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New Startup Accelerator Will Catalyze Cleantech in the Middle East

Panelists from The Catalyst program announcement (from left to right): Dr. Ahmad Belhoul, CEO of Masdar; Dr. Behjat Al Yousuf, Interim Provost of the Masdar Institute; HE Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar; and Abdulkarim Almazmi, President and General Manager of BP UAE. | Image Credit: Masdar

Renewable energy company Masdar kicked off its Innovation Week activities by announcing the Middle East’s first startup accelerator focused on sustainability and clean tech. Masdar, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (Masdar Insitute), and oil giant BP launched the accelerator, called The Catalyst, to provide funding, training, and mentorship to startups focused on ‘sustainable technologies.’

“In the nine years since our inception, Masdar has transformed from a bold idea into a commercially-viable renewable energy company. We want to leverage our own experience – as well as our unique infrastructure and assets at Masdar City - to create a platform for startups with similarly bold visions for sustainable technologies and turn their ideas into commercial realities,” said Dr. Ahmad Belhoul, CEO of Masdar. “We are pleased to partner with BP and Masdar Institute to catalyse innovation in line with the call to action by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the UAE [United Arab Emirates] leadership.”

His Highness announced the UAE’s National Innovation Strategy last year, which outlined 30 national initiatives including the launch of new innovation incubators. The strategy focuses on seven sectors: renewable energy, transport, education, health, technology, water, and space. Masdar City itself was designed to rely on renewable energy and be a hub for clean tech companies. The Masdar Institute was the city’s first tenant and is a graduate-level university focused on researching energy, clean tech, and environmental sustainability. The Catalyst will play into the strategy by promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, and the development of a knowledge-based economy in both Masdar City and nearby Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital city.

The accelerator will accept applications from startups that are 1-5 years from commercialization and have a potentially patentable technology in the fields of energy, water and clean tech. Successful applicants will receive up to $50,000 (US) in seed funding and up to 6 months of support, training, advice, and work space to help them grow their business. BP supported the program with $5 million (US) in funding.

Mr. Abdulkarim Almazmi, President and General Manager of BP UAE said, “BP is a corporation anchored in technological innovation. Our business relies on the ability of our brightest minds to innovate, so we are proud to support a programme that will develop innovative capacity in the UAE through training, mentorship and access to industry experts.”

The Catalyst is currently accepting applications for its spring 2016 cohort through its online application portal. A series of hackathons and innovation boot camps will be held to determine the first group of participants. The program will include education, investment pitch preparation, hands-on mentorship, and a Demo Day, and will run twice per year with ten startups in each cohort.

Hannah Furlong is one of Sustainable Brands's Contributing Writers, based in Canada. She is researching the circular economy as a Master's student in Sustainability Management at the University of Waterloo and holds a Bachelor's in Environment and Business Co-op. Hannah… [Read more about Hannah Furlong]

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