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Transformers Academy 2020: From Innovations to Solutions that Work
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Transformers Academy 2020: From Innovations to Solutions that Work
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New investment arm focusing on enabling investment in innovationannounced during Transformers Academy 2020The third-annual Transformers Academy virtually convened 30 Winners of the 2020 Transform Fund Call for Innovation (Transformers) with IsDB mentors and global experts to strengthen the innovators’ strategic insights into materialising innovations towards feasible solutions that are expected to resolve many Covid-19 challenges, and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In the weeklong mentoring programme, the Transformers had an opportunity to sharpen their visions behind innovations with mentor guidance to develop and scale-up commercially feasible and intellectual property rights-protected solutions, and expert advice on networking, marketing and digital promotion strategies. 

The event also announced the launch of a dedicated investment arm to build the foundations for growth for both the $500M Transform fund and Transformers – a historic step that will maximise the ability to execute quality investments in innovation. It will also increase the ability to reach innovators and entrepreneurs and mobilise more capital to address longer-term development needs in IsDB member countries. Furthermore, its crucial role in helping to connect investment capital with the entrepreneurs and innovators transforming the development space was also noted.

 IsDB President H E Dr Hajjar, Dr Hayat Sindi, esteemed SAB members with a section of participants "We're excited to announce the launch of our new investment arm which will further enhance Transform Fund investments in innovations that are changing the world of development,” said H E Dr Bandar Hajjar, President of IsDB at the Academy, at the event organised by Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) department of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) during 14-18 December 2020. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Transform Fund dedicated its third Call for Innovation in 2020 to support the 30 winning solutions in order to mitigate the pandemic’s impact in IsDB Member Countries through the power of STI.Dr Hajjar observed that the COVID-19 pandemic showed that the developing world was unprepared, particularly many IsDB Member Countries, that are also vulnerable due to different hazards, disasters and supply-chain constraints. “The innovators have to take the challenge of considering future implications of a crisis like COVID-19 and be prepared to respond accordingly with innovations that address these vulnerabilities,” he added.   “We must work to strengthen the resilience of our member countries, particularly the poorer ones, through creative, innovative and low-cost initiatives,” remarked Dr Hajjar.Dr Hayat Sindi, Senior Advisor to IsDB President on STI, appreciated high potentials of the 2020 innovations in addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are key drivers for IsDB’s STI core initiatives Engage and Transform Fund.“Great ideas can come from all walks of life and at the IsDB, we are committed to turning visions into reality. Now more than ever in the times of Covid-19, the vital role of science, technology and innovation is clear,” she observed.

For Dr Hayat Sindi, aspects like partnerships and collaborations don’t only mean finding investors. “It’s more about sharing the lessons learned, facilitating connectivity and networking, and also contributing to the whole value chain of innovation in order to bring an idea into life,” she added, reminding that the Engage ecosystem, a digital hub connects all stakeholders including the Transformers who would continue to benefit from across the world.H E Dr Hajjar, Dr Hayat and SAB members with a section of participants Esteemed members of Transform Fund Scientific Advisory Group (SAB) Prof Zakri Abdul Hamid, Science Adviser to the Prime Minister of Malaysia; Dr Abdallah S. Daar, Professor of Public Health Sciences and Surgery at University of Toronto; Prof Rahma Bourquia, Director of National Authority for Evaluation; Dr Firadusi Qadri, Emeritus Scientist at icddr,b and Dr Myrna Cunningham, President of CADPI, UN addressed the event.The SAB members lauded the brilliant innovations as quite promising in addressing many challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. They anticipated that developing countries would gradually adopt more of such innovative scientific solutions, and the IsDB would continue to play an instrumental role behind these efforts.

The 2020 Transformers: Young Innovators to tackle COVID-19 challengesThe five-day schedule included expert sessions, breakout sessions, group activities and one-to-one interactive sessions with mentors who provided personalised advice to promote participants’ projects. The Academy is a great opportunity for the Transformers to develop networking and be part of the growing Transformers community created by the Calls. The innovators will continue to benefit from the Engage platform resources as well.The Academy played an effective host to inspirational talks and sessions from leading experts such as Bernhard Kowatsch, Head of Innovation, World Food Programme and Natalie Munyampenda, Chief Executive Officer at Kepler. Speakers discussed key topics ranging from the importance of vision as a driving force behind achieving substantial SDGs to the value of Intellectual Property. H E Dr Hajjar, Dr Hayat and SAB members with a section of participantsThe winning solutions went through a rigorous process involving independent SDG reviewers, global partners such as the WHO and PATH and then final endorsement by IsDB Scientific Advisory Board comprising renowned scientists and esteemed members of IsDB Board of Trustees.

