UNICEF Venture Fund : Call For Innovative Child-Centred Climate Solutions

Our climate, our children, our call to action
At its very core, climate change is not just an environmental issue. It is an issue of rights, with the the rights of children at the centre.
Children are among the most vulnerable victims of floods, UNICEF said, citing example from this year’s major flood events in Pakistan, South Sudan, Chad, Nigeria and Yemen, among others. According to UNICEF, flooding leaves children at high risk of a multitude of threats including death by drowning, disease outbreaks, lack of safe drinking water, malnutrition, disruption in learning, and violence.
The aftermath of floods is often more deadly for children than the extreme weather events that caused the flooding. In 2022, floods have contributed to the increased spread of major killers of children, such as malnutrition, malaria, cholera and diarrhoea.


UNICEF VENTURE FUND : UNICEF Funding Opportunity for Climate Startups

The UNICEF Venture Fund is looking to make up to US$100K in equity-free investments to provide early stage (seed) finance to for-profit technology start-ups that have the potential to address climate change.  
UNICEF’s Venture Fund explores early-stage emerging technologies with the potential to impact children and young people. The Office of Innovation’s portfolio approach focuses its efforts on the most challenging problems UNICEF is trying to solve for and with children and young people, through 9 thematic portfolios. Through this call for proposals, we are seeking frontier tech solutions that can address problems across a variety of portfolios including climate change, WASH, youth and humanitarian portfolios. These portfolio areas, among others, prioritize solutions that improve service delivery and policies; empower and actively engage young people; and improve equity in access to essential services for children. 
If you’re a startup that is leveraging technology such as drones, blockchain, extended reality (XR), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) or new data science (DS), we’re looking for you. Send your idea if your product is registered in one of UNICEF’s programme countries, is a working prototype, has proven results, and is (or could be) open-source. 

The Challenge

UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index reveals that 1 billion children (nearly half of the world’s child population) are at ‘extremely high risk’ of the devastating impacts of climate change, with increased exposure to more frequent, intense, and destructive climate hazards including air pollution, water scarcity, heatwaves, vector-borne disease, cyclones, and river and coastal flooding. Over 850 million of these children are exposed to four or more of these climate stresses, putting their futures in peril, and making it extremely difficult for them to live, play, and thrive.  
Moreover, nearly 4 billion children who will be born across the globe over the next three decades will face rising threats to their survival and prosperity.  While global emissions reduction and removal is the only long-term solution to the climate crisis, investing extensively in climate adaptation and resilience measures can provide the most effective solution to reduce children’s overall climate risk and the loss and damage of climate change, and increase the resilience of children and their communities to current and future shocks. For example, investing in improved access to resilient water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and health and nutrition services, can considerably reduce overall climate risk for 415 million and 460 million children, respectively.  
To protect children, communities, and the most vulnerable from the worst impacts of the already changing climate, critical services must be adapted, including water, sanitation and hygiene systems, health and education services.    

What we’re looking for

We are currently looking to invest in companies developing software or hardware solutions using frontier technologies such as blockchain, drones, data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, or extended reality for climate action. Examples of areas of interest include, but are not limited to:  

Area 1: Are you developing platforms for climate or disaster analytics, predictions, or forecasting? This could include solutions such as:  

  • Mapping tools leveraging remote sensing or satellite imagery to improve service delivery for health, nutrition, water and waste management 
  • Leveraging drone technology to capture data for climate analytics; linking data collected by drones to data science to generate better insights for predictive models  
  • Using data science to understand the relationships between different variables that impact development indicators (i.e., learning, socio-economic, health, or infrastructure); including tracking and monitoring climate policies or climate finance investments to generate new insights from data 
  • Developing computing models to generate weather simulations for stable energy production that can generate insights for countries or specific regions   
  • 3D modelling for disaster simulations and long-term climate change projections  
  • Using ML/AI to predict water quality and groundwater levels in water scarce settings as well as identify and map deep groundwater aquifers   
  • IoT sensors for monitoring water quality and/or groundwater in real-time to generate better insights for predictive models and improve service delivery 

Area 2: Is your startup building tools to address climate and disaster risk mitigation? Or are you trying to use frontier technology to generate new insights from data to address the impact of climate risks? This could include solutions such as:   

  • Measuring socioeconomic effects of natural disasters, increase in temperature and precipitation on populations, e.g., using open drone imagery & AI to predict the impact of flooding on access to health services for children or leveraging AI to predict the effect of climate change on children 
  • Disaster alert monitoring and early warning systems and mitigation strategies  
  • Leverage AI for drone distribution to automate drone flight paths immediately after an emergency event to collect live imagery  
  • Building a data platform to store and rapidly assess damage caused after natural disasters, to promote child protection and safety in affected areas  
  • Using extended reality platforms to train first responders (or community members) in case of emergencies  

Area 3: Is your startup creating solutions to contribute to a greener economy? Or is your solution empowering communities, children and young people to meaningfully engage with systems in new ways for disaster and climate action? This could include solutions such as:   

  • Low-cost renewable and self-sustainable energy solutions for health and education institutions 
  • Extended reality applications to help governments visualize climate change and its effects; or to teach children about climate change using predictions impact scenarios 
  • Promoting climate positive action through gamified applications or tokens 
  • Enabling certifying or auditing organizations to easily start providing verifiable certificates on the blockchain, which can eventually be tied to real-world action and tracked on-chain  
  • Generating new data through field data collection, crowdsourcing or social network platforms   

Area 4: Are you creating solutions for predicting, measuring or accounting carbon emissions? Or are you providing new ways to incentivize or deliver carbon offsets? This could include solutions such as:  

  • Using data science for accurate and verifiable measurement of carbon emissions or predictive carbon/greenhouse gas emissions that can enable governments to make climate-informed policy decisions, as well as develop forecasts based on current emissions 
  • Developing a smart contract-based carbon credit ecosystem 
  • Carbon capture and storage technologies related to local polluting sources  
  • Pooling green energy markets using smart contracts  
UNICEF’s Venture funding is not necessarily limited to the above. We are interested in companies that use frontier technologies in new, groundbreaking, ways that are scalable, and globally applicable.  

If you meet the UNICEF Venture Fund criteria, we want to hear from you.  

Female-founded startups are encouraged to apply. 
Application Deadline: 9 January 2023