startAD Announces Winners of its Flagship Entrepreneurship Program for UAE-based University Students

Students won prizes worth USD 33,000 at the program’s Showcase Day

Press Release

startAD, the Abu Dhabi-based startup accelerator powered by Tamkeen and anchored at NYU Abu Dhabi announced the winners of the NextGen Incubator. The virtual program has been designed specifically for UAE-based university students between the ages of 18-25 who are passionate about developing tech-enabled solutions for global challenges as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals

The Showcase Day represented the conclusion of a rigorous entrepreneurship training program. This edition included skill-building workshops, mentorship, and network access during which teams acquired the skills and tools to develop their project into a startup with a business model that is scalable, repeatable, and capital-efficient. Organized in partnership with Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, Sandooq Al Watan, and Etihad Airways, the program takes advantage of the region’s favorable entrepreneurial environment, and equips students with future-ready social, digital, entrepreneurial, and business skills that spark curiosity, enhance employability, and encourage innovation.

The winning startups presented outstanding solutions for responsible consumption and production, quality education, climate action, good health, and wellbeing and won prizes worth USD 33,000. 

  • Mental Health AE, a platform that provides services, information, and resources to create awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health in the UAE, won the National Impact Award, a USD 10,000 prize offered by Sandooq Al Watan. 
  • Ground Z, an innovative digital platform that aims to reduce educational inequality with the help of artificial intelligence won first priz eof USD 3,000 from GGGI.
  • 5mm, a startup which creates sustainable microplastic clean up solutions placed second with a prize of USD 1,500 from GGGI
  • RePlaste, a sustainable design studio addressing waste management, won the Etihad Airways Challenge and return business class tickets to any destination served by the Etihad Greenliner, as well as the opportunity to test and validate their technology through a pilot project on Etihad Airways’ Ecoflights. They also received the third prize of USD 500 from GGGI.  

Twelve teams comprising 34 students pitched their solutions to a panel of experts during Showcase Day.


"The NextGen Incubator is dedicated to promoting innovation as a crucial pillar of the UAE’s transition into a thriving knowledge-based economy. By providing the nation’s talented and entrepreneurial youth with the skills and tools needed to realize their ideas into successful businesses, we are contributing towards building a brighter and more prosperous future for all, with sustainability at its core.”

Managing Director of startAD and also Vice Provost for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at NYUAD, Ramesh Jagannathan

The virtual program received 146 applications from 27 universities.  The 34 finalists, of whom 50 percent were female, represented 15 nationalities, seven universities, and three Emirates of the UAE. 

The jury included Head of Sustainability & Business Excellence at Etihad Aviation Group Mariam Al Qubaisi, Director General at Sandooq Al Watan Hind Baker, Senior Strategic Program Manager at Sandooq Al Watan Sama AlHammadi, and Senior Officer at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Hyun S. Lee. The investor panel consisted of CEO and Cofounder of The UAE Angels Capital Investment Dr. Abdulhannan Kareem and Corporate Leader, Board Director and Advisor to multiple family offices and Venture Capital companies Alaa Alhashem. 

To date the NextGen Incubator has advanced 369 youth entrepreneurs from 30 universities and five emirates in the UAE. Many of these entrepreneurs have gone on to incorporate their businesses and secure significant local and international projects with leading UAE corporations. 

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.