Foundation capital

The Jacobs Foundation calls for a ‘culture shift’ to put evidence at the heart of the Middle East’s $4 billion IT industry

The Jacobs Foundation today called on investors, edtech companies and universities in the Middle East and around the world to deepen their collaboration and integrate more research into the development of new edtech products. The Foundation also urged edtech venture capital funds to make greater use of evidence in investment decision-making, as analysts predict that the edtech sector in the Middle East, currently worth around $4 billion, will reach more $7 billion by 2027.[1] Globally, analysts predict that up to $150 billion in venture capital could be deployed in edtech by the end of this decade.[2]

The Jacobs Foundation made the call ahead of next month’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where world leaders will meet under the theme “Working together, rebuilding trust”. They will examine the role of public-private cooperation in restoring trust and building a more sustainable future. It comes after the pandemic disrupted the learning of more than 1.5 billion students worldwide.[3]

To continue this momentum, the Jacobs Foundation has committed 40 million Swiss francs ($44 million) globally to foster greater cooperation between investors, start-ups and edtech researchers. These key players will come together in May this year at the Jacobs Foundation’s Unlocking the Impact of Edtech conference in Germany, where they will discuss ways to use evidence more and better in edtech.

Last year, edtech startups around the world received a combined $20 billion in venture capital funding,[4] 40 times more investment than in 2010 and triple the pre-pandemic investment levels of 2019. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, in its Digital Education Outlook 2021, called for more evidence on how technology benefits learning, as well as clear criteria on how it should be assessed.[5] A study published earlier this year by the US-based non-profit organization Digital Promise found that products based on learning sciences research are more likely to continuously improve and meet the needs of students and educators.

Fabio Segura and Simon Sommer, co-CEO of the Jacobs Foundation, said:

“With soaring investments in the education technology sector in the Middle East, we must not lose sight of what really matters: whether these new innovations are truly benefiting children’s learning.

“Today we call for a culture change in edtech. The investment and research communities in the Middle East should work together, and with partners around the world, to incorporate more evidence into the development of edtech products. It will be a win-win for everyone. Investors will make better decisions, start-ups collaborating with researchers will improve their products, and students will have access to education technologies that benefit their learning. It there is not a moment to lose for students disturbed by the Covid.

To bridge the gap between science learning and edtech, the Jacobs Foundation has committed 40 million Swiss francs ($44 million) to three interconnected initiatives around the world. He launched the Learning Edtech Impact Funds (LEIF), deploying 30 million Swiss francs ($33 million) through leading edtech venture capital funds that pledge to invest in research-backed projects . These partner venture capital funds include BrightEye Ventures, Educapital, Learn Capital, New Markets Venture Partners, Reach Capital, Rethink Education,, Owl Ventures and Kaizenvest.

The funds will work with the Jacobs Foundation’s new edtech research center at the University of California, Irvine, Connecting the Edtech Research EcoSystem (CERES). CERES will collaborate with edtech companies and produce cutting-edge scientific research on how children learn through technology. The Jacobs Foundation awarded CERES a grant of 10 million Swiss francs ($11 million) over five years to bring together experts in computer science, human-computer interaction, education and psychology.

To further support a large-scale shift to evidence-based investing, the Jacobs Foundation will lead EdFIRST – a proposed alliance of leading foundations that will work together to encourage the use of evidence in technology investment decisions. education. Fabio Segura and Simon Sommer added, “This alliance ultimately aims to strengthen the edtech ecosystem and support a large-scale shift towards evidence of impact in edtech to shape policy. education globally by 2030 and beyond.”

Marie-Christine Levet and Litzie Maarek, Founding Partners of Educapital, said:

“At this historic moment in education, we have the opportunity to shape the impact of technology on learning and schools. By combining our in-depth knowledge of the start-up ecosystem with the expertise of researchers to test if and how innovations actually benefit learning, we can ensure that funding is directed towards innovations that will make a real difference in children’s learning.

Dr. Gillian Hayes and Dr. Candice Odgers, co-leads of Connecting the Edtech Research EcoSystem at the University of California, Irvine, said:

“From AI to VR, edtech is an incredibly fast-growing field. We look forward to strengthening ties within the vibrant edtech ecosystem, particularly by collaborating with investors and edtech companies to integrate research into edtech development and evaluation.Working together, we can truly grasp the great promise of edtech.


The Jacobs Foundation is active worldwide in promoting the development and learning of children and young people. The Foundation was founded in Zurich by entrepreneur Klaus J. Jacobs and his family in 1989. As part of its Strategy 2030, it has committed 500 million francs to advance evidence-based learning ideas, to to help schools deliver quality education and to transform educational ecosystems around the world.