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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

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27 November 2023 - The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership has worked with UNICEF on Innovation30, an Initiative Calling For Critical Investment in Sourcing and Scaling Youth-led Climate Innovations from Across the Globe.

In Dubai at COP28, young climate innovators from 19 countries will present their climate solutions at a state-of-the-art holographic exhibition, demonstrating UNICEF, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and partners’ call for critical investment in climate interventions by founders under the age of 30. 

CISL is delighted that its innovation-specific offering, Canopy, has supported UNICEF on this important initiative. The initiative Innovation30 – Young Climate Innovators Shaping the Future aligned with Agenda 2030 for sustainable development aims to build a pipeline of scientifically vetted climate innovations created by under 30s, placing them centre-stage as stakeholders, technical experts, and designers driving climate solutions.  

CISL Canopy’s involvement also extends to nominating three alumni from its groundbreaking accelerator programmes, who were all selected for the final and will be showcasing their investor-ready, scalable startups at COP28.  

Airex, created by Agnes Czako from Hungary, saves energy with its ‘smart’ air bricks; EnvoBarrier, started by Kaushal Shah from India, converts agri-waste into eco-packaging; and Hide BioTech, invented by Yudi Ding from China, converts collagen into sustainable leather  – all offering up innovative ideas for a climate-resilient future for all.  

“With a world facing crises on multiple fronts, it’s vital we empower young people to lead us into a positive future.  CISL Canopy is therefore pleased to contribute to UNICEF Innovation 30. Showcasing and supporting young entrepreneurs from around the world, this initiative is helping to develop new ideas and innovative ventures with the potential to tackle climate change at scale.” James Cole, Chief Innovation Officer, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. 

The initiative not only showcases young founders, it sends a message to global investors and world leaders that youth-led climate solutions are impactful, scalable and investment ready.  

“Seven years ago, I was told to look at my idea as a lifestyle business and not as something I could scale. Today, the same person is an investor in the business,” Kaushal Shah, aged 23 when he created EnvoBarrier. The sustainable flexible packaging solution was one of CISL’s three nominations to Innovation30, all being selected as finalists for their cutting-edge enterprises.  

Often overlooked, young entrepreneurs are the future. Figuratively and literally. With a personal stake in the future, their unwavering commitment to finding climate solutions through impactful innovation presents vast opportunities that CISL Canopy is devoted to promoting.  

Cambridge University’s Sustainability of Leadership’s Canopy is a community of impact-led startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses accelerating solutions to global sustainability challenges.   

Innovation30, part of UNICEF’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (SCAP), is a collaboration with 14 climate accelerators and partners from around the world. As well as CISL’s involvement, other world-leading universities Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Imperial College London (via Imperial Consultants, led by Undaunted) worked alongside the diverse inaugural cohort of young pioneers - to help them shape breakthrough climate innovations. Their impressive work is already impacting the lives of children and their communities globally. 

All the finalist’s solutions selected were scientifically vetted by a panel of 23 scientists against set criteria of: positive impact on children; potential to scale; contribution to climate change adaptation or mitigation; business sustainability; risk of harm, and patent potential within market setting and competition. 

With 3.8 billion of the world’s population now under the age of 30 - the largest generation of young people the world has ever seen – equitably equipped to innovate, the potential for progress is unlimited. The world must seize the opportunity now to invest in credible innovations that contribute towards reaching critical global climate targets. 

Only 2.4% of climate finance from major Multilateral Climate Funds go towards child-responsive activities. Innovation30 collaborates with existing climate financing funds and stakeholders to unlock financial capital for young innovators to reach maximum climate impact through their innovations. UNICEF aims to facilitate the further scale of these innovations to reach every child and their communities, everywhere through the organization’s presence in over 190 countries. 

“The foremost existential crisis of our time is climate change with grave implications on the lives of children. Young people are seen as climate activists and advocates, but more than that, they are problem solvers. Innovation30 pulls into focus game changing youth-led solutions with the potential to turn the tide on climate change.  

“Investing in sustainable child-focused climate solutions is not only conscientious, but also economically prudent, and backing scientifically vetted and scalable innovators is the loudest signal of commitment to securing a climate resilient future for us all.  Audacious investment is urgently needed to build and deliver pipelines of youth led climate innovations and grow the green economy this and future generations will come to depend on for a healthier and safer planet,” Thomas Davin, Director, UNICEF Office of Innovation. 

Visit our COP28 hub here.


Zoe Kalus, Head of Media  

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