development Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
SDG 12 aims to decrease reliance on raw materials and achieve efficient use of natural resources. This goal strives to halve per capita global food waste, reduce food losses along production and supply chains, achieve environmentally sound management of chemicals and all waste by 2030. The UN encourages large companies to adopt these sustainable practices and also focuses on strengthening developing countries’ scientific and technological capacity so they can also achieve more sustainable patterns of consumption and production. Current consumption and production patterns drive the global economy, but endanger systems of future development as economic and social progress has led to environmental degradation. Natural resources are used unsustainably with a global material footprint of 85.9 billion metric tons. Electronic waste grew by 38 percent but less than 20 percent is recycled, and 13.8 percent of food is lost along the supply chain. In 2019, progress has been made as 40 countries reported on Sustainable Public Procurement policies and action plans to encourage the procurement of environmentally sound, energy-efficient products, and to promote more socially responsible purchasing practices and sustainable supply chains. Fossil fuel subsidies also declined to $431.6 billion due to lower fuel prices, ending the upward trend. Sustainable consumption and production decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, increases resource efficiency, and promotes sustainable lifestyles. The pandemic offers an opportunity to develop recovery plans to reverse current trends and establish more sustainable patterns. The UN is implementing a 10 year framework of programs on sustainable consumption and production for all countries to take action.
Role of Innovation: Technological advancements in resource generation can reduce reliance on raw materials. Waste management innovations can increase recycling and reduce food loss and waste, which improves food security and nutrition, lowers production costs, and increases food systems’ efficiency.
Trends: Trends in innovation to achieve these goals include waste management improvements and energy efficient production methods. Four startups are working to make the textile industry more eco-friendly with innovative technologies. These include two companies in the leather industry, GElatex and Polybion, as well as Smart PE Fabrics, which produces a textile with many different applications, and Grolltex, which makes silicon. 15 companies are working on waste management methods. Alkemy Environmental has a technology for recycling industrial waste into environmentally sustainable structural-grade lightweight concrete aggregates and SEAB Energy developed a technology that transforms organic waste into biogas, which is captured and used for energy generation. Reusing waste, Craste makes packaging materials and Papersmart creates writing instruments. We Convert and Pearl Recycling, based in Nigeria, developed trash organizing systems and Aquacycl developed a wastewater management system by distributing sewage treatment with zero liquid discharge. Four startups are reducing food waste. Vultus is a satellite system to reduce food waste in farming, PurePlus+ dehydrates food to extract nutrients, providing them to people with micronutrient deficiencies, Nature Preserve is a food processing technology to increase shelf life, and Nature’s Natural Solutions LLC manufactures food freshness cards. Transfoam and Nepal Academy of Science and technology established technologies to reduce plastic waste. Four companies have created sustainable production methods regarding gas and chemical production and water filtration. SiTration, Phosphosolutions, Polymer Membranes Research Project, and New Iridium Inc have developed energy efficient production methods that reduce fossil fuel emissions. Xylem Water Filters and NALA Systems created water filtration systems.
Polybion transforms waste into other materials through bio-fabrication and biomanufacturing. Polybion combats the harms of the leather industry, which significantly contributes to global pollution and is greatly responsible for deforestation and methane production. This startup reuses and upcycles industrial food waste to produce a plastic-free and animal-free bio-textile, Celium, to replace leather. They also use agricultural waste to make Fungivel, a toxic free biopolymer that replaces petroleum based Styrofoam. The production processes of these materials are ecologic, carbon neutral, and cost-efficient.
Nature Preserve aims to create a decentralized food processing solution. At every stage of the food manufacturing and processing point, there is food that is wasted. The company reduces food waste that is produced during every stage of the food production and processing. They have created a food processing technology that optimizes and re-imagines food surplus. It turns food produce into shelf-stable ingredients to create a second lifecycle. With their processing unit, we not only upcycle food, but maintain a nutritional and environmental balance at the same time.
Craste is a circular economy based solution to air pollution that manufactures utility products using crop waste. Every year crop burning releases 150 million tons of CO2 in India. Craste works towards crop waste management by providing monetary incentive to farmers. They convert this waste to make materials for packaging and furniture applications. Their pulp & paper packaging products are made from an innovative process that ensures less water consumption and zero level discharge from the pulping unit. Their other product is a formaldehyde free particle board, which is a highly durable, environmentally friendly, cost-effective, crop residue derived straw panel board.
