Award Ceremony for KAUST Innovation Award for Hajj & Umrah Technologies to be hosted by HRH Prince Khalid AlFaisal

  • Winners will be announced at the award ceremony set for 28th March 2021
  • 33 Finalists, 11 each from Healthcare, Mobility, and Crowd Management themes, chosen from among 1,306 applications from 34 countries

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), alongside its strategic partners – the Makkah Cultural Forum, Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and Doyof Al Rahman Program (DARP) – today confirmed that 1,306 applications from 34 countries were submitted to the first edition of KAUST Challenge – Ideas and Solutions for Hajj and Umrah. The comprehensive multi-stage selection process, lasting over a month, resulted in shortlisting of 33 finalists.

KAUST also announced that six sponsors were selected for the Challenge. They include Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH) for the healthcare theme, SAUDIA (formerly known as Saudi Arabian Airlines) and Saudi Railway Company (SAR) for the mobility theme, and Saudi Ground Services (SGS) for the crowd management theme. Microsoft was selected as the technology sponsor and Arab News as the media sponsor.

In line with Saudi Arabia’s national priorities and the objectives of Vision 2030, the first edition of the KAUST Challenge focused on improving the Hajj and Umrah experience for pilgrims from all over the world and on advancing efforts to make Makkah a smart city. The Challenge focused on three themes – healthcare, mobility, and crowd management, which were selected after extensive research on the most pressing pain points of Hajj & Umrah pilgrims. Eleven finalists from each theme were selected for the finalist pool.

An expert panel of 30+ judges, drawn from KAUST, DARP, and the sponsors, evaluated the ideas and solutions from the 33 shortlisted finalists to select the winners. The winners, who stand a chance to receive up to SAR 1.3 million in cash and other prizes, will be announced at the award ceremony to be held on 28th March 2021 at the Emarah Foyer in Jeddah. His Royal Highness Prince Khalid AlFaisal, Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Governor of Makkah, along with Dr. Tony F Chan, President of KAUST and Dr. Najah Ashry, Vice President for Strategic National Advancement at KAUST, will be present at the award ceremony to award the winners.

Speaking on the success of the inaugural edition, Dr. Najah Ashry said: “We are proud that more than 1,300 innovators were inspired to submit applications to this first KAUST Challenge and that more than 300 of them are based in Saudi Arabia.  Many of the out-of-the-box hi-tech solutions that the applicants proposed are viable ideas that could enhance the experience of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims. The winning ideas and solutions will require cultivation across Saudi Arabia’s research-development-innovation ecosystem. By encouraging continued collaboration of the KAUST Challenge winners with ecosystem players in the Kingdom, we will ensure that the outcomes from the KAUST Challenge have real-world impact for the people for whom they are designed. “

She added: “We thank our strategic partners and sponsors for their continued support and dedication in making this first KAUST Challenge a true success. We hope to unlock the unique power of crowdsourcing to nurture and develop Saudi talent with future KAUST Challenges.”