2 August 2017, New York – Innovation and entrepreneurship are no longer just buzzwords for the private sector. They have been utilized by the public sector, large international organizations like the United Nations, and numerous NGOs. Earlier this year, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres even stated that “without innovation, there is no way we can overcome the challenges of our time”.

For Small Island Developing States and their unique challenges, including vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters, innovation and entrepreneurship are essential ingredients for economic growth and achieving the other elements of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The desire to ‘solve problems’ drives innovation and entrepreneurship and, through this lens, the unique challenges that small islands face can actually translate into unique solutions, new innovations, and creative businesses for SIDS populations.

One tool that has become more accessible to SIDS entrepreneurs are incubators and accelerators, which have been a mainstay in the technology startup scene for some time. These are specific programs setup to provide resources and often capital to entrepreneurs to help them build and scale their business ideas quickly. The idea behind these incubators and accelerators is to give entrepreneurs financial stability and resource access, allowing them to focus on innovating. In the private sector, businesses like Dropbox and Airbnb were founded inside famous accelerators like Y Combinator.

As the number of incubators and accelerators has grown globally, they have become more nuanced and often focus on selecting applicant entrepreneurs working in a specific industry, living in a specific country, or on solving a specific problem. Finding the right program that aligns with your comparative advantage as an entrepreneur is an important step in the application process.  In fact, across the three SIDS regions, startups and technology hubs are emerging where some the islands’ brightest minds are turning innovative ideas into marketable products.

For example, in Papua New Guinea, entrepreneurs have access to Kumul Gamechangers, a “development sector initiative to initiate and scale impact through start-up entrepreneurship”. The incubator isn’t focused on any specific sector or any particular region; they are simply looking for Papua New Guinea’s “new generation of entrepreneurial change makers”.

In the Caribbean, CaribbeanStartups.com calls itself “the home of the Caribbean’s startup ecosystem” and wants to ensure small businesses in the region have the support they need to scale up and succeed. They operate the First Carribean Startup Digital Accelerator, which offers a three-day accelerator program and a chance for the top 10 companies to pitch their ideas to investors, press, and global accelerators. Applications for the 2017 Batch are currently open.

Global competitions also exist that call for sector-specific innovations. For SIDS, countries like Vanuatu have seen their entrepreneurs (ALFA Fishing) succeed in competitions like the Fish 2.0 annual competition that links small businesses with investors to “build partnerships and momentum in the sustainable seafood sector”. Fish 2.0’s 2017 competition is underway, but entrepreneurs in the sustainable fishing space should apply for their 2018 competition when applications open early next year.

Of course, free online resources are accessible to entrepreneurs anywhere in the world. From learning how to code (Codecademy) to taking classes in accounting or other business functions (Coursera), there is a wealth of startup resources and support available to entrepreneurs.

Recognizing the challenges facing regional small businesses, a startup from Barbados, called Bitt, is using crypto-technology to help Caribbean businesses gain greater access to global markets. In partnership with the Central Bank of Barbados, Bitt used bitcoin blockchain to digitalize the Barbardian Dollar, making it easy for businesses to “send or receive money directly via their phones, in seconds, from all corners of the globe”. The FinTech (Financial Technology) company plans to digitalize all Carribean currencies in the upcoming years, financed in part by the recent US$4 million investment in Bitt from Overstock.com.

These rapid advances in information and communication technologies, coupled with the tools and opportunities for available to startups, suggest that there is no better time for entrepreneurs to establish dynamic and successful businesses.

 Feature Photo: Asian Development Bank/Flickr
 Article by Britt Martin

10 July 2017, New York – Article by Swimsol GmbH

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face numerous challenges in their struggle towards a sustainable future. Currently, SIDS are still heavily dependent on fossil fuel imports and rely strongly on diesel for their electricity production. This is not only environmentally damaging, but, perhaps even more important for the local population, it is also one of the most expensive forms of electrical energy.

The inherent geographical distance of islands from land masses makes grid connection to large grids with cheaper energy often not feasible. Land scarcity on islands is a constant pressure – some islands in the Maldives for example are less than 1 km². This makes space-consuming solar installations a near impossibility (1 MW of solar power requires land the size of a football field).

But small island states are also large ocean states.

“On the ocean, space is nearly unlimited. With SolarSea, we make solar energy possible beyond the limitations of land”, as Thomas Siebenbrunner put it during his presentation at the UN Oceans Conference on the 5th of June in New York. The idea of building a “Renewable Energy Hub” in the Maldives drove Swimsol, an Austrian start-up, to create an offshore solar solution capable of powering whole islands with solar at a price cheaper than they pay for electricity from diesel. The technology makes it possible to use the vast ocean surface for solar panels, and has a higher energy output than land-based solar systems due to the cooling effect of the ocean.