Sustainable Development Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact
SDG 13 aims to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries. Climate change measures need to be integrated into national policies and education and awareness on environmental impacts must be improved. The UN also intends to expand the global coalition for net-zero emissions and also increase capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management, particularly in least developed countries. In 2019, positive steps were taken in climate finance flows and the development of nationally determined contributions. However, more ambitious plans and accelerated action are needed as climate change disrupts national economies and affects livelihoods, especially for the most vulnerable. 2019 was the second warmest year on record and CO2 levels rose to record highs and global temperatures are projected to rise by up to 3.2 degrees Celsius by 2100. Climate change continues to exacerbate the frequency and severity of natural disasters affecting more than 39 million people in 2018. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and weather events are becoming more extreme. Financing for climate action has increased, but investment in fossil fuels is still greater. COVID-19 resulted in more than 10% drop in greenhouse gas emissions, above the 7.6% annual reduction required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, most developing countries have begun to formulate plans to strengthen resilience and adapt to climate change according to the Paris Agreement. Many businesses and investors are also committing themselves to lower their emissions not only because it is better for the environment, but it makes economic and business sense as well.
Role of Innovation: To mitigate climate change investments in renewable energy and technologies to reduce carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases must exceed investments in fossil fuels. Innovations in infrastructure are also needed to minimize the risks of climate-related hazards. Innovations to develop education programs and expand networks by connecting organizations focused on environmental issues spreads awareness and strengthens capacity for more effective climate action.
Trends: Trends in innovation include clean technology and power, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the circular economy, and environmental literacy programs. Companies utilize solar power in innovative methods for cooking, heating, and purifying water. There is limited data on sustainability, so two companies working on data collection include Powermarket, which developed a system that provides solar analytics to governments, energy companies, and financial institutions to monitor solar impact on global energy infrastructure and Ethos, which provides data on sustainability and impact metrics to companies and communities. Powerstove Energy, Joel Samson Ruvugo Traders, Green Building Technology, LLC, and Udyama have developed solar powered stoves that lower carbon emissions and wood consumption. Other companies and research projects like Hybrid Solar Panel for Radiative Thermal Exchange, Sun Buckets, and Solarpure Corp created solar power generation systems. Two startups have developed an environmentally friendly method for gas separation and four companies are working to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. Renewco2 uses clean electrochemical processes that convert CO₂ into monomers and other organic chemicals, PT Rimba Makmur Utama, based in Indonesia, protects peat forests, which provide natural carbon capture and storage, Emission Trading Association Australia Ltd provides information on greenhouse gas emissions and market activity to promote climate change, and Varshasookt Private Limited offers a systematic waste management method to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emission. Three companies are promoting the circular economy and sustainable communities. Craste is a circular economy based solution to air pollution that converts crop waste into packaging materials, Udyama has implemented numerous initiatives including, skills training, water management, women-collectives engagement with local governance, crop diversification, solar lighting systems, fuel efficient stoves, enhanced sanitation practices, and much more, in communities across India, as well as Circular Take Back, an online platform that connects people to participate in a circular economy by collecting, reusing, refurbishing and recycling their used products and devices. Lastly, we identified 10 environmental literacy programs. Captain Fanplastic and Biomimicry Design Alliance promote climate justice and community adaptation. Coalition-WILD, Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation, Ogoni Youth Foundation, Sarasota Military Academy Prep, International Climate Change Development Initiative, and ISOTECH Ltd, The Wild Center are educating youth on climate change and environmentally friendly practices and also empower them to take action.
Ethos offers sustainability solutions for enterprises, communities, and households. Founded by experts in environmental consulting and sustainable engineering, Ethos brings years of experience together with advances in software and data technology to provide information to develop strategic sustainability plans at every level. Their data management and metric system calculates a sustainability score for companies. They also developed a mobile application to help families stay informed on their environmental impact and established local workshops to teach communities how to be more sustainable. Using data analysis and advanced stakeholder engagement, Ethos’s integrated approach fosters a holistic transition into a sustainable world.
For chemical industries who want to be ahead of the competition in renewable sourcing, RenewCO₂ develops clean electrochemical processes that convert CO₂ into monomers and other organic chemicals. Different from traditional fossil-derived feedstocks, their process is carbon negative and has a positive environmental impact. The key problem is that consumption in the chemical industry for fossil fuels is not sustainable and will be a big problem. The industry needs to change and they want to diversify their stock.
Swarm Mobility is on a mission to transform how we move on the street by creating innovative and low-cost products that incentivize the use of sustainable transit and enhance the safety and joy of riders. Cities need to reduce their reliance on cars, efficiently use resources, and resiliently adapt to crises. Although many cities already have bike and scooter share programs, they need to increase the usage as well and prioritize the safety of the riders. The first product is called 'bike swarm'; it is a system for bicycles and scooters to synchronize light across riders. This product can enhance the collective presence of riders and a visual presentation of the rider community.
Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
SDG 14 is working to significantly reduce and prevent marine pollution by 2025, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems, and minimize and address impacts of ocean acidification. By strengthening these ecosystems’ resilience and encouraging restoration efforts, we can achieve healthy and productive oceans. The UN plans to effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, and destructive fishing practices as well as prohibit some forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing and illegal fishing. Economic benefits of fisheries, aquaculture, and tourism in least developed countries need to be improved and small-scale fishers should be provided greater access to marine resources and markets. The UN is also strengthening efforts to implement international laws to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources. Oceans and fisheries continue to support the global population’s economic, social and environmental needs. Despite the critical importance of conserving oceans, decades of irresponsible exploitation have led to an alarming level of degradation. Ocean acidification from absorbed CO2 threatens the marine environment and ecosystem services. Moreover, 5 to 12 million metric tons of plastic enters the ocean each year and it costs about 13 billion dollars for cleanup costs and financial losses in fisheries. COVID-19 has drastically reduced human activity which offers a chance for oceans to recuperate. Protection of marine environments is expanding, but coverage needs to extend to key biodiversity areas. Sustainable fisheries are vital to the livelihoods of communities in the most disadvantaged countries as they can alleviate poverty, hunger and malnutrition, as well as generate economic growth. Furthermore, small-scale fishers, large contributors to developing economics, are often marginalized and COVID-19 has drastically affected their livelihoods. Current efforts to protect key marine environments and small-scale fisheries, and to invest in ocean science are not yet meeting the urgent need to preserve these resources.
Role of Innovation: Innovations play a role in developing technologies to reduce plastic usage and waste and the implementing management plans to restore fish stocks quickly. Education programs will be effective in increasing awareness. Expanding research capacity on sustainability and conservation of aquatic ecosystems can reduce costs in related industries. Innovative approaches and tools regarding the blue economy, eco-labelling and certification, value chain analysis, and seafood clusters can greatly benefit harvesting, value addition in processing and distribution, and market capacities in developing countries.
Trends: Recent innovation trends focus on plastics and methods to improve and protect water ecosystems. Solupal, Tranfoam, and Captain Fanplastic are working on plastic reduction. Solupal produces water soluble shopping bags to eliminate plastic shopping bags. Transfoam’s bioprocess reduces the operating cost and environmental footprint of PHB (a biodegradable plastic) production to reduce plastic pollution. Captain Fanplastic is a hybrid literacy program that teaches learners about the environmental impact and value of plastic to become more conscious and reduce plastic waste. Three more companies are focused on water ecosystems. SymbyTech uses innovative robotic systems to perform marine growth removal and in-water inspection to reduce the environmental impact of commercial vessels and floating onshore units. Peace Boat is the most sustainable cruise vessel that combines a biomimicry inspired design with energy efficient measures, 40% carbon dioxide reduction, and minimum waste production. MITIMETH addresses the issue of aquatic weeds by harvesting them from water ecosystems and creating home decor and lifestyle accessory products.
SymbyTech developed an innovative robotic system for hull cleaning, inspection, and intervention to perform both marine growth removal and in-water inspection. This startup aims to reduce the environmental impact of commercial vessels during passage, floating offshore units during decommissioning, and traditional in-water inspection techniques and practices. The automated robot offers cost and environmental benefits to the maritime, oil and gas, and renewable energy industries. Biofouling grows on hulls of ships, which slows down the boat causing it to burn more fuel to go faster. The solid component of these gases is dispensed into the water, increasing ocean acidity, destroying coral reefs, and contaminating fish. The hull cleaning process reduces carbon and sulfur emission as well as the distribution of invasive species.
