A few of us are delighted to be in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia this weekend for the launch of Dr. Hayat Sindi’s i2 Institute for Imagination and Ingenuity.
Hayat is well-known here as the first woman from the Gulf to earn a PhD in biotechnology. She left home, alone, and went the UK, got into Cambridge, then MIT and then Harvard to do her post-doc work. There, she co-founded Diagnostics For All, which offers ultra-low-cost point-of-care diagnostic tools for people living beyond the reach of medical infrastructures.
Our work with Hayat began in 2011, when she came to us with the ambition to translate her passion for science and social innovation into a solution for unemployment in her home region, the Middle East. The ambition that eventually became i2.
Despite substantial government investment in education and training, roughly half of 20–24 year olds in Saudi Arabia are still unemployed—the region needs a solution that’s both sustainable and scalable. Hayat’s dream is that beginning today, with the opening of applications to i2, stories like hers will become less exceptional and more possible for every young innovator.
With years of hard work and a fierce determination to connect innovative practitioners, educators and creatives from around the world, Hayat will launch the Institute and its Fellowship Program tonight.
The Fellowship develops and supports young scientists/engineers/future entrepreneurs in the Middle East through a holistic ecosystem of resources, programming and mentorship. Selected fellows spend 8 months working as a group to develop their individual business ideas. Access to a well-connected ecosystem creates the conditions for innovation and economic and social change. Later in the process, a business venture conference is held to introduce those young innovators to investors.
For us, it was never an option not to work with Hayat because of the consequences of not getting involved with such a great idea. It’s a critical moment for the Middle East and i2 will bring young people the chance to have the right platform, to know what to do and how to connect to the right people, in order to make their dreams reality. Good luck today, Hayat!