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UNICEF Innovation Fund To Support Open Source And Blockchain Startups

UNICEF Innovation Fund Homepage Screenshot (EconoTimes)

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) announced on Monday that it is accepting applications from tech start-ups for funding from its recently launched Innovation Fund. The Fund has raised $9 million so far and offers innovators in developing countries a pooled funding mechanism to help them take their tested projects to the next stage. It brings together models of financing and methodologies used by venture capital funds and the principles of UNICEF'S award-winning Innovation Unit.

In order to qualify for funding, projects must be “open source” and have a working prototype, UNICEF said. They can involve developing a new technology, or expanding or improving an already existing one. The applications can be submitted until 26 February 2016.

“The purpose of the UNICEF Innovation Fund is to invest in open source technologies for children,” said Christopher Fabian, UNICEF Innovation Co-Lead. “We’ll be identifying opportunities from countries around the world including some that may not see a lot of capital investment in technology start-ups. We are hoping to identify communities of problem-solvers and help them develop simple solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing children.”

The fund focuses its investments on three portfolio areas:

• Products for youth under 25 to address a range of needs including learning and youth participation
• Real-time information for decision-making
• Infrastructure to increase access to services and information, including connectivity, power, finance, sensors and transport.

“These three areas are ripe for investment due to rapidly changing technologies such as blockchain, 3D printing, wearables and sensors, artificial intelligence and renewable energy,” Fabian said. 

UNICEF said that the applications will be assessed on the basis of several criteria such as the strength of the team, the project’s relevance to children, and the ability to see potential future value in the open source intellectual property being created.

UNICEF Innovation has already invested in technology solutions, such as RapidSMS, RapidPro and U-Report, which now reach millions of users.

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