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UNICEF Welcomes its Fourth Investor to the Innovation Fund

Jul 19 , 2016
Yasmin, in school in inland Bahia, Brazil.
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UNICEF will use this money to continue investing in new, open-source technologies that can advance the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children.


With recent contributions of EUR €1.5 million from the Government of Finland, the UNICEF Innovation Fund has now raised over USD $10.6 million to help invest in the creation of innovations that help children worldwide.


“This contribution from the Government of Finland shows us they are forward-looking partners who recognize the value of investing in innovation to find new ways to solve problems for children,” said Christopher Fabian, UNICEF Ventures.


UNICEF’s work to register births via SMS, share real-time data to improve education and health, and give young people a way to connect with their governments, are examples of ways the organization is using quickly-changing technology to solve intractable problems. To keep up with the pace of evolving challenges, UNICEF must continue incorporating new solutions into programmes.

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund uses venture capital methodologies to accelerate the creation of solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. The Fund invests in technology start-ups in UNICEF’s 135 programme countries, and looks to provide early stage capital investment to companies that have both a social good mission and a potential to grow. All investments are in open source technology stacks, which UNICEF Innovation will pool to create global public goods whose value to investors is greater than the sum of their parts.


The Innovation Fund model focuses on early stage investments in order to help companies, which might otherwise not be able to create pathways to scale for their open source technology solutions, build their capacity. The Innovation Fund specifically looks at investments in companies where there is a need for solutions for a billion people, and where there is also a potential for global industry to grow to $100 billion dollar business.

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund uses venture capital methodologies to accelerate the creation of solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

In many cases these solutions are in technology areas that didn’t exist five years ago, so providing early stage investments also allows UNICEF to become familiar with new technology before it becomes mainstream. The Fund is particularly interested in investing in rapidly-changing technology areas such as blockchain, which may have application to identity; 3-D printing, which can help us understand the future of supply chain; and areas of big data and network infrastructure which will help us do our jobs faster and better. Investing in companies which have expertise in this space allows UNICEF to use its global scale to connect companies to each other and help them go faster, and also helps UNICEF unearth solutions that we might not have otherwise known about.


In February 2016, UNICEF launched its first call for technology startups that meet the Fund’s criteria to apply for funding. The Fund received more than 640 applications from 92 countries. By the end of 2016, the Fund will make its first funding decisions and will issue the second open call for applications.


UNICEF Innovation has previously invested in and developed open source technology solutions, such as RapidSMS, RapidPro, and U-Report, which now reach millions of users.

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