Innovation – highlights of Expo 2020

The first World Expo – the Great Exhibition – took place in London in 1851.


Innovation is at the heart of Expo 2020, so I thought it worthwhile for me to share my thoughts on some of the most innovative aspects of the mega event.

While the Expo is centred around three core themes – Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity – since the very first Expo event, innovation has been the overarching driver. World Expos are a chance for global innovators to showcase their talent to everyone.

The first World Expo – the Great Exhibition – took place in London in 1851. The concept became popular, so plans were made to repeat it across the globe.

Since then, the events have been organised around a theme, designed to improve humankind’s knowledge, take into account human and social aspirations and highlight scientific, technological, economic and social progress.

Theme Weeks that address global challenges

Inspiring new perspectives are certain to be found among the 200+ pavilions at Dubai Expo 2020, tackling the biggest challenges and opportunities of our time, from climate to connectivity, space exploration to the future of human health.

Ten themed weeks run throughout the six months of Expo 2020 Dubai. Whatever your area of interest or expertise, you should be sure to get involved in the global debates the event is set to spark.

The ten weekly themes are:

  • Climate & Biodiversity
  • Space
  • Urban & Rural Development
  • Tolerance & Inclusivity
  • Knowledge & Learning
  • Travel & Connectivity
  • Global Goals
  • Health & Wellness
  • Food, Agriculture & Livelihoods
  • Water
Programme for People and Planet

This aspect of Expo, the Programme for People and Planet, is another scheme designed to foster communication, knowledge sharing and innovation.

Throughout Expo, all participants are invited to join in the pursuit of a cleaner, safer and healthier future for all.

The idea of this programme is that “when we unite as one and take personal and collective responsibility, our shared impact will make a difference in the quality of life for generations to come,” according to the event’s organisers.

It’s a truly impressive array of more than 220 events, from large forums and public conventions to seminars and workshops.

Underpinned by themes of technology and innovation, youth and women and girls’ empowerment, the programme will deliver an unparalleled array of perspectives, fostering exchanges of impactful ideas between leading experts (including wildlife advocate Dame Jane Goodall, Eden Project founder Sir Tim Smit, and HE Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology and the woman behind the Emirates Mars Mission), the 192 nations participating in Expo 2020, as well as business leaders and the wider global community.

Expo Live

Expo Live is another exciting programme designed purely to encourage innovation throughout the event.

It aims to make Expo 2020 Dubai an engine of global innovation that inspires and acts as a catalyst for creative, scalable solutions.

In my experience, I have seen how partnerships help foster innovation. The Expo 2020 organisers plan to establish a partnership network for collaboration between nations, organisations and innovators via shared global challenges.

What could spark innovation better than the funds to pursue your idea? As part of Expo Live, some US$100,000 is available via the Innovation Impact Grant Programme.

Designed to help fund innovative solutions that aim to make the world a better place, the scheme has attracted 11,000 applicants from 140 innovators, spanning 76 countries. You can see them here, a list that makes for fascinating, inspiring reading.

The dedicated Expo Live pavilion is probably where you’ll find me.

Innovation from Education 

Part of the Expo Live innovation plan is also grant funding for universities, encouraging talented young minds to pursue their new ideas, with grant funding of AED50,000 available.

Primarily aimed at university students aiming to solve global problems that affect the region, this scheme has already seen 46 grantees at 19 universities awarded research and development of up to AED50,000. I will be excited to see what becomes of the R&D, fuelled by these generous grants.

The Wow Factor

Innovation is on every path and pavilion at the Expo, and visitors are guaranteed to be wowed. From the army of 150 service robots to a vision of air travel in 2071, there’s something for everyone.

The wow factor is present in every aspect of the event. Look out for the solar ’trees’ that also condense water and the traditional Emirati falaj irrigation channels. For me, the wow factor permeates through all the sustainable initiatives and the innovation aspects.

I’ve been consistently impressed and excited to learn about the plans for Expo, and how it’s come together is a testament to the incredible vision of our leaders. Let me know what you’ll be looking out for at Expo 2020 – and see you there!

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