UAE firm backs global climate innovators

Winners of Crescent Enterprises and MIT Solve prize announced at COP28 in the UAE


Four start-ups have shared a US$200,000 (Dhs 735,000) prize pot after being selected as winners in the inaugural Crescent Enterprises Climate Innovation Prize announced at the COP28 Business & Philanthropy Climate Forum.

More than 45 social enterprises from the portfolio of MIT Solve, an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), pitted their ideas for new ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change to the UAE conglomerate.

The winning ideas included a blockchain-powered financial platform helping the unbanked, solar-powered cold storage rooms to preserve crops and food, and a seaweed-based plant food to capture methane and improve yields.

MIT Solve, home to the Elevate Prize, was set up to be a marketplace for social impact innovation to match promising entrepreneurs with funding. Philanthropists and organisations can donate directly or sponsor their own prizes. Focus areas include climate, community, health, youth innovation, and economic prosperity.

“A lot of the entrepreneurs that we work with have amazing ideas for solutions that we know will make a difference on the ground, but then there’s what we call a “valley of death”, before they can gain financial sustainability,” explained Hala Hanna, executive director at MIT Solve.

“This is where philanthropists come in,” she told Philanthropy Age. “We connect the entrepreneurs to philanthropy capital and over the past six years, we’ve been able to mobilise $70m.”

Winner Rumee Singh, co-founder of Rumsan, said she was “deeply honoured” to receive prize. “This recognition not only fuels our commitment to creating impactful change, but also highlights the promising impact of blockchain technology on climate-focused interventions.”

Symbosia’s CEO and founder, Alexia Akbay, added: “This prize is a game changer for climate startups the combination of catalytic non-dilutive capital and a platform at COP to engage with stakeholders has met us precisely where we need resources the most. Our team is grateful for the opportunities that have already emerged as part of this prize.” 

The four winners of the 2023 Crescent prize were:

Rumee Singh, co-founder of Rumsan in Nepal, whose blockchain-powered financial access platform Rahat allows the un- and under-banked to build resilience against the impact of climate shocks.

Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, founder and CEO of ColdHubs in Nigeria, which seeks to address the problem of food spoilage due to lack of cold storage by designing, installing, and operating 100 percent solar-powered walk-in cold rooms. These ‘ColdHubs’ are placed in outdoor food markets, horticultural produce collection centres and farm clusters that extend shelf life of perishable items.

Patipat Susumpao, managing director, OpenDream, in Thailand, has come up with the One Health Toolkit (OHTK), a software and eLearning series that trains farmers in identifying diseases sooner, enabling a faster response to early outbreaks in backyard farming.

Alexia Akbay, CEO and founder, Symbrosia, in the US, whose product SeaGraze™ reduces the carbon footprint by reducing methane output by  more than 85 percent and improves the productivity of ruminant livestock agriculture.