Dutch startups scoop grants from Expo 2020 Dubai to tackle deforestation and introduce children to design new solutions for global problems

Land Life aims to plant up to 50,000 trees annually using new solution

Designathon Works challenges children to help solve global challenges

Winners may get chance to showcase ideas to millions at Expo 2020

Dutch startups Land Life Company and Designathon Works have each won an Expo Live grant from organisers of the next World Expo, which will be held in Dubai in 2020.

Amsterdam-based Land Life Company aims to restore arid and degraded land worldwide by using its innovative ‘Cocoon’ – a low-cost, water efficient and biodegradable tree planting solution being used to reforest areas such as Zambia, Cameroon, Peru and Chile.

The Cocoon concept is able to increase the number of trees that successfully grow to maturity, while cutting the use of water needed by 90% or more, without additional assistance. By involving young people in tree-planting, it also creates jobs and stimulates economic growth.

Meanwhile, Designathon Works, an educational programme for 7-12 year olds, takes design thinking and applies it to topics like waste, water, and housing. The idea is that children can design solutions to big problems, to create the next generation of changemakers.

Expo 2020 Dubai’s Expo Live programme has an allocation of USD 100 million, to back projects that offer creative solutions to pressing challenges that impact people’s lives, or help preserve the world – or both. Organisers are looking for projects that would not reach their full potential without its support.

Expo Live is not disclosing the amount for each project it is supporting but has said it would grant up to USD 100,000 per initiative for its Innovation Impact Grant Programme.

Rebekah Braswell, Director of Land Life Company, said: "With the help of Expo Live, we can achieve our goal to build a strong demonstration project in Zambia and then to scale up operations across three countries and achieve greater, global impact. Scaling up our land restoration projects from planting tens of thousands of trees to hundreds of thousands of trees, enables us to establish local operations and production. For this project, scaling up is a game changer, allowing us to reduce the cost of production and technology, reduce transport time, carbon footprint, and create more jobs. In short; generate a sustainable way of living, both environmentally and economically.

"This reforestation project has a sustainability focus, but with the help of Expo 2020 Dubai we can layer in the education piece in collaboration with UNICEF, critical to creating opportunity for Zambia’s youth which make up 75% of the Zambian population. In addition, we will create knowledge sharing platforms to be utilised by stakeholders of the project, a virtual workplace for data and learnings to be documented and shared anytime, anyplace. A last goal that Expo 2020 will help us achieve is to move into carbon trading and carbon credits, exposing the local stakeholders to an international market place, increasing their economic mobility."

Emer Bearner, Founder and designer of Designathon Works, said: "Children all over the world are concerned about the society they live in and the future of the planet. They want to contribute to bulling a better world. They are eager to be heard and to think about social and environmental issues such as food, waste, mobility, or the future of their own neighborhood.

"Creativity, technology & social awareness, during a Designathon the children’s motivation is facilitated through a design thinking process. The students define a problem perspective within the theme, then ideate a solution, translate this to a 2D sketch and finally make an extensive prototype. With this method, children learn to apply their creativity to challenging issues and to develop technical knowledge through prototyping with basic electronics like motors, LED lights and the Micro:Bit.

"With the support of EXPO2020 we will both expand our annual Global Children’s Designathon event to 15 countries and develop tools so that teachers around the world can deliver the program themselves in their classrooms. This process has already started with pilots in five schools in the Netherlands and by joining forces with a consortium which will work with 80 schools in Amsterdam."

World Expos, which trace their origins back to the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, have always celebrated the latest in innovation and technology.

The Expo Live programme was launched in January 2017, following a pilot phase last year. It aims to stimulate innovation that has a social benefit, by supporting winning projects with funding, business guidance and promotion. Successful applicants will also have the chance to showcase their work to many millions of visitors to Expo 2020 Dubai.

Expo organisers received 575 responses to their initial call for proposals. This was whittled down to just 29 winners.

Expo Live Vice-President, Yousuf Caires, said: "With the challenges of climate change and population growth, preserving our natural resources is becoming ever more pressing. The ability to reforest large areas more quickly, easily and affordably would be a huge help in many parts of the world, so we are pleased to be able to support Land Life Company as they work to scale up their solution to this challenge.

"The Netherlands is one of the world's most innovative countries, and I'm excited to see that being encouraged in the next generation by Designathon Works' inspired idea of applying design thinking to an educational setting - helping young children to explore the big issues facing society and to contribute their ideas to addressing them.

"These are real change-makers addressing our world’s most pressing challenges; they are visionaries who are determined to see their projects bring meaningful change to those that need it. We are fortunate to have them on our programme and look forward to walking by their side on their path to success.

"Their work speaks for itself and deserves the financial support from our programme, but it is their character, their drive and their reasons for choosing this path – the path of a change-maker – that earns them a place in our Expo Live family and the opportunity to inspire millions at Expo 2020 Dubai."

Expo Live’s flagship Innovation Impact Grant programme is open for submission twice a year. The programme supports projects from around the world whose solutions generate social and environmental value and are in line with Expo 2020 Dubai’s subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. Interested applicants can find out more on: www.expo2020dubai.ae/expo-live.

To find out more about the winning projects visit: www.landlifecompany.com and www.designathonworks.com.

Source: Press release Dubai Expo2020