UNCDF and CCA Announce Winners of the Digital Innovation Challenge
July 19, 2023 — The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA) are delighted to unveil the winners of the Digital Innovation Challenge for clean cooking. This is the first round of the newly established Innovation Challenge Facility by the Global Partnership between UNCDF and CCA. Four innovative groups emerged from an impressive cohort committed to tackling one of today’s most pressing issues: achieving universal access to clean cooking by 2030.
With some 2.3 billion people globally living without access to clean fuels and technologies, the Digital Innovation Challenge is supporting approaches that can improve financial access for clean cooking companies. The bootcamp winners presented robust solutions to address the challenges of finance, data, and information that currently hamper clean cooking companies from expanding their reach and providing much-needed solutions. Many of the bootcamp winners are providing digital solutions that also bridge gaps between clean cooking and finance from commercial markets and carbon credits.
Following a 3-day bootcamp in Nairobi, Kenya, the finale saw all 10 teams present a compelling, 10-minute pitch, after which they engaged in a thorough Q&A session with the jury panel and discussed their proposals. The jury panel, composed of representatives from UNCDF, CCA, and BIX Capital, then had the challenging task of selecting the winners.
“We would like to extend our congratulations to the winning companies and express our gratitude to all participants. We are optimistic about the substantial impact that these innovations will make in advancing clean cooking solutions,” said Vincent Wierda, UNCDF Inclusive Digital Economy Energy Lead.
The winners are:
- Climate Solutions Consulting: Their on-stove-digital-usage tracking solution promises to streamline measurement processes for carbon and results-based financing projects, in turn facilitating increased financing opportunities.
- ECS: Their pioneering tokenization system for clean cooking carbon credits stands to revolutionize the carbon credit issuance process and broaden access to carbon finance and premium credits.
- Carbon HQ: Leveraging an intuitive carbon project management platform, the company aims to leverage automation to reduce inefficiencies and costs associated with carbon projects, making it easier for project developers to set up and manage a large portfolio of carbon projects.
- Nithio: Utilizing its AI-enabled platform for financing, Nithio aims to support the scale up of investment into the clean cooking sector by increasing transparency and accuracy of credit risk assessments and impact data.
Each winning team will now transition to the six-month Acceleration Phase, benefitting from an innovation prize and technical assistance. The Acceleration Phase will demonstrate the cost savings achieved through clean cooking and access the necessary financing that these solutions can deliver. This phase will also focus on expanding the pipeline of clean cooking enterprises and attracting financiers to increase the impact of these initiatives. The enterprises will receive support to deepen the development of their products and solutions for the clean cooking market. They will also assess the feasibility of their solutions through pilots and data research, while simultaneously addressing risks and bottlenecks to enhance product and business model design.
Furthermore, all 10 participants will continue to receive access to the CCA Venture Community Platform and UNCDF opportunities, thereby enhancing avenues for networking and learning as they continue to build their understanding of carbon markets and investment readiness.
“We are excited about the prospect of disrupting traditional business models used to raise investments and funds by clean cooking companies, and to source deals or assess the underlying assets in clean cooking companies by investors,” said Feisal Hussain, CCA’s Senior Director for Innovative Finance. “By combining state-of-the-art technology, data, and automation, the winners of the Digital Innovation Challenge offer the tantalizing prospect of a world where investments can more easily flow while democratizing the process of raising funds and investments.”
The journey of these winning pitches is far from over; it is just heating up.
The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is the United Nations’ flagship catalytic financing entity for the world’s 46 Least Developed Countries (LDCs). With its unique capital mandate and focus on the LDCs, UNCDF works to invest and catalyse capital to support these countries in achieving the sustainable growth and inclusiveness envisioned by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Doha Programme of Action for the least developed countries, 2022–2031.
UNCDF builds partnerships with other UN organizations, as well as private and public sector actors, to achieve greater impact in development; specifically by unlocking additional resources and strengthening financing mechanisms and systems contributing to transformation pathways, focusing on such development themes as green economy, digitalization, urbanization, inclusive economies, gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.
A hybrid development finance institution and development agency, UNCDF uses a combination of capital instruments (deployment, financial & business advisory and catalysation) and development instruments (technical assistance, capacity development, policy advice, advocacy, thought leadership, and market analysis and scoping) which are applied across five priority areas (inclusive digital economies, local transformative finance, women’s economic empowerment, climate, energy & biodiversity finance, and sustainable food systems finance).
The Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA) works with a global network of partners to build an inclusive industry that makes clean cooking accessible to the 2.3 billion people who live each day without it. Established in 2010, CCA is driving consumer demand, mobilizing investment to build a pipeline of scalable businesses, and fostering an enabling environment that allows the sector to thrive. Clean cooking transforms lives by improving health, protecting the climate and the environment, empowering women, and helping families save time and money.