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On October 31, 2018, young entrepreneurs from around the world gathered in Seoul to compete in the 2018 Urban Innovation Challenge: Citypreneurs to pitch innovative solutions to critical urban issues related to green energy, urban mobility, and social protection, confronted by many cities in the Asia-Pacific region, including Korea.

The event was jointly hosted by UNDP Seoul Policy Centre (USPC), World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the World e-Governments Organization of Cities and Local Governments (WeGO), the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and Seoul Digital Foundation.

USPC led on the organization of an interactive policy interface, comprised of representatives of international organizations, public and private sector, academia, and young entrepreneurs. The policy interface aimed to discuss the policy context of youth entrepreneurship and to induce a set of policy recommendations on how to foster an inclusive innovation ecosystem for youth-led start-ups dedicated to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Although youth is the largest beneficiary of urbanization and technological advancement, at the same time, its generation will also be the most impacted by urban problems in the future, including rising inequalities and climate change. To tackle such challenges and to accelerate the achievement of the ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, Citypreneurs aims to bring together different stakeholders, from young innovators to policymakers, to partake in discussions and to present potential ways forward.

Savinda Ranathunga, Regional Youth Project Coordinator at UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, moderated the panel discourse on ‘Successes and Challenges of Youth Entrepreneurship for the SDGs’. At the heart of the discussion was the role of young innovators in contributing to tackle the social and environmental challenges beyond their own borders, and how Citypreneurs could continue to serve as the platform of network between youth-led start-ups. In the discussion, panelists acknowledged the need for governments to strengthen international cooperation between cities in order to support impact-driven youth entrepreneurship, through analyzing good practices from not only developed countries, but also from developing countries whose public-private partnership is well-facilitated.

Among the 150 start-up teams that participated in the Citypreneurs’ urban innovation challenge, 10 were given the opportunity to make a final pitch of their initiatives to investors, start-up CEOs, and government officials. Taking the Grand Prize was Team Alt-A, a start-up that uses real-time data and smart safety beacon technology to pre-detect and notify on potential targets of collision on the road for a safer traffic environment

Moving forward, in addition to providing both networking and funding opportunities for young entrepreneurs, Citypreneurs seeks to address urban issues in the Asia-Pacific region by partnering with governments in contextualizing and promoting youth-led innovative solutions.

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