Home Policy & Governance Isle of Man government-backed ‘innovation challenge’ competition winners revealed

Isle of Man government-backed ‘innovation challenge’ competition winners revealed

Cindy van Niekerk: the chief executive of the London-based company delivers her winning presentation | Credit: Ian Hall

Winners of an Isle of Man government-backed innovation competition have been revealed this week.

Thirteen finalists presented their solutions in the categories of fintech, data and artificial intelligence (AI) and ‘CleanTech’ at the climax of the ‘Innovation Challenge 2024’ on 13 June.

The competition aims to showcase the IoM – a self-governing British Crown Dependency located in the Irish Sea, almost equidistant from England, Northern Ireland and Scotland – as a pro-innovation jurisdiction and encourage collaboration between the public- and private-sectors.

Umazi – a London-based company led by founder and chief executive Cindy van Niekerk – won the fintech category, impressing the judges with a platform designed to address challenges related to client data, onboarding and regulatory compliance, mainly focusing on anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-business (KYB) requirements. It allows companies to create a cryptographically secured digital identity containing relevant data for due diligence processes.

The data and AI category was won by Acentrik, a data-sharing product developed by Mercedes-Benz Singapore. The CleanTech category was won by an Oxfordshire (UK)-based company called Re-Universe, which works with organisations to implement tech-based re-use and recycling initiatives.

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Expert involvement

Run by Digital Isle of Man, Finance Isle of Man and Business Isle of Man – three of four executive agencies under the Isle of Man Department for Enterprise – the competition encourages businesses, organisations and entrepreneurs at all stages of development to showcase their products and services. It attracted nearly 50 applicants from around the world.

The finalists – which included contenders from Denmark, Poland, Australia and New Zealand – presented their solutions to a 250-strong audience, with the winners decided by expert judges and revealed at the end of the day.

The event also saw the winner named of a fourth category – for ‘biosphere’ – to reflect that the IoM, in 2016, became the world’s first entire jurisdiction to be recognised as a ‘UNESCO Biosphere’. This category was won by 4Learn, a Singapore-based ‘EdTech’ (education technology) company using AI.

The other finalists in the fintech category were Mutual Credit, Moroku and Gatenox; the data and AI finalists were Deloitte, Ailuna, Raidiam and 4Learn; and the CleanTech finalists were ReVend, Apneatech and Eyesea.

Over the past few months, the finalists have received mentoring and support from experts, as well as networking opportunities with industry peers, potential clients and investors.

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Chief minister’s backing

Lyle Wraxell at the Innovation Challenge 2024 finale

The 13 entries presented their ideas during a full-day ‘finale’ event – held at a hotel located just outside the island’s capital, Douglas – that also featured panel discussions, keynotes on the topics of AI and data, and remarks by the IoM’s chief minister Alfred Cannan.

“Somebody asked me at lunchtime: ‘Was it right for the government to be involved in this [initiative]?’,” Cannan told the audience. “It is absolutely right that we do support this: from an innovation perspective, we need to be supporting business in terms of the opportunities that exist and making sure that as a society we’re looking to progress as much as possible in line with the technologies that are currently available; secondly, as an island, we have that physical and corporate infrastructure that everyone needs to develop innovative businesses; and, thirdly, I know we all share a common interest and desire to see business and opportunity succeed.”

The winners will receive ‘additional promotion and publicity both locally and internationally, as well as extended access to the Isle of Man’s marketplace of mentors, potential investors and customers across sectors, regulators, and government officers for six months.’

Digital Isle of Man chief executive Lyle Wraxall (pictured) said he was “looking forward to following the journey of our finalists and to see their solutions going from ideas to reality.”

His counterpart at Finance Isle of Man, Michael Crowe, meanwhile, said that the finalists’ solutions “have the potential to actively shape the market and redefine financial experiences in the years ahead.”

RELATED ARTICLE Isle of Man regulator to use AI tool for compliance-related interactions – a news story (26 February 2024) on the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority announcing a collaboration with a Luxembourg-based company (Regsearch) to use AI for compliance-related interactions with the companies it supervises

Challenges’ opportunities

The competition was the IoM authorities’ first ‘Innovation Challenge’ after previously organising a ‘Fintech Innovation Challenge’.

The finale of the fintech-focused initiative was held just under 12 months ago and saw the crowning of three winners: SQR Group (Isle of Man), Crucial Compliance (Gibraltar), Cygnetise (UK).

The IoM authorities have also previously run an ‘InsurTech Acceleration Programme’. This helped to propel a collaboration between the IoM Financial Services Authority and a Luxembourg-based company, Regsearch, to use AI for compliance-related interactions with the companies it supervises.

Digital Isle of Man published an article on its website in July 2022 stating that the financial services industry has been ‘one of the backbones of the Isle of Man economy for many decades’ and that a ‘significant amount of effort is being invested in defining our context in [the] “brave new fintech world”, building to a specific and globally competitive Isle of Man Fintech Strategy by the end of 2022.’ This strategy’s publication date has, however, slipped, with the latest target date being later this year.

In November 2022, the IoM’s parliament – Tynwald – approved an economic strategy (‘Our Island, Our Future’) for the subsequent 10 to 15 years, including the ‘further develop[ment of] infrastructure and services to plan for an estimated population of 100,000 by 2037’. The island’s current population is about 84,000.