Despite the uncertainty and turmoil due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe, in June 2020 the Palestinian International Cooperation Agency (PICA) joined forces with the Palestinian Higher Council for Innovation & Excellence (HCIE) to officially launch their joint initiative “Busala Innovation Challenge”. This ambitious and future-looking initiative aims primarily to provide an inclusive platform for Palestinian innovators, entrepreneurs and startups to apply and scale their innovative solutions while contributing to the efforts aimed at addressing global development challenges – with particular emphasis on the common challenges facing marginalized communities across the countries of the global South.
Furthermore, the initiative aims to capitalize on Palestine’s talented and passionate entrepreneurs who can hopefully come up with innovative and sustainable solutions that target one or more of the 17 globally-adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Importantly, the official launch of the initiative comes at a critical time where investments in building innovation capacities are most needed not only to help the world recover from the negative social and economic repercussions of COVID-19, but also to unlock many of the untapped opportunities across the developing world. Precisely, by harnessing the power of technological progress, human ingenuity and disruptive business models, innovation can offer sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges and help create inclusive economies which ensure that ‘no one is left behind’.
The Busala Innovation Challenge seeks to become a multi-stakeholder platform by building robust partnerships with key players representing the Palestinian entrepreneurial ecosystem. Precisely, PICA and HCIE will form the ‘Busala Task Force’ in cooperation with diverse stakeholders from the private sector, academia and non-governmental organizations. The Task Force will be responsible for managing annual competitions and Hackathons aimed at enhancing the role of Palestinian innovation in addressing global development challenges.
Although the ultimate vision of Busala Innovation Challenge is to become a bridge which connects Palestinian innovation with the development needs of marginalized communities across the developing world, it simultaneously aims to achieve the following objectives:
- Provide a pipeline for new innovative ideas that could be turned into scalable projects and meaningful investment opportunities.
- Provide a platform for Palestinian innovators, entrepreneurs and startups to apply their innovations to real-world development challenges such as climate change, financial inclusion, access to clean water and sustainable energy.
- Enhance the integration of the Palestinian entrepreneurial ecosystem into the global innovation scene.
- Provide access to various untapped opportunities for scalability, growth and impact.
Since the official launch of the initiative in June 2020, PICA and HCIE have managed to achieve some key milestones including the successful receipt of around 120 online applications, review of received applications (and dividing them based on growth stage and relevant industry), and finalizing the formation of Busala Task Force. It is hoped that the coming months will bring further tangible achievements by shedding light on the selected innovative projects that will participate in the next phase of Busala Innovation Challenge and have the potential to scale and deliver meaningful impact across the region and beyond. PICA, HCIE and their ecosystem partners will keep iterating and sharing best practices in order to ensure that this ambitious initiative is capable of meeting its targets and achieving its long-term future vision.