It should come as no surprise that the companies on this year’s list of the most innovative in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) embody a sprawling and richly diverse set of ideas. The region, after all, encompasses more than 100 countries, and is home to more than 2 billion people and tens of thousands of companies large and small.
The companies on this year’s list range from ones tackling some of humanity’s biggest problems to ones that have created deceptively simple solutions that make a big impact. The U.K.-based biotech company Exscientia and Tel Aviv-based Quris AI have each found intriguing ways to harness artificial intelligence to help speed up the drug discovery and development process, while Belgium-based vertical farming company Urban Crop Solutions is using plants to manufacture everything from cosmetics to vaccines.
Across several African countries, Ulesson is helping close the gaps in educational access for millions of students, while Lagos-based B2B marketplace Sabi is working to bring some of the 41 million small business owners from Africa’s informal economy online.
London-based ContractPodAi and Israel-based Papaya Global have both found ways to make our work lives easier. Papaya Global manages all the essentials, like payroll spending and cross-border payments, so companies can tap into global talent and remote workforces. ContractPodAi uses AI to streamline how companies manage their in-house legal documents.
Global powerhouse Saatchi & Saatchi London and the small Austria-based startup Lito are harnessing new tech, such as blockchain and 3D printing, in inventive ways. But sometimes the simplest things can lead to innovation, as when a high school student in Ukraine wondered if fallen leaves could be repurposed into a new paper source—and seeded the idea for his growing company Releaf Paper.
For bringing scale and efficiency to Africa’s sprawling network of small businesses
Africa has a massive informal economy of merchants. Sabi, a three-year-old Lagos, Nigeria–based B2B marketplace, is working to bring some of these 41 million small business owners online. On the Sabi platform, merchants can connect with manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers to buy products; manage their sales and inventory; track business performance; and even access financing via offline and online channels. In 2022, Sabi made moves to extend its services in South Africa, and the Sabi mobile app added a slew of customizable features. The company also rolled out more products to help offline merchants digitize their businesses with minimal effort. To further assist merchants in building their businesses, Sabi designed an internal credit evaluation system that enabled the facilitation of more than $70 million in credit to its users. Sabi, which raised raised $6 million in 2021, announced that year that it had already reached more than 150,000 merchants.