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KAUST Challenge launch

​In partnership with The Makkah Cultural Forum, KAUST has launched The KAUST Challenge: Ideas and Solutions for Hajj & Umrah 2020.

The KAUST challenge aims to catalyze research, innovation, economic development and social prosperity in Saudi Arabia through new crowdsourcing initiatives that encourage local and international talents to identify ideas and solutions to advance the Kingdom’s national priorities and support Vision 2030. The University seeks to develop and support bold science, technology, and engineering initiatives that aim to transform the lives of Saudis and develop Saudi talents.

“We wish to draw on the participative power of crowdsourcing to solve problems faced in the Kingdom and the world with the KAUST Challenge,” said Najah Ashry, vice president for Strategic National Advancement at KAUST. “The speed, flexibility and scalability of crowdsourcing will bring us new ideas and solutions that can be further developed through deep collaboration with players in the Kingdom’s research-development-innovation ecosystem.”

The focus of the inaugural edition of the KAUST Challenge is on improving the Hajj and Umrah experience for pilgrims from all over the world and on advancing efforts to make Makkah a smart city. The challenge will play an active role in advancing the Kingdom’s national priorities by better serving the increasing number of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims and improving their experiences in the two holy cities.

The KAUST Challenge, which will award 1 million SAR in cash and other prizes, will identify and support ideas and solutions that can move quickly into the market.

The challenge will span three themes:

  • Healthcare – to increase preventative measures to ensure health and well being for all pilgrims, a concern augmented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
  • Mobility – to ensure adequate availability and access to public and private transport
  • Crowd management – to enhance infrastructure to meet capacity requirements for large crowds

To gather valuable inputs from this challenge, the University is targeting a wide group of national and international participants to submit their ideas and solutions, including:

  • Startups – grow stage start-ups or scale-ups with solutions proven by the market
  • Innovators – seed start-ups, and IP-holders with ideas or solutions yet to be fully market tasted
  • The general public – students, academics, entrepreneurs and individuals in society who have an interest in or affection for Hajj and Umrah

“The challenges Hajj and Umrah pilgrims face need new solutions and we know that people here in Saudi Arabia and across the world will have great ideas to offer,” said Ashry. “We are excited to receive their submissions and to provide exciting solutions to our neighbors in Makkah that will serve all pilgrims.”

Submission to the KAUST Challenge is now open and will run until January 2021. A virtual final event will take place on an immersive platform at the end of February 2021. At the final event, the best idea from each theme will be selected by a panel of qualified judges.

Details about the KAUST Challenge: Ideas and Solutions for Hajj & Umrah 2020, and submission options are available at


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