Japan SDGs Innovation Challenge

The Japan Cabinet Office (CAO), in partnership with the UNDP Japan Unit and UNDP Accelerator Labs, is supporting the SDGs Innovation Challenge to identify solutions to local development issues with the participation of the Japanese private sector.

The SDGs Innovation Challenge matches UNDP Accelerator Labs with Japanese companies in a new collaborative process where partners co-create solutions to address local needs.  Through the SDG Holistic Innovation Platform (SHIP), an open innovation platform run by UNDP in collaboration with the Japan Innovation Network (JIN), Japanese partners are identified, and this provides an entry point for companies that would typically not work with UNDP.  Both the Accelerator Labs and Japanese companies are identified through a selective process that grants $75,000 to the partnership.


A total of 7 UNDP Accelerator Labs are collaborating with Japanese companies to co-develop, design, and test models of potential solutions to problems identified in each country.  In 2020, an initial cohort of 4 Accelerator Labs was selected to work on global development issues across the SDGs, in close partnership with the Japanese private sector.  The winners are:

UNDP India & NEC Corporation: Building a Fortress of Blockchain to Protect Farmers and Livelihoods

The UNDP Accelerator Lab in India, together with the Japanese company NEC Corporation, is developing a proof of concept for a blockchain platform for spices. 

  • Learn more about this initiative here
  • or watch it here

UNDP Turkey and Sotonoba: How to collaborate on participatory design practices online and across countries

UNDP Accelerator Lab in Turkey, supported by the Japanese company Sotonoba, is focusing on developing a model to transform underutilized public spaces in a participatory manner.

  • Learn more about this initiative here, and the progress they've made here
  • or watch it here

UNDP Viet Nam and JAMSS: A circular economy approach to rising mountains of waste

UNDP Accelerator Lab in Viet Nam is working with JAMSS (Japan Manned Space System Corporation) on a feasibility study using remote sensing to identify plastic waste hotspots from satellite imageries to build a business model suitable to Viet Nam's market.

  • Learn more about this initiative here and the progress they've made here.  
  • or watch it here

UNDP Philippines and JAMSS: An Experiment on Satellite Remote Sensing of Plastic Waste in Pasig River

The Philippines UNDP Accelerator Lab is also working with JAMSS in a remote sensing model for marine litter in the river systems of Metro Manila.

  • Learn more about this initiative here
  • or watch it here

Based on the success of these projects, the Japan Cabinet Office renewed its support to these four countries to continue engagement with their respective Japanese partner.  Phase 2 grants total $40,000 per partnership.  In addition, the UNDP Accelerator Labs from Burkina Faso, Malaysia, and South Africa were selected as the second cohort of the Japan SDGs Innovation Challenge in 2021. They will address are food supply chains and disaster risk reduction. View below on what each of these Labs are working on: 

UNDP South Africa and the Japanese Seaweed Resource Institute: A research on seaweed cultivation

The UNDP South Africa Accelerator Lab has worked with the Japanese Seaweed Resource Institute, which oversees research on seaweed cultivation, Eiwa Corporation in charge of commercialization, and HEALTH and TEC LLC in charge of integrating ICT into the business. The objective of the project was to build a value chain of seaweed utilizing the different backgrounds of the team. The team set up an entirely new value chain of seaweed production in South Africa by June 2022 and is now ready for the 2nd phase to test planting/harvesting/processing seaweeds with local communities. 

Learn more about the initiative: 

UNDP Malaysia and AGC Green-Tech: A solar dryer prototype to reduce both energy consumption and food produce wastage

The UNDP Malaysia Accelerator Lab is working with AGC Green-Tech to prototype a solar dryer for communal use that will partially replace conventional oven drying with solar drying. This will reduce both energy consumption and food produce wastage and streamline the journey of agricultural products from partner communities to wider markets.

Read about the development of this prototype and its benefits below: 

UNDP Samoa and Think Sea Corp: An innovative project to convert fish skin into sustainable fish leather.

The UNDP Samoa Accelerator Lab is working with Think Sea Corp to implement an innovative project to convert fish skin into sustainable fish leather. This project aims to maximize the economic benefits of the entire fish caught, instead of just the flesh whilst discarding other fish parts, thus lending the project its name: “100% Fish Use”. The 100% Fish Use project is a critical milestone for Samoa not only in terms of expanding the blue economy, but also a successful example of connecting technology and innovation from the private sector to local contexts, accelerating progress on the SDGs. 

  • Learn more about this initiative here

Using emerging technologies to tackle threats to food security in Zimbabwe

The UNDP Zimbabwe Accelerator Lab partnered with Pegara, a Japanese start-up specializing in AI and automation, to test out ways to protect small grain production from red-billed quelea swarms. The quelea bird is a major threat to food security in Zimbabwe, as it damages small grains such as millet and sorghum. After testing sounds, scattered lasers and drones, they concluded that drones were the most effective method to chase away quelea birds from fields. The Lab and Pegara plan to continue the scaling of the tested solutions in 2024 with the support of the Japan Cabinet Office. 

Read more about this initiative: 


  • The UNDP Burkina Faso Accelerator Lab is working together through the national Laboratoire Matériaux et Environnement (LAME) and the Japanese company Tenchijin on an AI rain data system.  

Currently the third cohort of the challenge has started its project selection under the theme: energy, health, ICT/ digitalization, and agriculture/food. 16 Accelerator Labs submitted applications for this call for proposals and 2 Labs will be selected. Meanwhile potential future engagement through this modality beyond 2023 is being discussed with Japan.

The SDGs innovation Challenge is made possible by an investment of $900,000 from the Japan Cabinet Office.  This joint initiative serves as a successful example of connecting technology and innovation from the private sector to different local contexts in developing countries to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs.