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HCT Celebrates Vital Industry Partnerships & Future Entrepreneurs – 2nd InnCuVation Forum Concludes at EXPO 2020

The Higher Colleges of Technology’s (HCT) 2022 InnCuVation Forum at EXPO 2020 Dubai came to a close on its third and final day with an intensely exhilarating Startup Pitch Day, where 10 teams of HCT students presented their innovations to a panel of judges in rapid-fire elevator pitches.

At stake was not just the accolades of winning the Startup Pitch competition, but importantly financial backing from potential investors. After hearing the teams’ five-minute pitches, the three-person judging panel of Mr. Jassim AlRahma, General Manager of Emirates Angels Investor Association, Mr. Yagub AlSerkal, CEO & Founder of Yas Investments and Ms. Leila AlMarashi, Founder & CEO of CADO Gifting, awarded the top three places as follows:

  • 1st place – “Sora” – An autonomous delivery transportation eco-system Personal Mail Boxes
  • 2nd place – “e-Bakery” - A digital platform enabling consumers to order baked goods
  • 3rd place – “Kanz Art” - A platform and a community for artists to introduce & share their artwork


Like many innovations, the winning entry, Sora, was borne out of the adage “necessity is the mother of invention” when team leader Khaled Al Sabahi experienced problems with the delivery of personal documentation in a timely manner.

Professor Abdullatif AlShamsi, HCT President and CEO, expressed his great pride at hosting the unique InnCuVation Forum at EXPO 2020 Dubai, which engaged key people from industry in the advancement of the forum’s four themed sectors of Health, Education, Sustainability and Emerging Technologies.

“What I am really proud of that makes HCT different and unique is that we fully engage with our partners, with industry.  More importantly we are fully engaged with our students to encourage them to become the future entrepreneurs and to support the UAE economy,” he said.

“What we are doing at HCT is very different and unique. We bring different investors to be part of this event and support the key and distinguished entrepreneurs in their startups,” he added.

Prof. AlShamsi stressed the importance encouraging more Emiratis to enter the private sector and to engage more Emiratis in building their own companies, adding the HCT saw the issue of entrepreneurship and startups as hugely important for the UAE economy.

“What we do differently than any other startup business is that we help students through a scientific approach to ensure their business will sustain. We believe in this, we believe in the importance of entrepreneurs across the boards from all the disciplines to bring these ideas forward,” Prof. AlShamsi said.

Prof. AlShamsi lauded the success of HCT’s Startup Development Program in incubating over 100 projects on the path to commercialization, noting that at least six had been funded by the ICT Fund.

“We are progressing and moving forward. We have engagement of thousands of students engaged in those entrepreneurial activities. We are spreading the concept of entrepreneurship, how to succeed as an entrepreneur and build their startups,” he said.

Mr. Nicola Bettio, HCT Executive Director of Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said the second year of very successful Forum, was intrinsically tied to HCT’s Startup Development Program.

“We want to transition the mentality of students from purely academic into a business-oriented one. We want to help our students to become accomplished businessmen and businesswomen, leading successful ventures contributing to the UAE economy,” he said.

Mr. Bettio highlighted the successful path of HCT’s nascent entrepreneurial eco-system, with more than 1,300 HCT students involved in entrepreneurial activities, over 600 students active as team members in startups, more than 6,000 hours of mentoring being delivered, as well as series of entrepreneurial talks, ideation workshops and bootcamps.

To date, HCT has launched 130 startups, 40 of which have trade licenses in commercial activities and 25 startups are commercially established, having revenue streams and dedicated teams in place. Mr. Bettio noted that 92% of startups created being led by Emirati entrepreneurs.

“The goal of the program is to create awareness and inspire students through talks from prominent entrepreneurs, build their startups in dedicated bootcamps and strengthen their ventures in a 10-week accelerator program. We want to show them that entrepreneurship can be one of the most exciting career decisions they can take,” Mr. Bettio said.

Mr. Masaood Al Masaood, Chairman of the Emirates Angels Investor’s Association, which supported the forum’s Startup Pitch Day, echoed those sentiments when he said: “Always thinks about hard work for the benefit of the nation and its people and raise its name high. Continue to do so with diligence and perseverance. Let your ambition enable to take your startups worldwide, which is not impossible.”

The forum’s final day featured a special entrepreneurial talk by Ms. Leila AlMarashi, Founder & CEO of CADO Gifting, who delighted participants with her insights into her own entrepreneurial journey to success.

Ms. AlMarashi described her first foray into the entrepreneurial world in 2007 when she set up a customized, cultural and accessible clothing line, “Sugar Vintage”, which she started in her bedroom. “In four years we were in 12 countries and 30 shops, including Japan, Hong Kong, France, Saudi, Qatar,” she said.

Her next venture, Cado gifting, an online ‘shop-and-drop’ model, “think of it as the Harrods of the Middle East”, has proven to be huge hit in the up-market gift industry.

Ms. AlMarashi’s advice to budding entrepreneurs was straight forward: “In your lives as entrepreneurs, ask yourselves: ‘What problem am I facing?’ ‘What problem is society facing?’ Where is the gap. Once you figure out the problem come up with the solution,” she said.

“We are very lucky today. I feel as Emiratis, as entrepreneurs, being young and you don’t have any excused not to try. Don’t hold yourself back,” she added.

The 2022 InnCuVation Forum, held under the theme of Reach. Connect. Launch, is a unique opportunity for innovators and game changers, academia and industry & government representatives to collaborate on and explore current issues, trends, world-class research and innovative startups through a series of panel discussions and presentations in four strategic sectors of Health, Education, Sustainability, and Emerging Technologies.

Categories: Innovation Press Releases Student Achievements