The ACT Smart Innovation Hub celebrated its three years of impact on December 13, 2022, announcing its renewal for another three. Co-funded by Berytech and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lebanon, the program was initially launched in September 2019 to catalyze innovations in agrifood and clean technology after the resounding success of the Agrytech Program in the two years that preceded it.
In the past three years, the program supported 2463 entrepreneurs, graduated 35 startups and created 793 direct and indirect jobs.
Act Smart Innovation Hub Supporting The Productive Sector
Maroun Chammas, Chairman, and CEO of Berytech, welcomed the partners, startups and entrepreneurs gathered to celebrate the program saying: “Closing this first phase of the ACT Smart Innovation Hub can only take us back to when we launched it in September 2019. Little did we know that we were on the brink of a new chapter written for the country and the world: an economic collapse, a world pandemic, and a deadly blast; but here we are today. We’ve completed three batches of the Agrytech Accelerator, and two Batches of the Cleanergy Accelerator, onboarding 97 startups and graduating a total of 35. We’ve supported three innovators in the commercialization of their intellectual property through the IP Valorization Program. We’ve also worked with the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut to support the creation of work groups to lobby for better-enabling innovation and investment landscape in the waste energy and water as well as developing a paper on the water-energy-food nexus. We’ve also grown QOOT the first agri-food cluster in Lebanon with more than 100 SME members to date.”
In his turn Ambassador of the Netherlands to Lebanon, Mr. Hans Peter van der Woude, confirmed: “The ACT Smart program demonstrated that it could withstand those crises. The productive sector creates jobs and generates income. This is the main reason why the Netherlands is committed to supporting the productive sectors in Lebanon, we do so by investing in entrepreneurship and especially in women and youth. The Netherlands supports the private sector because we believe that the private sector will be the road for Lebanon out of the current crisis.”
Ramy Boujawdeh, COO of Berytech, indicated: “When a crisis hits, opportunities arise. Berytech was ahead of the game in digitizing its programs through the revolution and road cuts that led to a smooth full-on online delivery once COVID forced social distancing. We were an example across the region in our ability to run things very efficiently. The program was designed to scale opportunities but was also designed and re-adjusted to meet the challenges we have in the region and Lebanon. We started with food security, the garbage crisis, and transportation, and many of our entrepreneurs were inspired to tackle those challenges.”
Four Pillars to Catalyze Innovation
The ACT Smart Innovation Hub is built on four pillars: acceleration with the two accelerators Agrytech and Cleanergy, clustering with the QOOT Cluster, the IP Valorization Program and the Think Tanks.
The accelerator programs, Agrytech and Cleanergy, were able to support various startups within the agrifood and clean technology sectors. This support included 543 workshops and training sessions delivered with 45 local and international experts and $1.4 million in grants disbursed to startups.
The second pillar is the QOOT cluster, the first Lebanese cluster that brings together all agrifood stakeholders to collaboratively catalyze and innovate the sector in Lebanon. QOOT gathers 100+ SMEs giving them access to knowledge and support while also connecting them to buyers, experts, and trade missions.
“I have been a member of QOOT since 2019 so I had the privilege of seeing the progress of QOOT as a cluster and the development of the members that joined us. Throughout the years, QOOT was able to attract a variety of companies across the whole value chain, and this was the goal from day one. We have small companies and big companies all working together to show that Lebanese manufacturing and agriculture can be taken to a higher level,” shared Valerie Zakka, Board Member in the QOOT Cluster.
Launched to create a more sustainable future through lobbying for policy reforms, the Think Tanks Program was able to create 3 think tanks, with 36 companies from the energy, water, and waste management sectors that participated in the program’s workgroups.
Manale Abou Dagher, Senior Researcher at the American University of Beirut, voiced out: “The importance of Think Tanks is that they provide the freedom of access to academic research, and this is what The Issam Fares Institute (IFI) did. IFI brought to the project the ability to critically and objectively investigate major issues related to innovation, energy, agrifood, and solid waste.”
The fourth and last pillar under ACT Smart, the IP Valorization Program, is aimed at mobilizing research and advancing the knowledge economy. Since its conception, the program accelerated 3 startups, disbursed $36 thousand in grants, and delivered 112 hours of workshops and training.
A Renewed Success
Thanks to the proven success of the program along with the renewed trust of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, both Chammas and Woude took to the stage and signed the ACT Smart renewal contract, validating the importance of the ACT Smart Innovation Hub for the upcoming years.