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The UN and Finland’s xEdu Launch the UNTIL-XEDU Learning Accelerator

By Cait Etherington
August 12, 2018

Last week, the United Nations Technology Innovation Labs (UNTIL) and xEdu, a Finnish-based edtech accelerator, announced plans for their upcoming UNTIL-XEDU Learning Accelerator. The partnership is designed to support the development and implementation of new learning solutions around the world. Moreover, the collaboration between UNTIL and xEdu is also just the start of what promises to be an ambitious new UN initiative designed to bring tech solutions, including edtech solutions, to  emerging economies worldwide.

xEdu Is Driving Finland’s Edtech Startup Scene

xEdu describes itself as Europe’s leading business accelerator for edtech startups. Based in Helsinki at the heart of Finland’s growing edtech startup scene, xEdu supports startups engaged on everything from early-stage product development to marketing and offers coaching and mentoring, as well as real-life testing environments for research and development. Since 2016, xEdu has supported close to 50 edtech startups, including those offering solutions to students, educators, parents, and educational administrators.

The United Nations Technology Innovation Labs

UNTIL is such a new initiative that as of early August, a few pages on the UNTIL website were still populated by “lorem ipsum” filler. What is clear is that along with the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre, the UNTIL lab based in Espoo, Finland will be among the very first UNTIL labs in the world. Other forthcoming UNTIL labs will be based in Karala and Haryana, India. The Finnish lab will focus on four areas: conflict prevention; education; health; and circular economy. xEdu will be supporting education-based initiatives. The lab in Malaysia will focus on ethical fashion and textiles using blockchain and 3D printing solutions; ecotourism; and smart city technologies, including IoT, GIS, and AI. The forthcoming Indian UNTIL labs will focus on several additional issues, including water management solutions based on big data and IoT technologies.

According to the United Nations, the goal of the UN Technology Innovation Labs is “to function as a start-up environment and create a platform for collaborative problem solving between UN resources, Private sector, Academia and Civil Society.” The UN also notes that each lab will have a specific mandate to foster collaborations between innovators and mentors from around the globe and facilitate the global exchange of ideas and resources.

Details on the UNTIL-xEDU Learning Accelerator

The new xEdu and UNTIL initiative, which will be known as the UNTIL-XEDU Learning Accelerator, will specifically support startups that are developing and promoting learning solutions for emerging economies. As stated in a press release announcing the collaboration, “The program will include additional tailormade modules focusing on the specific issues of the developing countries and will continue with chosen UNTIL country pilot deployments in the Spring of 2019.”

Salem Avan, Chief of Knowledge Management at the United Nations, emphasizes, “With the insight that Finland has on how to use technology to make education work, we can expect great things from the collaboration.” Antti Korhonen, CEO of xEdu, is also excited about the new collaboration. “During the last two years, xEdu has been focusing on helping startups to scale-up their education and learning innovations in a sustainable way,” says Korhonen, “This would not have been possible without the help of the Finnish education system, cities of Helsinki and Espoo, nor our main business partners Samsung and Telia. We believe that the collaboration with UNTIL is a great way to empower the startups and to speed up the global deployment of the best learning innovations. This can create sustainable impact in education.”

While obstacles to implementing edtech solutions in the developing world still exist, including uneven and unreliable access to broadband, there is hope that emerging edtech solutions will eventually bring education to millions of learners who are currently underserved.

The UNTIL-XEDU Learning Accelerator will launch in Fall 2018 out of the UNTIL Labs in Espoo, Finland. In the spirit of the startup world, the accelerator’s timeline is a fast one. The current open application period for the upcoming xEdu acceleration program has been extended for an additional two weeks to August 22, 2018 to attract the very best projects. The new program’s start date is set for mid-September. Results of the first joint UNTIL and xEdu acceleration program will be showcased in Helsinki at Slush, a startup conference, in December. Startups looking for more information on the UNTIL-XEDU Learning Accelerator can visit the xEdu application site.