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Posted On: 17 June 2015 04:04 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:15 pm

Challenge 22 Panel: ‘Innovation is a catalyst for economic development in the Middle East’ C22 programme ambassadors accompanied winners on their special nights

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The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC)’s Challenge 22 innovation award concluded this week with an award ceremony which featured a panel of experts who discussed how innovation has become a catalyst for economic development in the Middle East.

The panel included H.E. Dr Hessa Al Jaber, Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Mr. Fahd Al Rasheed, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Emaar Economic City, and Dr. Yasar Jarrar, Vice Chair of the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government World Economic Forum.

Moderated by Omar Christidis, Founder and CEO of ArabNet, the panel addressed the issues faced by entrepreneurs in the region, analysing how the private and public sectors can support innovators.

The panel discussed various topics of interest to regional innovators and entrepreneurs including the challenges that are hindering the Middle East from creating innovation on a global level, the benefits or opportunities that are unique to entrepreneurs working in the region and the role of government and semi-public institutions in fostering innovation and supporting small and medium businesses whether by direct funding or legislative reform. At the end the speakers reflected on their personal experience to help the participants develop a better understanding for the economic landscape in the region and how it is developing in the upcoming years.

Held at the Qatar National Convention Centre, the Challenge 22 Award ceremony was attended also by H.E. Dr. Abdullah Bin Saleh Al Khulaifi, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, and H.E. Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Wahid Al Hammadi, Minister of Education and Higher Education, and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani, President of the Qatar Football Association as well as the ambassadors of the programme: Sami Jaber, former captain of Al Hilal, Kuwaiti entrepreneur Areej Al-Kharafi, Qatari presenter Mohammed Saadoun Al-Kuwari.

Challenge 22 Phase 1 winners were the following six ideas: 'Tamm – A platform for connecting visitors with volunteer residents' by Dr. Maher Hakim, Fatima Yousuf Fakhro, Aysha Fakhroo and Ammar Abouelghar; 'Interactive 3D fan experience using Hologens' by Ali El Dous, Khalid Mohamed, Taofik Al Nass and Salman Badnava; 'Tactile palm communicator' by Thieab Ibrahim Aldossary and Rashid Battal Al-Dosari; 'FitPet – A health promotion app for Qatar' by Dr. Ingmar Weber, Dr. Yelena Mejova, Khalifa Al-Haroon and Hamad Al-Amari, 'Monitoring safe exercise' by Dr. Ahsan Khandoker and Dr. Hani Saleh; and 'Scalable Synthesis of expanded polystyrene (EPS)' By Dr. Khaled Saoud.

Some ideas came up after listening to experts talk about technology, others were a result of a few friends chatting about what residents of Qatar need when they arrive here for the first time, and others were aiming at providing sustainable cooling solutions. All innovators had one thing in common: their personal drive to keep working on their idea until it became a suitable proposal for the Challenge 22 innovation award.

The 18 finalists of Challenge 22 grouped in Doha three days before the award ceremony on 15 June to outline their proposals with the guidance of a number of coaches and experts, and ultimately learn from each other.

Amongst the six award winners was Team FitPet, who addressed the need to motivate young people in the region to live healthier and more active lives. Dr. Igmar Weber, one of the team members behind the app said: “For instance this pet can be a camel that will grow and be more powerful if the owner exercises and lives in a healthy way. Kids can play with their friends and they will have better chances to win if their pet is in good shape.”

Dr. Yelena Mejova, also from FitPet, explained that this idea came up in a brainstorming session that followed a visit to Georgetown University in Qatar, where they teach, by collaborators from MIT: “This got us thinking of the app we could create and, within basically a few hours, we came up with the idea.”

Abdulla Yousef Al Hoor one of the stars of one of Qatar’s most influential and viewed YouTube channels, the ‘Klmat Ras’ crew, is also a member of the FitPet team. He said: “I got pulled into this project through my partner Khalifa Al Haroon and due to my interest in sport. Being here and getting to meet people that are thinking in the same way has helped us understand that we can drive this forward.”

Only six teams could win, but all 18 finalists had the chance to attend the workshops and network with other entrepreneurs. This was the case for three engineers from Kuwait who came up with sustainable cooling system powered by solar energy. Mechanical engineer Abdulhadi Alhajeri, from Kuwait, explained that they came up with the idea before they heard about Challenge 22. “We planned this smart cooling system for a summer World Cup and we are confident it will be used in 2022,” he said.

His colleague Mahmoud Rababa, also an engineer, added that the workshops held prior to the final award ceremony have been very useful for them: “We have learnt how to communicate our idea, after all we are engineers and we have focused on the technical part. During these two days we have developed our presentation and our business plan.”

Meanwhile, Khaldoon Al Ashi, emphasised that their goal is to introduce a revolution in outdoor cooling in order to beat the heat and humidity using only solar energy, we don’t want to use traditional sources of energy.

For Khalid Al Misnad and his team, due to their background and experience, presenting a proposal for the event experience theme was a given. “My partner and I noticed there’s a lack of contact information when trying to reach an establishment in Qatar, there’s also basic problems trying to get there. This is why we’re looking at mapping everything out and using a review system so in 2022 people have credible information they can rely on in order to discover new places,” he explained.

Challenge 22 has awarded the winners with USD 20,000, as well as the opportunity to work with mentors in their field of interest, develop their idea into a prototype and ultimately the chance to showcase their ideas on a global platform.