The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has launched a global Innovation Fund that seeks to invest a total of $9 million (R137 million) in tech startups coming up with solutions to help vulnerable children in developing countries.

The Innovation Fund combines models of financing and methodologies used by venture capital funds and the principles of UNICEF’S Innovation Unit, offering innovators a pooled funding mechanism to help them scale their tested projects.

“We’ll be identifying opportunities from countries around the world including some that may not see a lot of capital investment in technology start­ups. We are hoping to identify communities of problem solvers and help them develop simple solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing children,” Christopher Fabian, UNICEF Innovation Co­Lead said in a statement.

UNICEF said it is looking for projects increase the ability of children to access information and to increase opportunity and choice which must be aligned with any one of the following criteria:

  • Products must be targeted at youth under 25 and address a range of needs including learning and youth participation
  • Must provide real-time data help identify where disparities are greatest, who is being reached, who is not using essential services, and why this is the case
  • Must provide infrastructure to increase access to services and information, including connectivity, power finance, sensors and transport

Your startup must also be open source and have a working prototype.

“These three areas are ripe for investment due to rapidly changing technologies such as blockchain, 3D printing, wearables and sensors, artificial intelligence and renewable energy,” the fund said.

Applications will be assessed according to a number of criteria including the strength of the team, the project’s relevance to children, and the ability to see potential future value in the open source intellectual property being created.

Chosen startups will receive up to $100 000 (R1.5 million) in funding for their solutions.

African startups, including those from South Africa, which fit the above descriptions can apply for funding by submitting your application on the UNICEF Innovation Fund website by the 26th February.