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EghtesadOnline: The UNICEF Innovation Fund is set to make up to $100,000 equity-free investments in early stage (seed) technology startups that have the potential to benefit humanity.

According to the website of UN’s children’s agency, all startups registered in UNICEF program countries, including Iran, which have a working open source prototype that has shown promising results can apply for investments. No limit has been introduced for the number of investments that will be made.

The UNICEF Innovation Fund was established in 2016, and so far has invested in 72 startups around the globe. The fund plans to invest in 30 startups every year.

A guideline published on states that the agency is looking to invest in companies that are using data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence or similar technologies to build solutions that respond to social issues, Financial Tribune reported.

UNICEF is especially looking to invest in startups and tech firms that are: applying deep learning to analyze satellite imagery and automatically map infrastructure such as schools, health centers, roads or cell towers; using digital footprints from sources like social media or mobility patterns to understand public spaces; exploring machine learning or artificial intelligence techniques to help enhance humanity’s understanding of the world and the rapidly changing environment.

A Persian-language copy of the guideline was also published on UNICEF’s Iran website.

Startups are encouraged to submit their applications as soon as possible. It merits mention that only shortlisted companies will be contacted and then requested to submit a more in-depth proposal. Application deadline is February 28.




The startups must be registered as a private company in a UNICEF program country. They should be working on open source technology solutions or willing to be open-source under globally accepted licenses. 

Companies need to have an existing prototype of the solution with promising results from initial pilots. 

The solution should have the potential to positively impact society. The agency strongly encourages women-led projects to apply.



What UNICEF Provides

UNICEF Innovation Fund provides up to $100,000 in equity-free seed funding. The money is intended for startups to validate and test their prototype and get it to a stage where the company has proof that their solution works.

Selected startups will receive technical assistance from the UNICEF Ventures team to help validate and improve their solutions. Additionally, startups will be plugged into a data-science focused cohort where they will be connected with other companies working on similar solutions, exchange lessons learned and share critical data.

The fund taps into a network of mentors who help startup teams develop their business model and strategy to grow their companies and ultimately profit.

Furthermore, UNICEF Ventures has a dedicated Data-Science team since 2014, developing partnerships, data platforms and use cases. Through the network, startups can get access to world-class researchers, corporate partnerships and additional datasets.

In recent years, Iranian startups and tech firms have grown significantly in terms of numbers and variety of services. Many of these firms have been backed by government agencies and universities while others have received investment from private venture capital funds and innovation centers.



Tech Project in Iran

An agreement was signed between the UN children agency, and Iran’s Pardis Technology Park in January through which development and application of child-friendly technologies are to be boosted in the country.

The agreement was signed by Will Parks, UNICEF representative in Iran and Mahdi Safarinia, director of Pardis Technology Park.

According to Twitter account of UNICEF Iran, the agreement is part of the project “Innovations for Children in Iran” which is to be launched later this year.

The agreement will help boost the development of technologies that help enhance life and education for children.

After signing the agreement, Parks said “UNICEF plans to contribute to the development of child-friendly technologies in Iran. We are also set to support tech projects that can be used for offering better services to children. Pardis Technology Park will play a key role in the realization of this goal.”


Iran UNICEF tech startups Innovation Fund technology startups