This year 30 winning innovators specialising in health, medicine and infectious disease control, bio-science, entrepreneurship, research and development, addressed innovative solutions such as digital health surveillance platforms; medical devices and diagnostics; online digital education platforms as well as food security and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)-related solutions in the context of the pandemic, from IsDB member and non-member countries including Sudan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Germany, India, US, Cameroon, UK, Palestine and Turkey. Highlights from the Five-Day Event. The custom-tailored mentorship programme aimed at empowering young innovators in creating the right innovation ecosystem covering entrepreneurship, funding, mentorship, creativity, marketing, intellectual property rights among other issues.On the first day, the Transformers learnt about the Engage ecosystem, the Transform Fund and the Crowdsourcing platform as drivers of the Bank’s STI agenda. Dr Fil Randazzo, CEO of Leverage Science and Mr Moustafa Alzuabi, Division Manager of Global Interdependencies at IsDB, briefed on articulating long-term visions for realistic impact and scaling up projects through viable business modelling.

Transformer alumni Mr Zor Hussein shared how the Academy mentorship helped him to strategise his entrepreneurial insights to improve and sustain his renewable energy-powered cold storage units taking care of food wastage crises in Africa.On the second day, Ms Natalie Munyampenda, Chief Executive Officer at Kepler, engaged in an inspiring discussion with freuds’ Director Mr Matt Barbet addressing capacity-building, ethical financing, ways to overcome funding challenges, manage key stakeholders including government, create a diverse workplace, and most importantly widen financial models to allow a greater value proposition. Mr Vladimir Yossifov, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), delivered a talk on intellectual property (IP) and commercialisation to enlighten the Transformers on the importance IP protection as a main value driver for innovation and how WIPO collaboration can help protect their innovations and help them seek IP counsel. Transformer Alumni BORDA, Jordan used animation to virtually represent the significance of their project. 

Photo: BORDATransformer Alumni Engr Zeina Annab of BORDA, Jordan shared how the ISSRAR project in Jordan handles capacity building around waste management to salvage water in the water-scarce region, with particular focus on learning to address value chain gaps, creating sustainable operational models and transferring knowledge to the stakeholders.

On the third day, Mr Bernhard Kowatsch, Head of Innovation, World Food Programme (WFP), attended for a special Guest Talk. IsDB lead investment team members Mr Boualem Hammouni; Mr Mohammed Sharaf and Mr Abdelkader El Hachmi educated the Transformers on the importance of negotiating a funding deal with investors, overcoming the main building blocks for conducting proper company valuation and on different ways to mitigate liquidity shortage risk. Transformer Alumni Dr Farzana Jahan from Bangladesh shared how eco-friendly, low-cost, durable and easy-to-construct houses built for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh can solve the housing problem for hundreds and thousands of people. She credited most of her success to IsDB support, particularly the training and mentorship which allowed her to connect more convincingly with her stakeholders.On the fourth day, Ms Bukky Shonibare, Executive Director of Invictus Africa, in her VIP talk, extended a discussion on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by drawing on brief descriptions and examples to show which development areas will be relevant for scientific innovators to focus on. In an engaging talk, Mr Matt Barbet, a Director at freuds, addressed why it is crucial for innovators to communicate effectively, and maintain visual and verbal cues for presentation, delivery of speech in online sessions, such as while using zoom which is quite relevant in the times of COVID-19. Scientific innovators should pay attention to knowing people or audience well, setting up objectives, performing the right social optimisation and using the right tools when attempting for publicity for their brand and start-ups. Transformers learnt about communicating ideas from Mr Barbet’s mentorshipMs Erin Niimi Longhurst, Director of Social Misfits Media briefly discussed the importance of having a social media strategy as part of the overall marketing strategy and why it might be important for innovators to identify and prioritise social media goals and objectives as part of their marketing strategy. Transformer alumnae, Dr Iffat Zafar and Dr Sara Saeed Khurram from Sehat Kahani shared how their telemedicine network in Pakistan connecting female doctors to numerous remote patients made a ground-breaking impact to hundreds and thousands of lives. The participants learnt about an overview of Sehat Kahani business model, operations, impacts, milestones and achievements.On the fifth day, the session started with Transformers’ one-to-one discussion with selected mentors.

On behalf of 2019 Transformers Alumni Dr Adi Utarini’s project in Indonesia, Dr Riris Ahmad shared how instilling Wolbachia in wild mosquitoes has shown to effectively control and minimise lethal diseases like dengue. He stressed partnerships, collaboration, training and communication needs to take innovations to a working level. 

The concluding session included remarks from H E IsDB President, Dr Hayat Sindi and esteemed SAB members, mentors’ feedback and reflections from some of the 2020 winners.