Swimsol calls this technology SolarSea, and it is the world’s first floating solar system for the sea. SolarSea is the first of its kind, successfully producing solar energy on a marine surface despite challenging conditions such as waves, wind, tides, and corrosive elements. The oldest commercial installation was installed already 2.5 years ago in the Maldives.

As laid out in the SAMOA Pathway, the transition towards sustainable energy is one of the top priorities for SIDS. Fewer diesel shipments generate substantial economic savings as well as help to safeguard the islands’ fragile coastal ecosystems, protecting them from damage due to air and water pollution.

Swimsol’s goal with SolarSea is to bring affordable, clean energy to island nations otherwise unable to access it. During the UN Oceans Conference, Swimsol submitted a voluntary commitment to help SIDS reach Sustainable Development Goal 14, which pertains to the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean. By building partnerships with SIDS and leveraging private and institutional financing, SolarSea technology will be brought to new locations and made accessible to islanders around the world. With their commitment, Swimsol aims to use “the ocean to create sustainable economic benefits for Small Island Developing States and to foster a blue economy”. The commitment will also reduce CO₂, thereby helping to counter ocean acidification and climate change.

Activities to fulfill the voluntary commitment are already underway. As a follow-up to the Oceans Conference, a briefing on SolarSea was hosted by the Austrian Mission to the UN on July 29th. Ambassadors and delegates from 10 interested states explored possibilities to introduce this new technology in their home countries and discussed the corresponding regulatory framework. And to move forward on the ground, Swimsol also just deployed a marine biologist to Fiji and the Pacific to conduct research, determine feasibility, and ultimately create new partnerships with SIDS to implement floating solar energy projects.

This isn’t the first time Swimsol has travelled halfway around the world for partnerships. In 2016, at the UN Aruba Public Private Partnerships Conference, they introduced SolarSea technology to participating SIDS and presented best practices on supporting islands to switch to renewable energy. In a project with the Austrian Development Agency, a model has been developed to fully finance SolarSea installations while guaranteeing monetary savings to the community. The project aimed at capacity building and creating local business partnerships. As a result, a 96 kWᵨ system was installed at a local island in Maldives in 2015. By now, floating solar has been identified as a key recommendation by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in its Renewable Energy Roadmap: Maldives 2015.

Swimsol is committed to making unlimited renewable energy possible for small islands and coastal cities, and continues to make strides towards ensuring that affordable, renewable energy is accessible to all.

The positions taken are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. This article was written by Kristen Dlugosch, the Sales & Partner Support Manager at Swimsol GmbH.

 Feature Photo: Courtesy of Swimsol

7 June 2017, New York – On the third day of the 2017 Ocean Conference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, global business leaders gathered at a side event to emphasize the private sector’s role in saving our oceans. The side event, titled The Ocean Business Community: Partnering for Implementation of SDG 14, was co-hosted by the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Ocean Council, and the United Nations Global Compact.

Mr. Paul Holthus, President and CEO of the World Ocean Council, chaired the meeting and explained the two roles his organization plays in engaging the private sector. The first is creating a partnership between industries that share a common reliance on the ocean for their business operations. Then, in its second role, the World Ocean Council works to connect this industry-diverse partnership with other ocean stakeholders, like the United Nations.

Along the same vein, participants heard from six business leaders, whose industries each rely heavily on the oceans and their resources, about their company’s efforts to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development,” as per SDG 14.

During her opening remarks, Ms. Louise Kantrow, Permanent Representative to the UN from the International Chamber of Commerce, called the private sector “a solution provider” and reiterated the importance of business partnerships with countries and communities most vulnerable to the effects of ocean degradation. “It is clear that business [is] going to play an important role,” Ms. Kantrow explained.

Serving as a “bridge to the private sector” for these countries and communities is the role assumed by the UN Global Compact, explained its Executive Director, Ms. Lise Kingo.

She continued by drawing a parallel between the conversation happening now about the oceans and that, which began over 20 years ago, about climate change. Despite the similar rhetoric, Ms. Kingo urged that “we don’t have another 20 years to figure it out for the oceans.” However, she concluded that on-boarding the private sector, at such an early stage, in the conversation around oceans was promising, because “when business gets involved, when everyone rallies around the agenda, we can make a real difference.”

