NAIROBI, December 3, 2019: As the world celebrates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Global Disability Innovation Hub and Amref Enterprises Limited have today unveiled the five local entrepreneurs selected as finalists to the first cohort of the Innovate Now Accelerator Program.
The five start-ups were picked from a total of 30 applicants who presented their assistive technology solutions to improve the overall wellbeing of persons with disabilities. The Innovate Now Accelerator will support entrepreneurs through expert mentorship, user-centred design, user-testing through a network of Live Labs, as well as access to seed funding.
Innovate Now is part of the UK aid funded AT2030 Programme and is Africa’s First Assistive Technology Innovation Ecosystem and Start-up Accelerator. During the next three years, Innovate Now will support 60 start-ups a quarter of which will track to scale.
The finalists include Vijana Reloaded, a start-up involved in eye testing, fitting and glasses sale and distribution; Hope Tech plus, which creates small handheld devices that use sensors to detect obstacles and give feedback to the user through different vibration patterns; Linccel Technologies, which makes electric wheelchairs to aid in mobility; Syna Consultancy that has developed a portable commode-like toilet that equips persons with disabilities with an accessible, dignified and hygienic toilet as well as help elevate their social status and boost their self-esteem, and Toto SciLTD, which has created an intelligent smart stick that allows users to call for help at the click of a button.
“We have entrepreneurs in this Assistive Technology space. However, the majority of the businesses fail not because they are bad ideas, but because they lack funding since investors are unwilling to engage in businesses that have undefined costs and undetermined demand. We are certain that this accelerator program will help increase the demand for these technologies and ultimately help the businesses grow,” said Bernard Chiira, Innovate Now Director.
Selected through a judging process, the finalists will go through an intensive 6 months training and mentorship program, which will give them exposure to international investors and access to test facilities through live labs network that allow rapid Assistive Technology testing and feedback so as to ensure that the users of the innovations are at the heart of the product and service development.
With statistics showing that close to 1 billion people globally do not have access to Assistive Technology and the gap is likely to double by 2050, the Accelerator Program seeks to close the gap that exists between persons with disabilities and their access to assistive technologies. The program will also bring to light, discussions surrounding the plight of persons with disabilities.
“Assistive technology has for a long time been seen as the poor relation to medical healthcare technology. This shouldn’t be the case and won’t be for much longer. Assistive technology represents a huge growth market and one which Kenya is uniquely placed to leverage” said Cathy Holloway, Lead Judge of Innovate Now and Academic Director at the Global Disability Innovation Hub.
ABOUT INNOVATE NOW
The Innovate Now project provides advanced business and technical support to over 60 start-ups to develop assistive technology innovations, products and services. Innovate Now was launched in June 2019 and is funded by UKAid, through Global Disability Innovation Hub (AT2030 lead partner) and is being implemented by Amref Enterprises Limited (AEL) in Kenya.
The AT2030 programme will test, over five years, “what works” to improve access to AT and will invest £20m to support solutions to scale. With a focus on innovative products, new service models, and global capacity support, the programme will reach 9 million people directly and 6 million more indirectly to enable a lifetime of potential through life-changing Assistive Technology. AT2030 is led by the Global Disability Innovation Hub and is funded by UK aid from the UK Government.
ABOUT AMREF ENTERPRISES LIMITED
Amref Enterprises Limited (AEL) is the social enterprise arm of Amref Health Africa, the largest Africa-based international NGO. AEL is responsible for delivering sustainable social value through incubation and commercialisation of innovative solutions, conceptualised and developed throughout the organisation. AELs works to strengthen the primary health care system, in line with Amref Health Africa’s vision of creating lasting health change in Africa.
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Program Manager, Amref Enterprises
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