Zayed Sustainability Prize opens applications to innovators with $3m in prize money


The Zayed Sustainability Prize is calling on African innovators who have solutions that address some of the world’s biggest sustainability challenges to enter its 2021 edition.

Offering an annual winners’ total reward pool of $3-million ($600 000 to the winner of each category), the award is the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) bid to reward impact, innovation, and inspiration across five sustainability categories.

The Global High Schools category is split into six world region winners, with each school able to claim up to $100,000 to start or augment their project in their local communities.

Applications close on 21 May.

The Zayed Sustainability Prize offers a pool of $3m in prize money for five category winners

Now entering its 13th submissions cycle, the prize has already awarded a total of 86 winners whose solutions or school projects have directly and indirectly, positively transformed the lives of 335 million people, around the world.

Last year 2373 entries were received from 129 countries, with Nigeria among the top five of all countries globally among applications.

Earlier this year Okuafo Foundation, a Ghana-based startup won the prize in the food category (see this story).

Evaluation criteria

While the scope of submissions varies, core elements of each entry must lie in the innovative ways in which technology, applications and solutions are driving positive transformation of people’s lives.

For the health, food, energy, and water categories, organisations should demonstrate that they are improving access to essential products or services and have a long-term vision for improved living and working conditions.

Additionally, many technological-based solutions often integrate with impactful long-term programmes and mechanisms like practical skills training, social entrepreneurialism, and gender empowerment.

The evaluation of the health, food, energy and water categories focuses on three core criteria: impact, innovation, and inspiration which are described as follows:

  • For “impact”, submissions must demonstrate improved quality of human lives in a social, economic, technological, infrastructural, or environmental capacity.
  • For “innovation”, candidates should show a clear and unique value proposition, be disruptive or transformative, technically and commercially viable, and have been adopted in at least one market.
  • The “inspiration” criterion requires organisations to demonstrate shared values with Sheikh Zayed’s sustainability approach, have the potential to influence behaviour and actions in the wider community, and encourage others to develop complementary solutions for the advancement of sustainable and human development.

For the Global High Schools category, each school’s project should be designed to be student–led with emphasis placed on the students being actively involved in the planning, implementation, and monitoring processes.

Similar to the other categories, projects should demonstrate innovative approaches that will also be impactful and inspirational to others. The six world regions of the Global High Schools category are: The Americas, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East & North Africa, Europe & Central Asia, South Asia, and East Asia & Pacific.

Evaluation process

The Zayed Sustainability Prize has a three-stage evaluation process, beginning with due diligence conducted by an independent research and analysis consultancy.

This identifies the qualified entries and results in the selection of shortlisted candidates. Afterwards, evaluations are undertaken by a Selection Committee consisting of category-specific panels of independent international experts.

From this shortlist of candidates, the finalists are chosen and then sent to the prize jury who will select the final winners, across all five categories.

Winners of the Zayed Sustainability Prize 2021 will be announced during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, in January next year.

Read more: Ghanaian agritech startup Okuafo Foundation wins $600k Zayed Sustainability Prize

Featured image: A group photo of the category winner for the 2020 Zayed Sustainability Prize with HH Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed along with various heads of state (Supplied)



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