Youth Co:Lab: Social Innovation Challenge Japan 2023: Applications Open for SDGs Business Idea Contest!



The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Citi Foundation will host the 5th Youth Co:Lab, Social Innovation Challenge in Japan – an initiative supporting youth-led social innovation and entrepreneurship. We’re calling for innovative business ideas with an aim to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the Social Innovation Challenge Japan 2023.

Who can apply? 

Applications will be open to young people from high school students to entrepreneurs under the age of 35, inviting a wide range of business ideas focused on achieving the SDGs.

As this year marks the halfway point to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, even greater change is needed to achieve a world where 'no one is left behind' in the remaining seven years. Reaffirming the importance of the innovation ecosystem, this year’s Challenge, under the theme of “Youth-led Innovation: Acceleration and Nurturing”, aims to accelerate innovation and nurture future innovators by shedding a spotlight on the bright visions of young people, looking to 2030 and beyond. In addition to the Excellence Award and Audience Award, which will be determined according to the contest's judging criteria, there will be a Youth Visionary Award this year.

All award winners will have an opportunity to join the Springboard programme (accelerator programme) and receive mentoring sessions from Citi. The top teams who participated in the Springboard programme will be able to showcase their businesses during the Youth Co:Lab Regional Summit which will take place in summer 2024.

In addition to ideas focused on achieving the SDGs, we welcome business models and ideas that demonstrate new perspectives or high future potential!

  1. What is Youth Co:Lab? 

    Co-created in 2017 by UNDP and the Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab aims to empower and invest in youth, to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship.     
    Youth Co:Lab projects have been implemented in 28 countries and territories across the Asia-Pacific region and the initiative has supported more than 15,000 young people and launched or improved over 1,700 youth-led social innovation and entrepreneurship teams.

  2. What is Social Innovation Challenge Japan 2023?

    Social Innovation Challenge Japan 2023 is a business idea contest where selected teams will pitch and showcase their SDG-focused business models and ideas to a panel of esteemed judges. The individuals and teams who passed the screening process will pitch their solutions at the “Social Innovation Challenge Japan 2023.” Winners from the Japan contest will have the opportunity to join the Springboard Programme and the top teams who participated in the Springboard programme will be able to showcase their businesses during the Youth Co:Lab Regional Summit which will take place in Summer 2024.

  3. Springboard Programme:

    The regional springboard programme is a follow up programme that provides a showcasing platform for young social entrepreneurs from over 28 countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific region, who are winners of the national challenges of the countries of origin. The programme consists of mini-exercises to brush up business ideas and provides mentoring and communication support from UNDP in the Asia-Pacific region. We will also provide support in preparation of presentations in English.

  4. Youth Co:Lab Asia-Pacific Summit:

    The Asia-Pacific Summit, planned for the Summer of 2024, will bring together over 1,000 delegates, including hundreds of youth, partners and government officials from 28 countries, to exchange ideas, knowledge and experiences, to influence policy initiatives on youth entrepreneurship and social innovation. You can see summary reports from the online summit held in 2023 here.

Social Innovation Challenge Process and Schedule:

  • 1st Screening
    • 20 July (Thu): Applications open
    • 25 Sep (Mon) Noon: Applications close
    • Beginning of Oct: Announcement of the results of the 1st screening 
  • 2nd Screening/Final Pitch
    • End of Oct: Submission deadline for the 2nd screening (pitch videos)/Announcement of finalists for the Social Innovation Challenge Japan 2023
    • 21 Nov (Tue): Finalists present their business plans at the Social Innovation Challenge Japan 2023. Announcement of the award winners.
  • Accelerator Programme & the Asia-Pacific Summit
    • February 2024: Commencement of the Springboard Programme
    • Summer 2024: The Youth Co:Lab Asia-Pacific Summit

  1. Application Requirements:
    • You must be a high school student (or equivalent) and younger than 35 years old on 20 July 2023 (Those who were born between 21 July 1988 and 1 April 2008)
    • Japanese national, or a resident of Japan who has lived in Japan for more than 3 years
    • You have a business plan that is either in an idea stage, preparation stage, or in operation for less than three years.

      *Application and final presentation at the Social Innovation Challenge Japan 2023 can be done either in English or Japanese. Springboard Programme as well as Youth Co:Lab Asia-Pacific Summit will be held in English.

      *Application can be submitted as an individual or in a team. If you are applying as a team, the lead representative of the team must meet the above eligibility requirements.

  2. Judging Criteria:
    1. SDG contribution: Impacts on society and environment
    2. Business idea: innovative approaches of the solution
    3. Business model: Feasibility and sustainability of the business model
    4. Passion and vision as an entrepreneur           
      *Since the Springboard programme and Youth Co:Lab Regional Summit will be held only in English, we will consider your skill and willingness to communicate in an English-speaking environment for the selection of participants to the Springboard programme and the Asia-Pacific Summit.
  3. How to Apply:

    Please prepare and send your application in either English or Japanese (either in Word or PDF under 20MB) by the deadline. Please download the application form from below link; 

    Download Application Form

    [1st screening] We will inform the results of the application to all applicants regardless of the outcome.

    [2nd screening] We will inform the details of the 2nd screening (pitch videos) only to those who pass the 1st screening. We will inform the results of your 2nd application to all applicants.

  4. Social Innovation Challenge Japan 2023” Judges:

    Experts in business, social entrepreneurship and international development will serve as judges for the Social Innovation Challenge Japan:

    • Investment Director, CVC Asia Pacific Japan
    • Senior Coordinatior, NPO ETIC.
    • Senior Management, Citi Japan
    • UNDP officer from the youth team in Bangkok Regional Hub
  5. Special Support:

    If you require any special support participating in the “Social Innovation Challenge Japan 2023", please tell us the kind of support you require on the application form.

"Social Innovation Challenge Japan 2023 Orientation Session" 

We will hold an orientation session for those who are thinking to apply to the “Social Innovation Challenge Japan 2023”. We will give tips on filling out the application form and answer any questions you may have. This session is held in Japanese. To request for a briefing in English, please email

  • Date: 2 August 2023 (Wed) 19:00 - 20:00
  • Place: Zoom
  • Max cap: 30 people
  • Participation fee: free
  • Registration from here

Co-organized by

UNDP Representation Office in Tokyo 
UNDP Representation Office in Tokyo
Citi Foundation 
Citi Foundation

Supported by:

ETIC. (Entrepreneurial Training for Innovative Communities)

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Representation Office in Tokyo (Ms.Hiromi Amano, Youth Engagement Consultant)