The Global Grad Show, undoubtedly one of the best ideas of Dubai Design Week, is now its sixth year but retains its place as one of the world’s most diverse showcases for graduate ideas on innovations with social impact. As the Guardian said: “It is the grad show to end all grad shows, featuring the cream of the crop from all over the globe”.
It’s also turning out to be something of a marketplace for ideas, with projects looking for funding as well as plaudits – and for two of the projects on show there’s the promise of enough funding to bring a solution to market.
So it’s no surprise that a record 1,600 graduation projects were submitted by students from 270 universities this year, a 30 percent increase on 2019.
Just 100 have been selected for the Global Grad Show, and given the problems of maintaining Covid-aware crowd control it makes sense that this year’s exhibition will be in the form of an interactive digital platform rather than an in-person event. The virtual exhibition will allow for direct interaction with the graduates behind each idea, with access to prototypes, visuals, demos and research material. Visitors are also promised extras like online tours, mapping projects through themed routes to provide an insight into trends and solutions.
The 2020 participants will be able to apply to the Global Grad Show Entrepreneurship Programme. The Programme’s goal is to accelerate the development of innovations created by graduates through tailored business training, mentorship and by providing introductions to investors and stakeholders from the social development agenda. To date it has supported 30 projects in fields ranging from medical to waste management and from mental health to migrating communities.
Two graduate projects from the 2019 Entrepreneurship Programme have progressed to real-world funding via a AED 10 million pool set up by Global Grad Show co-sponsor A.R.M. Holding:
In addition, Global Grad Show’s Covid-19 initiative, one of the first international open calls to address the pandemic’s challenges, has four projects currently going through entrepreneurship training. One of those has already advanced to pilot stage: Foresight, an AI system which constantly processes patient information in intensive care units and flags up any deterioration up to 48 hours earlier than current diagnostic alternatives.
MENA grads making the grade
For 2020 the Global Grad Show has been joined by another good idea, a variant that showcases projects from universities in the MENA region. Some 200 submissions from 36 universities have been whittled down to the 50 that will be on show – and they will be on show, because MENA Grad Show will be a physical exhibition.
There is an argument that this is going to be special pleading. The main Global Grad Show provides a worldwide survey of good ideas on global environmental, social, and economic issues. Separating out the MENA applicants reduces the need for their solutions to be as competitive, and the potential danger is that this could produce projects of lower quality.
That’s nonsense, of course. The regional design schools may not be as well established, but they have been able to take advantage of the experience (and the teachers) produced by schools in the rest of the world. There’s no evidence that the value of problem-perception and problem-solving is any lower just because the students don’t have access to the traditional weight of engineering or design education that the European and North American schools can bring to bear. Individuals acquire those skills, they aren’t born with them.
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, named as patron of the MENA Grad Show, put the case for the programme: “A strong culture of progress and innovation is driven by the ideas of its people … the inaugural MENA Grad Show [will] provide a voice for graduate talent in the region like never before … These new ideas have the capacity to not only transform our lives for the better, but they have the potential to shape the future of our world as we know it. It is imperative that we, across the public and private sectors, use such platforms to support this ambitious young talent, engage with these innovators in conversations and explore opportunities of collaboration and support that would turn these prototypes into real world solutions.”
That doesn’t sound like mere PR speak. And Tadeu Baldani Caravieri, overall director of the Global Grad Show, noted that the MENA Grad Show “aims to be a catalyst for positive change by engaging with tomorrow’s problem-solvers early in their development. “MENA Grad Show’s goal is to create opportunities for regional graduates to be discovered by global audiences … [It] will mirror Global Grad Show’s core values of exhibiting graduate projects that make the world a better place, using both high-and low-tech innovation, with the aim to give a voice to the next generation of regional innovators”.
The MENA Grad Show exhibition is free to attend and runs 9-14 November at d3. Currently there’s no online directory of participants, which is a shame; that may change … The Global Grad Show will go live on 9 November via the website, and while there’s no word about how long it stays live we’re assured “it will certainly be on longer than the physical MENA Grad Show and will most likely stay on”.