Transfoam is a biomanufacturing company that reduces single-use plastic pollution. The environmental effects of plastic devastate the ocean and water ecosystems as 16 billion pounds of plastic end up in the ocean each year. The demand for biodegradable alternatives is growing rapidly but manufacturers cannot scale fast enough to keep up with demand. Currently, biodegradable plastic manufacturing is unreliable and unsustainable. Tranfoam aims to eliminate plastic pollution at the beginning and end of the products lifecycle. Their bioprocess turns plastic waste into a low-footprint PHB, a biodegradable plastic, for more scalable manufacturing.
Sustainable Development Goal 15: Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss
SDG 15 aims to ensure the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems. It promotes the implementation of sustainable management of all forests, the end of deforestation, restoration of degraded forests, as well as efforts to combat desertification. Furthermore, this goal intends to reduce degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity, end poaching and trafficking and prevent extinction of threatened species. 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods and forests are home to 80 percent of all terrestrial species; however, two billion hectares of land on Earth are degraded, driving species to extinction, and intensifying climate change. Each year, 10 million hectares of forest are destroyed, resulting in the disappearance of livelihoods in rural communities, increased carbon emissions, diminished biodiversity and the degradation of land. Arable land loss is at 30 to 35 times the historical rate. Additionally, wildlife trafficking disrupts ecosystems and contributes to spread of infectious disease, specifically zoonotic diseases. Currently, the world is not meeting the 2020 targets to halt biodiversity and approximately one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. While forest loss remains high, 2020 data show that the proportion of forests in protected areas and under long-term management plans increased or remained stable at the global level. In addition to the decline in forest loss, more key biodiversity areas are protected, and more financial assistance is flowing towards biodiversity protection.
Role of Innovation: Innovations can help achieve this goal by developing technologies for sustainable forest and land management as well as increasing sustainability of biodiversity and ecosystems. Some innovative approaches include wind breaks, crop rotation, terracing, and strip farming. Techniques to improve land use and management include agroecology, agroforestry, and conservation agriculture. Programs to combat poaching and trafficking of protected species will also strengthen this goal.
Trends: Five startups in this space are working to conserve forests and biodiversity. Three of the companies have developed technologies and the other two implemented programs in local communities. Trefo has built a system to inventory forests with robotic and machine learning technologies that extract information about forests. With a mission to end deforestation, Papersmart Industries manufactures and converts wastepaper materials sustainably into high quality biodegradable writing instruments. PT Rimba Makmur Utama is working to reduce deforestation and support sustainable development opportunities in Borneo by protecting peat forests and endangered species. Polybion is making leather out of bioresources to reduce the consequences of the leather industry, which is greatly responsible for deforestation and methane production. Through land-user-driven and participatory approaches, UDYAMA works with rural, tribal, and urban communities to rehabilitate degraded land and implement sustainable land management to conserve biodiversity and minimize further land degradation. The High Atlas Foundation facilitates tree planting programs to conserve biodiversity in rural Moroccan communities, which have experienced significant forest loss and soil erosion.
Trefo is in the early stages of development. They have been testing a robotic and machine learning technology to extract information about forests that is completely automated using sensors. Data about forests can impact carbon offsets and forest fire prevention. They hope to scale this product to promote environmental sustainability in emerging markets.
The High Atlas Foundation works with rural Moroccan communities to further sustainable development by implementing programs related to agriculture, women’s empowerment, youth, water, capacity building, and culture. Increasing rates of aridity threaten rural communities most severely. Morocco has experienced significant forest loss leading to soil erosion and falling water tables. High Atlas Foundation implemented a fruit tree planting program that conserves biodiversity and reverses deforestation. Cultivating seeds in their nurseries allows for considerable expansion of agroforestry plantations. This program also aims to end the poverty cycle by generating greater income in the agricultural industry. Farmers mainly grow barley and corn, which covers 70% of the land, but only produces 15% of income. The construction of nurseries provides new jobs and the cultivation of fruit tree varieties would bring great economic benefits.
