KAUST launches new accelerator to support entrepreneurship

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King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) launched Taqadam last week, a new university startup accelerator encouraging student projects.

The launch was in partnership with the Saudi British Bank (SABB).

The fresh initiative aims to provide both financial and global mentoring services for startups launched by students, recent graduates and faculty members at Saudi universities. The program will initially gather teams from seven universities in the western region in Saudi Arabia, before scaling to cover the entire kingdom.

“We are excited for this partnership with SABB. We are expecting it to lead to some promising startups,” said KAUST deputy vice president and interim director of technology transfer office Tristan Walker in a statement last week.

Last year, the university took on the task of building the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Saudi Arabia.

Accepted teams must have a commercially viable idea - a knowledge base, new technology, product or service - that can be turned into a company or a startup.

This accelerator, organized by the KAUST entrepreneurship center, is a six month program that will host 20 to 30 teams. The teams with the most potential will receive seed funding from SABB and the KAUST Innovation Fund of between $20,000 to $40,000.

“Entrepreneurship at the university is more than a class or a program. It is a mentality running through the veins of the entire institution,” said Gordon McConnell, head of the entrepreneurship center in KAUST. “This new startup program with SABB is nothing but a reflection of the ongoing support KAUST is giving the growing ecosystem in Saudi Arabia, especially in Saudi universities.”

Taqadam’s statement said it aims to produce the next big idea in areas such as fintech, smart city solutions, sensors, internet technologies, new materials, food/agriculture, consumer products and sustainable technologies in solar, oil, gas and water.

“This program will provide great support for the effort Saudi universities are making in order to market their students’ and instructors’ ideas and inventions,” said David Dew, managing director of SABB. “It will also focus on startups, especially those working in on fintech technologies in light of the fast evolution of this sector around the world and the great potential it has amongst users and companies.”

Taqadam has begun accepting applications for its first cycle of startups. Click here to register before the November 9, 2016 deadline.

Feature image via KAUST.

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