One step closer to making UAE the region’s startup hub – Zurich Innovation Championship


Dubai, United Arab Emirates — Innovation through collaboration remains the name of the game as Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) launches the fourth edition of the Zurich Innovation Championship – the largest global open innovation contest with startups in the insurance sector.

Following past successes, Zurich is inviting startups once again to compete for the opportunity to collaborate on solutions tailored to the needs of customers and the insurance industry.

“The Innovation Championship fosters a new way of thinking and allows us to get access to ideas and solutions we may not yet have ourselves,” said Ericson Chan, Group Chief Information & Digital Officer. “For the participants, it is an opportunity to grow their business and pitch technology-driven solutions that can help meet emerging and evolving customer needs.”

The Zurich Innovation Championship is an important initiative that will enhance the UAE startup segment to further position it as a launchpad for local entrepreneurs across all industries. The UAE, renowned for its pioneering achievements, has launched “UAE Innovates”, an initiative led by the Central Bank of the UAE to recognize and foster innovation and innovators and unite efforts of the public and private sectors and the residents to help create an extensive culture of progression and innovation. 

“As a strategic player in the UAE insurance market, we are encouraging homegrown startups to take full advantage of this remarkable opportunity. This is arguably not just one of the most sought-after platforms for participants in the region, but an opportunity to grow their business, pitch technology-driven solutions and actualize society-impacting ideas that can help ultimately meet emerging and evolving customer needs,” said Mufazzal Kajiji, Chief Executive Officer of Zurich International Life.

According to Mufazzal, this competition ties in well with the month-long UAE Innovates 2023 initiative and is expected to contribute to its objective by inspiring and nurturing startups to ultimately become successful organizations in the long run.

The championships are also encouraging participation from startups based in Qatar and Bahrain as it seeks to promote innovation from the wider Middle East region.

Startups can sign up in one of five categories – Customer Experience, Commercial Insurance, Distribution Partnerships, Digital Enablement and Sustainability.

“Previous championships have shown that the most value comes from startups with ideas to disrupt single parts of the value chain, or enablers, rather than challengers looking to disrupt the whole industry,” said Paolo Mantero, Group Chief Strategy Officer. “Our goal is collaborating together and bringing together the best of what we and the startups have to offer. This is where innovation can make a real difference.”

The Zurich Innovation Championship has become an integral part of Zurich’s innovation drive. Since the first edition in 2018, there have been more than 4,500 submissions, and Zurich is now collaborating with 30 of the participating startups.

The five challenges to be solved:

  • Customer experience: How might Zurich provide customers with solutions and experiences that are as sophisticated and customized as the best-in-class?
  • Commercial insurance: How might Zurich deliver innovative, tailored insurance solutions and risk services as risks evolve and secure the trust of its clients?
  • Distribution partnerships: How might Zurich elevate its partnerships and attract new distribution partners and ecosystems to meet changing customer needs?
  • Digital enablement: How might Zurich use technology to achieve greater agility and efficiency and underpin the right customer and employee experience?
  • Sustainability: How might Zurich help society transition to a more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable world?

A yearly program to champion innovation

This year, the Zurich Innovation Championship is developing into a year-long tournament from January to December. Ten members of Zurich’s global leadership team will pick 2-3 winning initiatives per category by end-April. In the subsequent accelerator phase, stretching four months from end-May to end-September, project funding of up to USD 100,000 will be provided for each of the winning startups, together with mentorship from Zurich leaders and external experts. This will allow the startups, working closely with Zurich’s leaders and businesses, to validate how their joint solution can meet evolving customer needs and prepare an operational business plan to adopt across the Group. By end-December 2023, the proven initiatives will have kicked off, bringing to life the joint proposition.

The Zurich Innovation Championship is once again working with leading players in the startup ecosystem, including F6S, Plug and Play, and SOSA. The potential for collaboration is outlined in a recent Zurich white paper from December 2022, “The Future of Insurtech Collaboration”.

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