Transform Fund: An Interview with Dr. Hayat Sindi


At the Islamic Development Bank we are extremely proud of the Engage Programme, of which the Transform Fund is a key component. We sat down with Dr. Hayat Sindi, Senior Advisor to the President. Dr. Hayat is a Saudi Arabian medical scientist, famous for making major contributions to point-of-care medical testing and biotechnology. Along with her scientific activities, Dr. Hayat participated in numerous events aimed at raising the awareness of science amongst females, particularly in Saudi Arabia and the Muslim World in general. 

We spoke to Dr. Hayat to find out more about the Transform Fund – the mission behind it, the impact that it will make, and why scientists and innovators should apply.

What is the Transform Fund?

The Transform Fund is a fund created mainly to empower and enhance the entrepreneur innovation ecosystem, especially for people working to solve development challenges. The idea is to give young entrepreneurs, innovators, change agents and creative minds, regardless of age and religion, the opportunity to participate in addressing the challenges faced in the developing world. We aim to do this by supporting innovators and helping them find solutions towards achieving zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, quality education, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, and improved industry, innovation and infrastructure. 

The Transform fund was created to provide accessibility to great minds with potential solutions with finance, help and mentorship, alongside whatever else it takes to transform ideas to impact. Through this programme, we at the Islamic Development Bank want to give money, help and mentorship to an idea that can transform peoples lives, whether this is a product, process or mechanism that sustainably impacts and benefits communities. 

Many of these innovators don’t have access to generalised funding because they all have special needs, and we want to be at the intersection of that. Transform is a unique fund that addresses all these issues and all parts of society. It’s also global – we want to empower any innovators from all over the world – but their ideas must be applicable to help deprived people, and make a difference in their way of life.

What is the mission of the Fund?

Through the Fund, we want to empower innovators and scientists to share ideas and technology, by providing mentorship and guidance as part of their entrepreneurial journey. 

The Fund is unique – we provide all types of funding from angel funds to hedge funds. We want to empower people to turn their ideas into a product, but also work with innovators at different stages of their journey. For example, if they already have a company and need help to scale up, we want to empower and partner with them. Similarly, if they already have a product but have a bigger picture they need help achieving, we can also help and partner with them. 

Why has the IsDB launched the Fund?

The IsDB is a multinational bank and one of the largest in the world, serving 1.6 billion people, in 67 countries, over 4 continents. We provide financial and technical aid for economic development - we are increasing in number and the challenges are huge. 

If you combine all of the multinational banks’ finances there are still huge challenges that need to be addressed. Our ambition is to provide people with the right tools to take charge of their futures. We believe technology and innovation is a key driver for change. What you see in the UN 2050 SDG’s mandate, is the same mandate of the IsDB - and we believe technologies are at the heart of addressing these challenges. In order to achieve this we need to invest in young, creative minds that can challenge and solve these SDGs.

Who can apply for the Fund?

Anyone with a technology or an idea, or a scientist, or a doctor, whether they are male or female, old or young, from anywhere in the world and of any religion. The Fund is accessible to all - anyone who wants to improve education, water accessibility, infrastructure, health, or clean energy. 

They can be governments, individuals, companies, charities or students. The one condition is that they have to have an idea that can create sustainable impact in society that addresses a condition in a developing country. It’s a win/win situation, as we empower any innovator from anywhere in the world to empower communities in our developing member countries. 

Why should they apply for the Fund?

Because we make it easy to apply! Anyone can open their mobile phones and apply, and there are no restrictions on who applies – the fund will be awarded based on their ideas and merit. In addition to the Fund, we pay for their IT, provide free legal advice, and mentors for life. We also design business models for them for free. Whoever goes on to win will be provided with an ecosystem to thrive in the future. 

We made the Transform Fund to meet the needs of the innovator. We did a survey to find out what would be the best way for the fund to help and support them. Money isn’t enough; they need the whole package, and this is what Transform provides. The fund is crucial to give them what they lack to succeed, and creates a great community of true entrepreneurs who then go on to become an ambassador of the youth.

We’ve also made it imperative that the Fund addresses and inspires women - it’s important to us that we inspire women and girls to become entrepreneurs, scientists, innovators and thinkers.

How can they apply?

Very easily – go to the IsDB-engage website, then to the drop-down menu on the top right hand corner, and click on Transform. From there you can see an intro about the fund, the deadline, and then click on the ‘apply’ button. 

You can then fill out the application, and have the option to save and go back to it if you don’t have time to do it all at once. The form only has 6 questions about the idea, around which SDG it fits into, if it has a patent, and how it can be applied to the developing world. If we need extra information then we will reach out for it directly.

We have a dedicated team to answer any questions the applicants may have, and also have the application available in French, English and Arabic.  After the shortlist has been selected, we hold a conference in early December to highlight the innovations, with lots of investors and media to talk to them about their work. The whole ecosystem of the fund is to provide any help the innovators need. This can only be done with all the right elements to support the ideas, which we will provide. 

Since we launched the Transform fund we have had over 100,000 applications from all over the world.

Applicants need a successful network, which we aim to create for them through the Engage platform, to put them in touch with peers, investors and mentors.

To find out more about the Transform Fund, be sure to check out the Call for Innovation page here, and submit your application. 

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