VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) technologies can be used to solve real human problems. By providing new, immersive ways of accessing data they can enhance our learning experience, expand our understanding of complex systems and improve how we interact with one another.
What we are looking for:
The UNICEF Innovation Fund is looking for start-ups that are developing and piloting new open source VR/AR solutions. We are looking to make investments in 1) software for authoring or consuming these new realities, 2) platforms and ways providing wider access to that software, 3) platforms and ways providing better tools for content creation (such as a template, workflow, or format), and 4) particular applications of content.
For our next VR/AR cohort of investees we are particularly interested in the following applications of content:
Teaching people to perform simple tasks, in many languages, with higher retention rates and better motivational levels (examples: how to install a water pump; how to recognize malnutrition in under 5-year-olds; how to teach seamstresses to perform simple procedures). VR/AR also presents new ways of increasing access to experiential learning, including for people with disabilities.
Understanding complex environments
Accessing large amounts of data and deciphering them in a better way. Getting a simple picture from a complex collection of data points (examples: converting history of GIS data points from refugee camps into a VR environment for better planning; improving situational awareness for emergency responders).
New ways of storytelling
Undiscovered ways of using VR/AR to tell a story, especially by bridging cross-cultural gaps and creating a dialogue.
There are many other possible applications of VR/AR such as developing new diagnostic tools (e.g. for concussions or tumors), treatment options (e.g. for PTSD) and more. This call is not limited to the above applications of content. We are interested in finding and exploring various edges of VR/AR technologies.
Be mindful of context. Be part of something bigger:
Keep in mind the specific contexts in which UNICEF operates: limited bandwidth, difficult to access areas and emphasis on affordability should be strongly taken into consideration. As a part of this cohort, you’ll be part of a community of start-ups working on VR and AR technologies and have a dedicated adviser to support you on appropriate open source licenses, community building, and networking with leaders in the VR/AR space. We fund groups of companies from similar spaces to introduce them to each other’s and work on solutions that push the technology forward.
When to apply?
We encourage you to submit your application when ready as we will be reviewing on an ongoing basis. Only shortlisted companies will be contacted and then requested to submit a more in-depth proposal.
Who can apply?
Start-ups registered in one of UNICEF’s programme countries (see complete list here) and have a working, open source prototype (hardware, content or software). Check out eligibility criteria for the Innovation Fund under www.unicefinnovationfund.org/#/submit and find an overview of the process here.
The Fund provides early-stage seed funding to start-ups with a strong team and a clear path to impact on children’s lives. For this cohort, we are looking for startups with a working VR/AR prototype (hardware, software or content).
What does the UNICEF Innovation Fund provide?
The Fund provides $50-90,000 in equity-free seed funding. You might need a small amount of money to get your prototype to the stage where the company has proof that the solution works for other people. Maybe another developer or two are needed, design help to communicate what the project can do or some server space. Refactoring something into a new language because the initial one won’t scale. Testing it in a new area. Getting some data points.
The UNICEF Innovation Fund can help to support the acceleration of your company’s work. The next stage after that proof would be pursuing more funding (this could be private sector investment or grant-funding, or other; depending on the type of technology and solution).
Product and technology development
Receiving investment from the Innovation Fund also provides access to the UNICEF Innovation Ventures team. The team provides technical assistance in emerging technology areas, which is accessible to companies receiving investment. In addition, you can also join a technology focused cohort (e.g VR/AR technologies cohort). As part of a cohort, you receive support from a dedicated adviser who can help you select the most appropriate open source license, help create a community around your product and network with leaders in your space. You will also be directly connected with other start-ups working on similar solutions, exchange lessons learned and critical data.
Growing your business
The UNICEF Venture Fund taps into a network of mentors and advisers who can help you develop your business model and strategy. We invest in companies with a sustainable approach that will ultimately grow your business and profit, and help companies build up a community of developers and contributors around open solutions. UNICEF Ventures also facilitates access to networks of partners, funders and investors that can help scale your solutions after this early-stage investment. Through partnerships with leading accelerators in your region, UNICEF facilitates access to business support.
Maximising impact for children
As the world’s leading organisation for children, UNICEF has experts across its Country Offices and partners who can advise on the development of your solution, how to assess its impact and partnerships needed to reach more users. Check out www.unicefinnovationfund.org and our FAQ’s for more information.