Le Gouvernement du Grand-Duché du Luxembourg
World Food Programme’s Humanitarian Innovation Accelerator

Innovation and technology for meeting humanitarian needs

On 29 June 2023, Luxinnovation co-organised the pitch event of the World Food Programme’s Humanitarian Innovation Accelerator at Luxexpo The Box. For CEO Sasha Baillie, innovation and technology are key elements for responding to the needs arising in a rapidly changing world.

The Humanitarian Innovation Accelerator (HIA) Programme is aimed at promoting the development of innovative solutions enabling humanitarian players to respond to highly complex challenges in very difficult conditions. The programme specifically targets innovations in the fields of space technology, data science and artificial intelligence, healthcare technology, supply chain and logistics.

Through the HIA, we want to make the very best of innovation available for humanitarian purposes.

16 companies from 14 different countries participated in the pitch event held on 29 June in Luxembourg and presented their innovative solutions to an audience of potential partners and investors. The event was co-funded by the Directorate for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Action of the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), and co-organised by the World Food Programme (WFP) and Luxinnovation.

“Through the HIA, we want to make the very best of innovation available for humanitarian purposes, and I’m particularly proud that Luxembourg is able to play its part in this,” commented Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs Franz Fayot.

Innovating in a dramatically changing world

Luxinnovation welcomed this opportunity to support the HIA. “The world around us is changing dramatically and at an exponential rate – in just the past few years, we have been struck by a global pandemic that has made us all aware of how vulnerable we are; war has returned to Europe with the Russian aggression on Ukraine; our energy system is facing major upheaval and the effects of climate change have become tangible to each and every one of us,” says Sasha Baillie, CEO of Luxinnovation. “At the same time, technology offers solutions that have a tremendous potential of helping to solve the world’s most serious challenges – if channelled correctly and kept in line with our fundamental values of human rights and democracy.”

Technology offers solutions that have a tremendous potential of helping to solve the world’s most serious challenges.

The innovation agency is constantly developing its activities to meet the needs emerging in a changing environment. “Whatever support we offer our companies and our economy, we must factor in the new environment, the problems it is facing and the technology that is out there to address these challenges,” Ms Baillie points out. “Over the past few years, we have already integrated the notion of sustainability into all the services we offer so that innovation is truly a means not only to render our companies and our economy more competitive, but to render them sustainable: respectful of the environment, of the resources on this planet and of the human being.”

This approach is clearly reflected in the support Luxinnovation provides to companies. “In parallel with advising companies about R&D and innovation funding, we also support them with a constantly increasing number of applications for environmental protection funding tools,” explains Barbara Grau, Head of Corporate R&D and Innovation Support, who also represented Luxinnovation in the Innovation Committee of the HIA. “We supported companies applying to Luxembourg’s first-ever call for social innovation projects launched a few months ago. We are also more and more sensitive to other aspects of innovation projects that relate to sustainability – environmental impact, but also diversity, gender balance and gender perspective, for example.”

Potential for more

The HIA focuses on humanitarian innovation in fields such as health, water, energy, education and emergency telecommunications. “Challenges in these fields can be addressed much more efficiently and effectively through innovation and technology,” underlines Ms Baillie. “Seeing how the teams presenting at the pitch event use cutting-edge technology to solve pressing human needs was tremendously inspiring. This will certainly drive us further in our efforts to render our companies increasingly innovative and eager to develop solutions that can contribute to solving the problems our planet is facing.”

I am convinced that Luxembourg’s innovative can-do spirit will give birth to further innovative public-private ventures.

One of the pitching companies, cloud-based Earth observation analytical platform WASDI, is from Luxembourg and presented how its solutions can be used to support disaster prevention as well as the response and assessment of floods, droughts and resettlements. “This is an inspiration to many others within our ecosystem. I am convinced that Luxembourg’s innovative can-do spirit will give birth to further innovative public-private ventures such as emergency.lu, our mobile satellite communications platform that supports the coordination efforts of humanitarian organisations in disaster situations,” Ms Baillie concludes.

Photos: © Luxinnovation/Sophie Margue

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