With global demand for water estimated to exceed sustainable supply by 40 per cent by 2030, a new collaboration on Tuesday sealed a USD 15 million funding for entrepreneurs who can drive innovation to tackle the freshwater crisis.
To drive the freshwater conservation and management agenda, leading global conglomerate HCL has partnered with UpLink, the open innovation platform of the World Economic Forum that connects highly promising startups with the partners and funding they need to scale. Through a USD 15 million investment over five years, HCL will accelerate the innovation agenda for water and create a first-of-its-kind innovation ecosystem for the global freshwater sector on UpLink.
The initiative draws on HCL’s regional experience of driving innovative projects in water conservation and brings global leaders and champions together to foster multi-stakeholder collaboration. “Today, freshwater resources globally are extremely burdened and every fifth child on this planet faces water scarcity,” said Roshni Nadar Malhotra, CEO of HCL Group and Chairperson of HCL Technologies.
“At HCL we want to make every effort to help resolve this global crisis. Our partnership with the World Economic Forum’s UpLink platform is a step in this direction and our ecosystem approach can be truly transformative. “Together we will not just encourage and scale innovations in this critical area but also help build capacity for water-focused entrepreneurs — so-called ‘aquapreneurs’ — to execute on the innovative solutions,” she added.
The new collaboration with UpLink encompasses building a freshwater innovation ecosystem that includes — running innovation challenges to source solutions from aquapreneurs; connecting these aquapreneurs to existing initiatives and water networks; unlocking funding opportunities to scale their ventures; and raising awareness on the global agenda of the importance of freshwater.
Together, HCL and UpLink aim to help aquapreneurs build their skills and leadership capacity. These combined efforts will drive and accelerate the innovation agenda for water and the sector’s mainstream ideas, approaches and solutions. “The Aquapreneur Innovation Initiative comes at a critical time,” said Olivier Schwab, Managing Director, World Economic Forum.
“With water scarcity enveloping regions around the world, we need to fast-track progress within the freshwater sector and build security for people and planet. HCL’s collaboration with UpLink will harness and drive forward the solutions of the world’s top innovators, connecting them to the initiatives and networks which can see them scale and drive transformational change for the world’s most fragile water systems,” Schwab said.
Innovation in freshwater management is also critical for water’s role in the transition to a green economy, as highlighted in the release of a new report in Davos on Tuesday — ‘Freshwater Future: Without Blue, There Is No Green Economy’. UpLink was launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in collaboration with founding partners Salesforce and Deloitte.
The platform sources new innovations through a competition framework known as Innovation Challenges. UpLink has run more than 30 challenges and identified over 260 entrepreneurs with innovative solutions for the world’s most pressing issues. With the global population set to hit 8.5 billion by 2030, pressure is increasing on the world’s limited supply of freshwater, Malhotra said at a press conference.
By 2030, the global demand for water will have exceeded sustainable supply by 40 per cent, she added. In addition to immediate and dire consequences to people’s health and food production, a lack of access to clean water can limit economic growth by up to one-third, as well as have adverse effects on natural biodiversity and social fabrics, Malhotra said.