Impact Kommons Sustainability-Focused Accelerator Welcomes 15 Teams to Second Cohort

Eric Swinton, Founder and CEO of V Cycle. Image courtesy of Impact Kommons.

The acceleration program, backed by property conglomerate New World Development, has launched its second round off the back of a successful first cohort.

A few days ago, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged world leaders to declare a “state of climate emergency.” 

As governments and businesses across the world recognize the need for sustainable development amid growing climate concerns, economic uncertainties, and unequal wealth distribution, the situation is no different in Hong Kong.

Close on the heels of the 2016 Paris Agreement, the Hong Kong government released its Climate Action Plan 2030+ report in early 2017, with a target to reduce the city’s carbon intensity by 65% by 2030 and to achieve net zero emissions of CO2 before 2100. Hong Kong’s real estate sector is responsible for 60% of the city’s carbon emissions and consumes up to 90% of the city’s electricity. 

Amid this urgent need for businesses to adopt more sustainable practices, Hong Kong-based conglomerate New World Development (NWD) have realized that startups and disruptive technologies can offer solutions to the struggles many of its business units may face in terms of accelerating sustainability.

Through its corporate innovation arm Eureka Nova, NWD runs Impact Kommons, a startup accelerator that aims to support startups through the exchange of knowledge, resources, and technologies with New World Group’s business units across Asia. It integrates sustainable and smart startup solutions with NWD-owned businesses and provides opportunities to pilot, co-create, and co-commercialize the startups’ technologies. 

Impact Kommons launches second cohort for business integration program

In a bid to nurture more changemakers in the sustainability sector, Impact Kommons has selected 15 startups for its second cohort. Powered by Eureka Nova, one of Hong Kong’s longest-standing corporate innovation programs, the two-month program will see startups addressing sustainability related problem statements by aligning its business priorities with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and New World Sustainability Vision 2030. 

Adrian Cheng, Executive Vice-chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are committed to recruiting young entrepreneurs with innovative technologies and a sustainable development mindset through Impact Kommons, which embodies New World Group’s  “Creating Shared Value” (CSV) and works hand in hand with these startups in transforming their creativity into a driving force that truly benefits and propels society. 

“The solutions and technologies selected this year will not only promote the sustainable development of Hong Kong, but also help society and the business community in adapting to the ‘new normal’ after the pandemic. We sincerely look forward to cultivating these solutions from the collaboration between the group and our impact-driven startups.”  

NWD’s New World Sustainability Vision 2030 (SV2030) highlights four strategic focus areas – Green, Wellness, Smart, and Caring – to enhance customer experience. In its 2030 vision for the company, NWD pledged to reduce its carbon and energy intensity by 50%. 

The 15 finalist startups for the program were selected from applications from 30 countries and regions,  including nine from HK, with the rest from mainland China, Malaysia, Belgium, and Israel.

V Cycle, which provides recycling solutions and supports local impoverished elderly and disadvantaged young people, is one of the selected startups. Based in HK, the startup works on providing recycling solutions for businesses, residences, and schools, manufacturing recycled and recyclable products, supplying reusable materials for consciously made products, and creating dignified employment opportunities in HK for the underprivileged, among others.

Technologies from some of the selected startups can also be used in response to the current pandemic. For instance, Hong Kong-based Rice Robotics builds the software and hardware infrastructure for businesses to deploy fleets of robots. The startup’s flagship robot, Rice, can securely deliver everything from coffee to documents and medical supplies. It recently ran a pilot at K11 Atelier for contactless coffee delivery during the pandemic. 

Impact Kommons Rice Robotics body
Rice Robotics General Manager Rhaime Kim with one of the startup’s robots. Image courtesy of Impact Kommons.

Malaysia-based Batik Boutique, which provides skills training and income opportunities to vulnerable artisan groups, Belgium-based Brighter Bins, which produces smart sensors and an AI-based analytics platform for municipal waste pickup, and Hong Kong-based Carbon World, a green technology company that aims to increase the rate of recycling of beverage containers, are some of the other startups that have made it to the cohort.

During the program, the startups will have the opportunity to pilot test their solutions while working with NWD business units to jointly build a commercial product and make a quantifiable sustainability impact.

With a focus on empowering tech startups to solve real business problems, Eureka Nova bridges startup innovation with NWD’s business units and partners, working to develop solutions for seven pre-defined sustainability and social impact related problem statements. 

These statements include intelligent operations for elderly homes, carbon footprint management in construction, construction waste management technologies, recycling of wooden pallets, recycling of food containers and packaging, energy consumption at offices, and treatment of construction waste water.

Guided by SDG 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing, 4 – Quality Education, 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities, and 17 – Partnerships for the Goals, the upcoming cohort will benefit from mentorship, strategy development support, and business referrals. In doing so, the program will ensure that it also touches upon the broader 17 UN SDGs. 

With community events arranged throughout the program, the startups will have the opportunity to learn from and connect with industry players in the region. These events will also help the teams gain more exposure.

To apply for the program, the startups had to meet several requirements, including having measurable and meaningful impact value, distinctive tech intellectual property, and the intention to expand in both Hong Kong and mainland China markets. Above all, it was imperative for the startups to have robust technology that has generated revenue, as well as a cultural fit with NWD. 

This year, due to the pandemic, the program was carried out in an online format. 

“The pandemic this year has slowed down the pace of many accelerators in the market, but it also drove more conversation and focus on the importance of merging technologies and sustainable development,” says Ben Wong, Head of Open Innovation at NWD. “Through Impact Kommons, we found that startups and larger organizations are more eager than ever to solve the problems of sustainability. This led us to carry out this program in an online-first format under the pandemic, which enables more flexibility and speed to land measurable pilots between the group and the startups.” 

Impact Kommons’ second cohort is sponsored by DBS Bank and Amazon Web Services. The “DBS Social Impact Prize” will be presented to the startups on Demo Day, which will take place in early 2021.

The first Impact Kommons Digital Hybrid Demo Day, held in July this year, featured five startups that aligned to the four SDGs. The startups – En-trak, Urban Spring, Catalyser, AESIR and Lify Wellness – were provided with mentorship, coaching, and referral opportunities. 

At the Demo Day, the participating startups stated that the accelerator program helped them penetrate new markets and make new business connections thanks to the cultural learning and dynamic support from the corporate teams involved. 

This article was written in partnership with Eureka Nova.

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