The six private sector speakers represented a broad set of industries, including water management, seismology, wind power, sustainable seafood, cruise lines, and shipping, and discussed measures that they were independently undertaking to #SaveOurOceans. The speakers were as follows:

  • Jean-Louis Chaussade, CEO, Suez
  • Bard Stenberg, Vice President, PGS
  • Joao Metelo, CEO, Principle Power
  • Rich Stavis, CEO, Stavis Seafood
  • Donnie Brown, VP, Marine Policy, Cruise Line International Association
  • Simon Bennet, Director of Policy and Ext. Relations, International Chamber of Shipping

Across all six presentations, one common theme emerged. It was that regulation alone would be insufficient to mobilize industries to protect the oceans. Many speakers outlined that regulatory frameworks were challenging due to the indistinct jurisdiction of the oceans and the fact that “fish don’t respect borders”, as Mr. Rich Stavis of Stavis Seafood aptly put it.

There was a call for organizations to work with the private sector to create incentives designated to improve the alignment between business and environmental interests, through technology or partnerships. An example, suggested by Mr. Simon Bennet of the International Chamber of Shipping, was any technological innovation that could allow ships to utilize clean energy sources like hydrogen fuel cells. Another was finding true alternatives to plastic: “technological innovation is absolutely necessary to protect the oceans against plastic,” said Mr. Jean-Louis Chaussade, the CEO of Suez.

Ultimately, the prevailing sentiment was that integrating companies in tackling Sustainable Development Goal 14 has led to and will continue to result in the private sector leading conservation and protection efforts for our oceans. Integration with the business community is, as the event sponsors illustrated in their opening remarks, the best chance we have at saving our oceans.

Feature Photo: Britt Martin/UN-OHRLLS
Article by Britt Martin

The second annual Global Multi-stakeholder Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Partnership Dialogue will take place on 7 June 2017, 1.15-2.30 PM in ECOSOC Chamber, organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and the Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS) in consultation with the Steering Committee on Partnerships for SIDS, co-chaired by Maldives and Italy.

New York, 28 April 2017 – This month has seen a renewed focus on the private sector’s role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On April 5th, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) hosted a Global Forum on Development in Paris with the expressed purpose to “optimise the private sector’s role in advancing sustainable development”. The United Nations (UN) facilitated a one-day SDG Financing Lab at its headquarters in New York on April 18th; one aim of the Lab was to increase awareness of “the significant business opportunities provided by the SDGs”. Most recently, on April 20th, at the World Bank Group (WBG) Spring Meeting in Washington, DC, a session on Implementing The 2030 Agenda called on the WBG “to scale up its financing mobilisation efforts from both public and private sources”. Read More

New York, 21 April 2017 – IUCN Oceania’s Energy, Ecosystems and Sustainable Livelihoods Initiative (EESLI) has been funding renewable energy and energy efficiency development in 14 Pacific Island Countries through a multilateral agreement with the Governments of Austria, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain since 2008. The Energy Small Grants Programme will provide funding of up to US$20,000 for renewable energy & energy efficiency based projects in any of the participating countries, which currently include Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. Read More

New York, 2 February 2017 – For private sector interested in attending or learning more about The Ocean Conference, the Global Compact will be conducting a webinar on March 8th, 2017 at 10AM EST entitled: Conservation and Sustainable Use of Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources: Business Advancing the Implementation of SDG 14. The webinar will provide participants with an update on the process leading to The Ocean Conference and will highlight opportunities for private sector stakeholders to participate and contribute to this global effort for the implementation of SDG 14.  For more information and to register for the webinar, click here. Read More

New York, 17 February 2017 – The Common Fund For Commodities (CFC) is inviting applications for support of commodity development activities in its member countries*. All interested parties are kindly invited to submit qualifying proposals no later than April 30th, 2017. Read More

New York, 2 February 2017 – Article by Diego Acevedo, Co-Founder, Bluerise

Due to their small scale, most tropical islands suffer from high energy costs related to the import of liquid fuels, such as diesel or heavy fuel oil.  With conventional electricity costs often ranging well above 20 to 50 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour, these countries would benefit from the more rapid implementation of sustainable energy alternatives. Read More

New York, 26 January 2017 – The United Nations is set to convene the The Ocean Conference from June 5th-9th 2017 to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14. The Conference, to be held at UN headquarters in New York, is seen as a breakthrough for global commitment to reverse the decline in the health of the ocean with a strong focus on solutions and effective engagement by all stakeholders. Read More

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