Following a six-month submissions phase amidst the prevailing restrictions imposed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Zayed Sustainability Prize, the UAE’s pioneering global award in sustainability, has officially closed entries for its 2022 awards. With a remarkable 4,000 applications received, the Prize marked a notable 68.5% increase in submission entries compared to the previous cycle.
Attracting submissions from a record 151 countries, representing over three quarters of the world’s countries, the Prize proves to be truly global in its reach and impact. This includes a significant number of entries from innovative, knowledge-based economies, all hoping to have their world-changing solutions and technologies recognised and scaled amidst a rapidly evolving global landscape.
While the Prize postponed its 2021 Awards ceremony due to the global climate at the time, submitted entries in 2021 were automatically considered in the 2022 cycle, alongside the new applicants. The noteworthy increased appetite for applying is an indicator that climate action is top of mind for Small & Medium Enterprises, Non-profit Organisations and Global High Schools, who look to the Prize as a catalyst for innovation and subsequent human impact.
The submissions for the upcoming awards, to be held in January 2022, reflect the current global climate in the lead up to COP26 and in the wake of post-pandemic recovery, with Food (1,201) and Health (879) as the top categories to attract a high number of pioneering solutions, followed by Energy (759) and Water (627). With 534 submissions, the Global High Schools category is perhaps one of the most inspiring results as completing entries in the face of extensive disruption and school closures is a clear sign of the global youth’s commitment to a sustainable future.
H.E. Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Director General of the Prize, said: “Inspired by the legacy of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Prize continues to demonstrate the UAE’s commitment to promoting sustainability and humanitarianism. We are proud and encouraged to have received so many applications despite the difficult conditions the world is facing, and we will move forward with purpose, as the Prize continues to fulfil its role in supporting innovators and forward-thinking organisations who seek to change our world for the better.”
“As the international community continues to unite around ambitious climate action in the lead up to COP26, the high level of participation registered this year further demonstrated that creative sustainable solutions could come from every part of the world, and importantly can deliver tangible economic benefits along with social progress.” he added.
The top positioning of Brazil, India, Kenya, USA and China emphasises the importance of the Prize as the leading global accolade for innovation, impact and inspiration in the field of sustainability in key global and emerging markets alike. Significantly this notable increase is a testament to the multi-faceted nature of the challenges and opportunities on the pathway to achieving a sustainable future.
The impressive number of submissions this year and their geographical diversity in terms of reaching both developed and emerging countries, including remote areas of the world such as Fiji and Kiribati, reflects the Prize’s pursuit of excellence in attracting pioneers who operate in the framework of a globally shared vision that streamlines an integrated approach to meeting United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and transforming the lives of millions of people.
Moreover, the Prize witnessed a notable increase in submissions this year from countries with a clear focus on sustainable innovations, as the Prize continues its drive to enable SMEs and non-profits, while encouraging and empowering youth to take on an active role in supporting their communities as future sustainability leaders. Key examples of this would be the substantial entries from South Africa, Rwanda, Japan, Indonesia, Denmark, Mexico and Colombia among others.
The strong representation of submissions in the Health category aligns with the ongoing global challenges posed by the pandemic. Of the solutions being presented, a high number is geared toward communicable diseases, including responding to and mitigating the effects of COVID-19, either through telehealth solutions, mobile clinics, or ICT platforms. Additionally, many solutions focused on new-born, child and maternal health, highlighting the cross-over of health with women empowerment and other central aspects of the sustainability agenda. In the Food category, which received the highest number of submissions, there is a firm representation of innovative solutions that support the agricultural value chain, while the high number of entries related to crop farming and food processing solutions also underline the ongoing transformation of food systems globally.
In the Energy category, a continued focus on energy accessibility and solar applications is well aligned with the consistent drop in solar technology costs globally. Energy efficiency and energy storage solutions are common themes, highlighting an increasing trend in the energy transition. Finally, for the Water category, a high number of solutions are geared towards extraction, filtration and wastewater purification technology, especially in relation to pandemics and natural disasters. A high number of submissions related to transmission and distribution may be in response to water scarcity and the water crisis the world is increasingly facing.
Another encouraging trend for the future of sustainability is the robust number of submissions from high schools, mirroring the ever-amplifying voice of youth for accelerating climate action and sustainable development in recent years. A large number of entries in the Global High Schools category proposed school garden projects to help feed the school and the most needy families in their communities, further attesting to the youth’s understanding of the intricacies and cross-sectoral nature of sustainability.
Furthermore, the record number of countries represented in 2021 submissions reflects the agile nature of the Prize, which, like most global award programmes, has had to adjust to a changing landscape, showcasing an alignment with the Decade of Action for global accelerated commitments towards achieving the UN SDGs. In line with that cross-sectoral mandate, the majority of solutions submitted focused on ecosystems’ resilience and affordability of solutions making a clear case for the economic benefits of sustainability innovation and climate action, while many of those solutions leverage next generation technologies focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to drive impact.
Following the close of the submissions, the Prize now enters the evaluation stage. All entries will now be shortlisted by an independent research and analysis consultancy. A Selection Committee comprised of globally renowned industry experts will then assess the shortlisted entries and choose the finalists. The third and final tier of the evaluation process is the Jury, which will connect in October, to select the winners in each category.
Since its launch in 2008, the US$3 million annual Prize has, directly and indirectly, transformed the lives of over 352 million people across 150 countries. Its global impact continues to grow, as it further catalyses humanitarian outreach and sustainable development. Each category winner receives a prize fund of US$600,000. The Global High Schools category winners split the amount among six high schools from six world regions, each receiving up to US$100,000.
The winners of the 2022 awards will be announced at the Prize’s annual awards ceremony that will take place during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, in January 2022.