Sharjah 24: In anticipation of World Environment Day on the 5th of June, the Access Sharjah Challenge (ASC) — an initiative developed by the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) — emerges as a force of change, propelling the world towards a future marked by innovative solutions and sustainable practices. With an impressive array of entries from around the globe, the ASC 2023 has concluded its application process, drawing attention to the urgent need for environmental action.
Aligned with the UAE's dedication to environmental stewardship naming 2023 as "The Year of Sustainability," this year's challenge, endorsed by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change & Environment and in partnership with BEEAH Group and Sharjah Sustainable City, emboldens entrepreneurs to turn their visions into reality while bolstering Sharjah's standing as a global sustainability leader. Winners of ASC 2023 will receive comprehensive business setup support through a paid contract for implementation, mentorship, and recognition and the opportunity to engage in the UAE's Year of Sustainability initiatives and showcase their ideas. The challenge offers a global stage for creative ideas and problem solving, reinforcing Sharjah’s position as a leading authority in green businesses.
Elevating entrepreneurs to meet the environmental challenges in the world
ASC 2023 consists of two categories, both of which seek achievable solutions to the environmental concerns within cities. The first category, "Achieving Net Zero," in collaboration with Sharjah Sustainable City, sets forth the ambitious goal of enabling cities to achieve a neutral carbon footprint. It calls upon entrepreneurs to implement innovative strategies to combat the environmental impacts of urban living, while also championing concepts that inspire residents to reduce their own carbon output through sustainable consumption and behavioural change. This category stands as a testament to the power of individual actions and serves as an inspiration for cities worldwide to embrace sustainability.
The second category, "Transforming Waste Management," in collaboration with BEEAH, envisions a future where cities exist without the burden of waste. It challenges entrepreneurs to develop solutions that support effective on-site waste treatment and segregation, empowering communities to efficiently manage waste while experiencing a seamless and effortless process. By tackling waste management practices head-on, this category revolutionises the way we perceive and interact with waste, paving the way for a waste-free environment.
Explaining the drive behind the global entrepreneurial hub, Najla Al-Midfa, CEO of Sheraa said, "At Sheraa, we recognise that entrepreneurship is a force that transcends individual enterprises, it is a catalyst for progress, disruption, and meaningful impact. Each entrepreneur who dares to challenge the status quo, who embraces uncertainty, and who fearlessly pursues their dreams is an agent of change, shaping a better future for themselves and for generations to come.”
Going on to expand on the impact of this year’s challenge, the CEO stated, “Through the Access Sharjah Challenge, we aim to enable founders with solutions to tackle issues within sustainability and build right here in Sharjah. Together with our partners Sharjah Sustainable City and Beeah, we are excited to support the incredible ideas that have been submitted this year. By creating an ecosystem that supports and empowers innovators, we can foster a culture of entrepreneurship that drives positive change and transforms lives.”
Ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come
ASC 2023 also aligns within the “We Are the Emirates 2031” vision, and represents a new step towards progressing the development process of the UAE for the next decade, highlighting its pioneering model and global position. The challenge also falls in line with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment’s goals to strengthen cooperation and collaboration between the future industry leaders and established entities and companies concerned with environmental and municipal work to ensure the achievement of the UAE’s overall vision and goals in terms of global environment indicators.
Creating a legacy of opportunity and support
The Access Sharjah Challenge has a remarkable history of fostering entrepreneurship and catalysing innovation with global reach spanning across 7 regions of Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, North America, South America and Australasia. In its inaugural year in 2020, the ASC focussed on the publishing sector and additionally had a challenge for the agritech and foodtech sectors which proved to be a huge success.
For ASC 2021, the challenge had already gained momentum and embraced the theme of the creative economy, attracting an impressive 134 applications from 22 countries. Among the winners were ‘Fifth Wall Immersive Media Lab,’ — a pioneering media startup that has gone from strength to strength, launching their AR immersive experience with Museums Authority earlier this year at the Khorfakkan Monument — and ‘Medaf Creative Studio,’ an art community space that has ignited the curiosity and creativity of innovators through utilising multi-disciplinary art practices.
Building on this success, ASC 2022 forged new partnerships with the Ministry of Culture & Youth and the Alef Group, focusing on the thriving sectors of Food & Beverage (F&B) and Retail. With 81 applications pouring in from 21 countries, ASC 2022 offered winners the opportunity to secure a space in Alef Group’s pioneering urban project, Al Mamsha. The retail category celebrated the achievements of ‘Nature Hedonist', an ethical and sustainable linen fashion brand that was able to open their first physical store at the Zero 6 Mall in Sharjah, after winning the challenge last year.
From its inception through to its fifth edition this year, the Access Sharjah Challenge has proven to be a magnet for visionary entrepreneurs from around the globe, providing a launchpad for the innovative concepts and solutions. As ASC 2023 embraces the pressing issues of sustainability, it builds upon the success stories of previous years, empowering startups to tackle environmental challenges head-on while further solidifying Sharjah’s position as a hub of transformative entrepreneurship.
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