KAUST Entrepreneurship’s 2021 Year in Review

KAUST Entrepreneurship’s 2021 Year in Review

This was a game-changing year — in more ways than one.

As we emerged from the pandemic, KAUST’s innovation initiatives continued to elevate and accelerate as we promoted diverse research, increased entrepreneurship, deeper global partnerships and programs that welcomed everyone in. Together, these broad-reaching initiatives enabled us to do more, deliver more, and engage more founders, innovators, entrepreneurs and emerging leaders than ever.

Looking back on the last 12 months, we’re proud of the incredible work coming out of our labs, classrooms, and research facilities — but, equally, we can’t wait for what comes next. Building off of our success and ongoing momentum, we’re confident 2022 will be our best and most prolific yet.

Here’s a look back on 2021, through an entrepreneurship lens.

We backed 83 founders

TAQADAM invested in 44 startups this year, led by 100 founders. We received 834 applications for admission to this prestigious accelerator, a 218% increase year-over-year. This year’s participants spanned eight countries and diverse industries including education, healthcare, fintech, and logistics and invested $1.62 million in zero-equity funding.

KAUST Photolibrary 2021
Head of KAUST Entrepreneurship Center, Hattan Ahmed

Thriving TAQADAM portfolio

In addition to our new startups, many recent TAQADAM portfolio companies continued to thrive on the regional and global stages.

Baleegh, Taffi, Themar, and SARSat were named track winners in the 2021 MITEF Saudi Competition, a national competition that promotes entrepreneurship and innovation worldwide.

Firnas Aero took first place — and a cash prize of SR200,000 — in the IoT Challenge, presented by the Thakaa Center.

KAUST solar desalination technology MEDAD won the 2020 MEED Sustainability Medal for it’s Innovative Hybrid Solar Desalination Cycle.”

Natufia was awarded first place in the KPMG Tech Innovation Award KSA. The Natufia team also won KPMG 2021 Tech Innovator of the Year in Saudi Arabia, and went on to represent KSA at the KPMG Global Finals in Lisbon. Beyond its KPMG wins, Natufia was also named the Green Home Innovation of the Year Award by Green Builders Media in Appliances category and took home top honors at the FoodTech 500 by Forward Fooding.

Both Edama and Natufia were named winners in NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge, a global challenge to help bring innovative food products to space.

Red Sea Farms won the United Nations Food System Summit 2021 award.

UnitX was accepted to the Nvidia Inception Partner Program.

Wayakit won first place in the Regional Pitching Sessions at the 2021 SelectUSA Investment Summit.

KAUST Photolibrary 2021
KAUST Entrepreneurship’s community

We educated tomorrow’s leaders

This year, 5,024 innovators trained across our 12 programs. To date, we’ve trained 23,948 innovators — and counting.

Our IED Innovation Course graduated 301, with six startups emerging from the program.

306 “Jammers” participated in our virtual 2021 Game Jam, sponsored by Sandsoft.

We dominated on the world’s most competitive stages

KAUST startups hit the most prominent global stages. This year, our startups participated in the Entrepreneurship World Cup — and KAUST came onboard as a strategic partner. Two national finalists ultimately emerged from the KAUST community. Our pioneering KAUST startups Logexa, Natufia, Firnas Aero and Polymeron also participated in the 2021 Entreprenuership World Cup.

We’ve been working to launch a new innovative deep tech program

The Next Web (TNW): Destination Deep Tech shortlisted 30 startups — and eight selected deep tech startups — to soft land in Jan 2022 to participate in a three-month program at KAUST.

We started an entrepreneurial movement of adventurers

This year we launched Entrepreneurship Adventures, our first-ever free open-enrollment program open to everyone regardless of background, location, or education. Designed to inspire the next generation of Saudi innovators, this free eight-week gamified program helped empower future founders and entrepreneurs with the fundamental skills needed to launch a career in innovation.

The first cohort kicked off July 4, 2021 with:

  • 71,265 interested leads
  • 17,768 active learners
  • 1,247 course completions
  • 136 new startup ideas

Among participants, 92% said the program dramatically changed their understanding of entrepreneurship. Sixty percent say that, after completing the program, they want to start a company, up 29% from the start of the course.