UNLEASH plays its part in the COVID-19 fight and launches new programs in 2020

Due to COVID-19, UNLEASH will be postponing its annual innovation lab to 2021, but will instead be launching a new series of online activities to continue advancement on solutions to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

UNLEASH is a global innovation initiative for the Sustainable Development Goals which works with young talents to come up with solutions that address global challenges. Usually, 1,000 young people come together to collaborate on innovative responses to global challenges, but due to COVID-19, UNLEASH 2020 will be postponed to 2021.

“We are in advanced dialogue with the selected host location and look forward to welcoming people to next year’s innovation lab. We are taking COVID-19 very seriously by monitoring the situation closely and we are committed to carry out the innovation lab as soon as public health guidelines allow” says Chairman of UNLEASH, Professor Flemming Besenbacher.

While COVID-19 is a tremendous challenge, it is also an opportunity for UNLEASH to rethink activities, bring resilience to the way it operates and launch new ways of engaging its community of talents, facilitators, and partners.

UNLEASH Hacks are developed to solve pressing sustainability challenges around the world directly with concerned communities

In response to the pandemic, UNLEASH hosted six online hacks to collectively address some of the challenges that humanity is facing due to the spread of the virus. The pioneer program engaged 350 talents, facilitators and experts, who represented over 70 countries across 6 different time zones. Now, UNLEASH will be rolling out a series of Hacks that will focus on regional challenges.

“This was an absolutely incredible experience. Within just 16 hours, it is incredible how much we have achieved. It reaffirms the value of the UNLEASH community to come together as a team.” says Claudia Coleoni, a participant of the online hackathon.

On this basis, UNLEASH is launching Hacks: localized, scalable and cost-efficient innovation processes run by its talents to address sustainability challenges in specific contexts around the world. Given the circumstances, all hacks taking place in 2020 will be held in an online format, already piloted for the COVID-19 iteration. The Hacks will be launched on June 2nd with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, the Tuborg Foundation, among others and kickstart a much larger online community strategy, which will also see the development of an updated community platform. Applications to participate in the Hacks will be open in July.

To best addressed local challenges, three different hack formats are being launched and tailored to specific goals: problem solving, prototyping, and solution implementing. By leveraging the community and methodology of the UNLEASH Innovation Lab, the Hacks will allow passionate youth to work with local stakeholders and community leaders to solve local problems and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We are inspired daily by the talents who are solving disruptions in their communities. Now more than ever, we need to empower creative and innovative young leaders with the resources and support they need to tackle the challenges we are currently facing,” said Jamey Butcher, president and CEO of Chemonics, UNLEASH’s Lead Scale Partner. Chemonics is committed to supporting virtual programming this year by connecting its global experts and networks to participants in regional hacks.


Julie Trærup,

UNLEASH Communications Lead

[email protected], +45 22336346