Sustainable Development Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels
All people need to be free of fear from all violence and feel safe in their daily lives. Conflict, insecurity, weak institutions, and limited access to justice threaten sustainable development. In 2019, over 79.5 million people fled from war, persecution, and conflict; this was a record high. One in four children continue to be deprived of legal identity and rights from a lack of birth registration and many children regularly face violent forms of discipline, human trafficking, and sexual violence. Despite protections under International law, 100 civilians are killed in armed conflicts each day. At the onset of the pandemic, the Secretary-General launched an appeal for an immediate global ceasefire to aid in the delivery of humanitarian assistance and open channels for diplomacy, in particular for those most vulnerable to COVID-19. Other promising advancements show improvements in restoring peace and justice including the decline in the global rate of intentional homicides and 127 countries now have right-to-information and freedom-of-information laws. Despite this progress, COVID-19 further threatens global peace and security. Governments, civil society and communities must work together to implement lasting solutions to reduce violence, deliver justice, and combat corruption and bribery. This goal aims to end all forms of violence against children, combat organized crime, promote rule of law, and ensure equal access to justice across the globe. It is also working to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms. The UN promotes the development of effective, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels. Participatory and representative decision-making needs to be strengthened at all levels, particularly in developing countries.
Role of Innovation: Innovations have the ability to strengthen institutions to promote greater justice and peace across the globe. Some innovative approaches to improve current systems include developing networks to support judiciaries and governments addressing ethical challenges and forums or other spaces for public involvement in peaceful and inclusive political processes. Education programs on justice, rule of law, violence prevention, and other related topics would also be beneficial.
Trends: Innovation trends for this goal focus on legal information and rights as well as the empowerment of young activists. Eight startups offer online platforms including Sunulex, which offers legal information to inform citizens of their rights, Fast Democracy, a legislative analytics platform for advocating policy change, iCivil, which provides registration for birth certificates, and Legal Passage, a file management system, Law Padi, a platform to inform Nigerians of their rights and responsibilities, Law Basket, which connects small businesses with lawyers in Africa, Courtroom 5, which offers guidance on filing technical legal documents and ensuring they are legally adequate, and The Justice Text, which expedites pre-trial preparation to ensure social justice. Other companies are empowering young activists through training, mentoring, advocacy, and restorative justice programs including The AMEL Project, OrderPaper Nigeria, Collective Climb, and Gabay Foundation. Two restorative justice programs are Collective Climb and The AMEL Project. Collective Climb is a program that provides restorative justice practices to halt youth interaction with the carceral state and
The AMEL Project includes a leadership institute to empower young social activists in MENA, an advocacy program to raise awareness in the global North on issues related to MENA, as well as an incubator for innovative initiatives in MENA. 15 startups are empowering community members and improving communication with authorities to promote community resilience as well as to advance transparency, efficiency, and accountability.
We identified 13 startups focused on communication between public and private sector and civil society, community resilience, and greater political representation including GenUnity, Glasswing International, The Urban Vision, Neighborhood Community Network, World Smart Sustainable Cities Organization, Green Map System, UgoRound Australia Pty Ltd, Indian Centre for Social Transformation, FAITA-TRUST, Civil Society App, Tono Latino, Breaking Walls Inc, and Global Ecovillage Network. GenUnity offers programs to support individuals in developing relationships, knowledge, and skills necessary to make change, Glasswing International established education and health programs to empower youth and reduce violence and poverty, and Tono Latino informs and inspires Hispanics to expand Latino representation in politics and the media. Two startups, including Xiris, an AI system, and the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, a global network, are strengthening communities by reducing crime.
Glasswing International addresses the root causes and consequences of violence and poverty through education and health programs that empower youth and communities and strengthen public systems. Through grassroots, evidence-based programming and cross-sector alliances across Latin America, they create opportunities for children and youth to thrive. With a flexible and localized organizational structure, they are able to respond to the needs of the communities with varied and innovative initiatives. They work within systems to generate local evidence of what works and does not in order to influence policy. By engaging and training community members as volunteers, they believe that they are not only generating economic value, but also critical social value – restoring trust and healing social fabric that has often been torn by violence, family disintegration, and social injustice.
50% violent crimes go unreported and those crimes that are caught on cameras are often only seen after incidents. Many do not have the resources for people to monitor security systems, so it takes a longer time for police or law enforcement to respond. Xiris uses AI to automatically capture crimes and incidents in real time and automatically call the police. Businesses who don’t have capital or resources to deploy humans can use AI in a much cheaper way to increase security and public safety. Having this software also helps businesses reopen amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sunulex Africa collects and digitizes legal information for lawyers, governments, and universities. Many are unaware of their rights because this information is very difficult to find online. Sunulex offers an online database of African laws to provide professionals with resources to advise, defend, and apply the correct rules. They also create videos to spread awareness on rights, specifically women’s rights.