RAIN (rapid innovation)
powered by: plexal, imperial college business school, UK Oman digital hub
We have witnessed an accelerated rate of digital transformation, startup innovation, and private/public sector collaboration as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that has placed global pressure on economies, healthcare systems and communities.The UK Oman Digital Hub and the British Embassy have appointed Plexal, a London based innovation hub, and AL JABR in Oman to collaborate and support startups with solutions to local challenges created by the pandemic.
The program ran across two phases; the first being a report looking at the response to the pandemic from UK based and Omani startups, as the impact of COVID-19 on Omani society and businesses. Based on the findings of the first phase, a second phase was designed to be a virtual 6 week acceleration programme that enabled 15 Omani startups to learn through mentoring and workshops from UK startups, corporate innovation specialists, academics and business leaders. The program aimed to accelerate the path of the startups to an appropriate level of readiness or maturity to address the market in a post Covid-19 environment.
The three focus areas of the program were:
Traditional SME’s saw an immediate challenge due to their offline presence in the market. Innovation in this area has seen an accelerated rate of innovation as shopping moved online as a result of the pandemic, in order to enable these businesses to have an online presence. An initiative we witnessed within the fishing sector in Oman in April 2020 was an online fish auction platform called Behar that was launched with support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The importance of an agile education system that would not be disrupted by a crisis was emphasized through the pandemic. In Oman we saw that technology enabled students to continue receiving their education remotely, however there were challenges to edtech adopted across the sparsely populated regions in the country, where some areas had limited access to reliable broadband.
Virtual communities came into existence as a result of the pandemic, like the Muscat Hub; a network developed and led by young people. From a more traditional perspective, artisan traders who typically appeared at the Souq Es Sabt market turned to Instagram to connect with customers.
Strategic program partners included The Center for Financial Technology at Imperial College London, Oman’s SME Development Authority, and Oman’s Ministry of Transport, Communications & Information Technology.
Noor Al Haddabi
| lead business analyst