Berytech’s Deputy GM, Ramy Boujawdeh, was a panelist at the 2021 EBN CONGRESS ‘EMERGENT FUTURES’ that happened online on Sep14-15, 2021. The panel explored how the challenges and needs of regional actors are affecting the strategy of business innovation actors throughout the globe.
Here are some highlights from his intervention talking about the retention of talent, connecting to players in the region, and the need for internationalization. You can watch the entire panel discussion on this link.
Which global megatrends can inform us about the direction of innovation? What are some of the main contextual regional or European global challenges that you are facing?
The food security component is a major challenge. A lot of the South Med countries are food insecure: production demand is growing, a lot of people from rural communities are moving to urban communities, and the misuse of resources to produce more is affecting resource availability. Water is a major scarcity in the region and if we don’t optimize on that we will have growing issues with its availability. Energy has a tremendous opportunity in the region, it’s a very sunny region, and energy efficiency is not reached, so there’s a lot more to be done there. A high population of youth graduating is not able to find jobs and this is where we see the migration.
The use of entrepreneurship innovation across all sectors, whether its technology, engineering, or science has the potential to transform the region and I believe in working hand in hand across the region with our neighbors in Europe gives us the potential to build solid ecosystems.
What is the concrete role of your organization in helping to address social sustainability in terms of strategy, stakeholder governance, or ecosystem in terms of concrete initiatives? Are internationalization strategies an effective, impactful tool for you?
The only way Lebanese startups can grow is to scale internationally, because of how small the Lebanese market is. Lebanon is used as a testing ground to test an idea or a solution. It is like a sandbox where we can develop, test, and then go international. So, internationalization has been a major component of the strategy we have.
A lot of our work is connecting with supporters of the region, especially the European countries and the European Union in general, that is funding many of our activities. We are, for example, part of THE NEXT SOCIETY which is funded by DG NEAR, focused on pushing innovation and the commercialization of innovations from academia to industry.
A lot of those innovations didn’t have the necessary mechanism, so working on policies and accessing financing to scale those ideas to commercial solutions that are solving problems in the region and beyond is crucial.
We’re also working on scaling innovations that are working on sustainable solutions for the region in terms of water use, energy efficiency, waste management, transportation, and mobility. All are necessary to pushing the region forward. This is where we play a role at the macro level by talking to policymakers, talking to funders, ministries, etc. We’ve worked with entrepreneurs giving them access to financing and investments, access to new markets, and internationalization.
What is a flagship initiative you worked on in the area of unemployability and the possibility to engage people in entrepreneurship and innovation?
When it comes to potential employability, we have projects and initiatives that focus on particular areas with a big component focusing on jobs and job creation:
The first program we are part of is called the Water & Energy for Food (WE4F). It’s a global challenge focused on creating more food with less energy and water. There are 5 global hubs and Beyrtech is managing the MENA hub. Here we are working on scaling innovations to create more food, more employment, improve the situation of the people in those economies, and scaling them beyond those countries to access funding, technologies, and accessing technical assistance to grow. That’s a flagship program for the region that we are building, hitting the 3 pillars of sustainability, economic, environmental, and social.
Another group of programs we are working on is initiated and supported by the EU and they are on different fronts. One is the ENI CBC MED program which is a cross-Mediterranean partnership, and here we are looking at jobs and innovations related to living labs focusing on waste valorization from the grape value chain, we’re also looking at the dairy value chain and how we can add technology to that sector to make it more competitive, more efficient and more productive. We’re looking at the water-energy-food NEXUS innovation and how can we support academia in research to move into commercialization.
With THE NEXT SOCIETY, we’re pushing startups to internationalize and to create more employment. The opportunity here is how we can bring more people to stay in the region and innovate for the region. We see a lot of exodus from the region, mobility of talent and brains from the region to different parts of the globe. How can retain them? How can we push our economies to grow and use this potential?
As an entrepreneurship support ecosystem, our role in the region is to retain that talent and keep them here and help them grow in the ecosystem.
Berytech has been a member of EBN since 2001, a network of around 140 quality-certified European business and innovation centers, incubators, accelerators and other support organizations, and approximately 100 Associate Members that support the development and growth of innovative entrepreneurs, startups and SMEs.
Berytech was the first in the region to receive EU accreditation as a Business Innovation Center in 2006. EU|BICs are clearly recognizable via the EU|BIC trademark, which certifies their compliance to a set of standards known as the EU|BIC Quality Mark Criteria, the only quality system recognized by the European Union. Each year, Berytech is audited on its programs and delivery to maintain such an accreditation.