Plexal, the innovation centre and co-working space based at Here East in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, has announced a partnership with Omani innovation development company AL JABR to support start-ups in Oman with navigating the challenges posed by Covid-19.

Initiated by the UK-Oman Digital Hub, the partnership aims to help the start-up community in Oman find and develop solutions to local challenges created by the pandemic.

Plexal’s innovation team has analysed the response to the pandemic from UK start-ups, as well as the impact of Covid-19 on Omani society and businesses, to design the Rapid Innovation Accelerator: a virtual programme of activity that will see UK innovators share their learnings with counterparts in Oman through mentoring and workshops.

The study from Plexal and AL JABR, with support from the British Embassy in Muscat, analysed the most creative solutions from the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Oman and the UK, and found that the most rich innovation has been taking across three areas of need: digitising businesses (including bricks and mortar stores), digitising communities virtually and digitising education.

It’s calling on start-ups, corporate innovation specialists, academics and business leaders across the UK to register interest in mentoring or providing masterclasses for fellow startups in Oman during the six-week programme. They can do so here.

Plexal is an innovation centre and co-working space, established by Delancey, that specialises in forging connections between industry, academia, investors, startups and scaleups to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing society.

It also delivers the UK government-backed cybersecurity programme, LORCA (the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement) which has supported 72 cybersecurity scale-ups gain over £160m in VC funding since the programme launched just over two years ago.

Based in Muscat, AL JABR is an Omani innovation development company focused on enriching the efforts within the Omani entrepreneurial ecosystem, mainly through start-up development programmes and industry innovation initiatives.

Plexal’s partnership with AL JABR will strengthen ties between Oman and the UK, fostering greater collaboration between the two start-up ecosystems and enabling opportunities for start-ups to work together beyond the programme.

Andrew Roughan, managing director of Plexal, said: “Both Oman and the UK have thriving start-up ecosystems, and the Omani government is committed to supporting the country’s brightest entrepreneurs by being open to collaboration.

“The start-up response to the pandemic in the UK has been swift, effective and nothing short of heroic, and Plexal’s excited to share what we’ve learned with Oman and explore local solutions.

“The pandemic has placed enormous pressure on economies and society, but it’s also encouraged open innovation across borders – long may it continue.”

Henry Howard, Head of the UK-Oman Digital Hub, a British Embassy initiative, commented: “Throughout this year, the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted and taken lives in every country around the world.

“But with these challenges are also opportunities. Oman is increasingly finding digital solutions to everyday problems, and the global crisis has accelerated this trend.

“We are really excited by the Rapid Innovation project, to be working with Plexal again and their local partner Al-Jabr, and to help the budding start-up ecosystem overcome challenges presented by Covid.

“The programme will focus on digitalising business, education, and community, and compliments a series of other accelerator and innovation programmes already underway in Oman.”

Mohammed Al Wahaibi, CEO of Al JABR, commented: “As we navigate through these stormy seas, we have witnessed that the start-up ecosystems in both Oman and the UK took upon themselves to lead a very brave and innovative expedition into building new solutions to accommodate the rapid changes in our lives and we are proud to have been a part of it.

“Our partnership with Plexal comes as another means to expedite innovation in the region through collaboration and knowledge sharing.

“We have tremendous faith in Omani startups and the ever-developing entrepreneurial environment with the support of the Omani government and we are very enthusiastic to be a part of their ongoing development.”