Sherab Lhamo

Bhutan is experiencing a rise in the number of young innovators despite facing challenges like limited resources, funding constraints, and an emerging technology ecosystem.

Despite these obstacles, young innovators are forging ahead, creating solutions to tackle environmental issues and leveraging technology to improve people’s lives.

According to UNICEF, in 2022, Bhutan had 199,111 young innovators, constituting approximately 26 percent of the total population.

Dema Lhamo, an 18-year-old student from Tsenkharla Central School in Trashityangtse, made notable contributions to innovation. She represented Bhutan in the First Global Challenge held in Singapore. She also had worked on innovative projects in her school, such as designing a marine bin to remove waste from water bodies and implementing a waste disposal project.

She highlighted the challenges of bringing ideas to fruition in Bhutan, noting that the scarcity of resources and limited engineering skills hindered the development of products, impacting the realisation of innovative ideas and talents.

Ugyen Dendup, a startup founder specialising in artificial intelligence (AI) from Gyalpozhing College of Information Technology, emphasised the hurdles faced by young entrepreneurs in Bhutan.

He said that accessing capital and resources presents a major challenge, citing the limited availability of funding sources specifically for technology startups and innovative ventures.

He also noted that the investment landscape in Bhutan lacks diverse funding options, such as venture capital or angel investors, which are crucial for supporting innovative ventures. There is a need for smaller-scale support systems to facilitate access to resources like mentorship, networking opportunities, and incubation programmess, which are vital for nurturing and sustaining entrepreneurial endeavours.

However, Ugyen Dendup said that despite the challenges, young innovators like himself are receiving support from various sectors within Bhutan. Initiatives such as the Startup Centre, Loden Foundation, and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment are actively providing mentorship, training, and funding opportunities for young entrepreneurs.

These efforts aim to equip young innovators with the necessary skills and resources to initiate and maintain their ventures successfully.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development is playing a pivotal role in nurturing young innovators. It provides opportunities for hands-on learning experiences and skill development, enabling innovators to bring their ideas to fruition. Fablabs are providing to access materials and expert advice, as well as borrowing materials from nearby institutes to transform ideas into reality.

Events like FAB23 have provided youths with a platform to showcase their skills and transform their ideas into realities. Through programmes like UPSHIFT, UNICEF is actively empowering young people by fostering a mindset and equipping them with the necessary skills to identify problems and develop innovative solutions.

Furthermore, UNICEF organises hackathons specifically tailored for adolescent girls, aiming to enhance their digital literacy and problem-solving abilities. These initiatives collectively contribute to fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among Bhutan’s youth.

“More can be done with the assistance of the government,” Ugyen Dendup said, “by streamlining administrative procedures, implementing specialised education initiatives, and offering targeted financial support. These measures can help establish a place where young innovators like myself can thrive, making meaningful contributions to the advancement of our society.”