Record number of startups applied for the WFP Innovation Challenge 2022 for climate action

Nyayuit collects water plants for fuel in South Sudan. WFP is piloting an innovation project, Sustainable Fuel for Cooking, that creates cooking fuel from water hyacinth, a low-cost, readily available raw material in South Sudan’s waterways. Photo: WFP/Eulalia Berlanga.

Applications came from 97 countries, with Nigeria leading the pack

Applications came from 97 different countries worldwide, led by Nigeria with 124 applications (15 percent), Kenya (14 percent), Uganda (10 percent), India (4 percent), and the United States (3 percent). Most applications were from emerging markets and countries where WFP operates, offering the potential to reach people in areas most affected by the climate crisis and hunger.

Most applications came from the Sub-Saharan African region

Submissions came from all regions of the world. More than two-thirds (70 percent) of applications came from countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, 9 percent came from Europe and Central Asia, and 7 percent from South Asia. The remaining 14 percent were distributed across the Middle East and North Africa, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific regions.

More than half came from lower-middle-income countries

By county income level, a large proportion of startups applied from lower-middle-income countries (52 percent, e.g., Nigeria and India) and low-income countries (25 percent, e.g., Uganda and Rwanda). This aspect is noteworthy. While climate change touches every inhabited region, not all are equally affected. In developing countries, extreme weather events have more than doubled since the 1990s. The impact of climate change is felt most acutely in low-income countries, which also have fewer resources to cope with the consequences.

One-quarter of applications came from women-led ventures

The WFP Innovation Accelerator, whose team is 66 percent female, is dedicated to advancing gender equality and paving the way to gender-transformative innovations. Innovation and technology sectors are still male-dominated. Studies show that women are underrepresented in startup founding, and women-led startups are less likely to obtain venture capital than men-led startups. Research also shows women are heavily underrepresented in patenting, but when they patent, they contribute different technology than male inventors, illustrating the importance of diversity in innovation.

Applications by innovation focus areas

When we called for applications, we listed WFP’s four priority areas for innovations in tackling the climate crisis, as shown in the below chart, including nature-based solutions, sustainable energy, preventive action, and financial safety nets. Climate action requires innovative solutions addressing these four areas, but indeed not every contribution has to cover all of them. In addition, teams with innovations that do not directly fall under these specific categories could still apply.

What’s next

Selected teams will get to participate in the next in-person or virtual WFP Innovation Bootcamp and pitch their idea to potential investors and partners. The results are expected in November 2022. The most promising projects will be considered for the WFP Sprint Programme and receive up to US$100,000 each to pilot in WFP’s humanitarian operations.

Ready for a new challenge?

We have just launched the next WFP Innovation Challenge calling for innovation projects worldwide to help address the global food crisis. Read the call for applications to find out more.

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

WFP Innovation Accelerator

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Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.