Top 100: International list of Artificial intelligence solutions for sustainable development for the benefit of humanity

Published on December 17, 2021

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The International Research Centre in Artificial Intelligence under the auspices of UNESCO (IRCAI), is dedicated to supporting the development of AI-based solutions to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. This mission was given to it by its founders UNESCO and the Slovenian government. One of the results of these activities is the compilation of 100 outstanding projects around the world that use AI to support the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

IRCAI drafted a call for solutions with global relevance and, with the engagement of members of its Business and Impact Council, promoted the call, while reviews were conducted by members of the scientific programme committees and the editorial board of the scientific journal IRCAI.

A list of the top 100 projects solving problems related to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through the use of AI has now been compiled and is available here. Participating applicants come from all five geographic regions: Africa, Europe and the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, and the Middle East.

The 2021 call was phenomenally successful and the submissions have proven that the use of AI in sustainability is not only nascent, but thriving in research groups around the world and permeating startups, established companies, development agencies, and non-profit organisations.

The main aim of this effort was to scope and showcase solutions from around the world and contribute to the SDGs by making the world’s largest platform for sustainable solutions even more effective and impactful. The solutions listed are applicable and can credibly solve a real development problem, with an emphasis on ethics.

Enabling entrepreneurs to find solutions that are necessary for all

The IRCAI Global Top 100 list has the potential to help entrepreneurs, thinkers and researchers, and especially projects using AI, who might not otherwise gain visibility in global markets, have significant impact, or have their say. The list is a first-time selection of solutions from all five geographic regions of the United Nations, and includes outstanding, excellent, and promising projects and early stages.

The solutions and full list can be found here:, while the press conference to launch the full report and the outstanding solutions themselves will be held on February 2021.

The selection process

The reviewers were specifically looking for presentable solutions that directly or indirectly solve one or more sustainable development problems, including research innovations implemented in these solutions. A strong focus was also placed on machine learning, artificial intelligence, or data science across all scientific disciplines. The main focus was on solutions for one or more Sustainable Development Goals.

IRCAI made final decisions based on the potential implementation and impact of the AI solution in the sustainable development community, as well as the quality of the scientific content and solution. These were considered in the general criteria listed below.

  • Sustainable Development: Centrality of AI to the delivery of the solution.
  • Impact: The potential impact on the relevant SDG(s), either by measuring the KPIs or by providing systems that improve them
  • Implementation: the demonstration of the potential in the completed work, either as a proof of concept or as a completed research paper
  • Ethics: Ethical design of the AI

The platform created by this list will hopefully lead to increased collaboration between individuals and companies seeking the same goals in different areas and in solving different problems. The exchange of knowledge and support on many levels will be encouraged and future solutions to the most important challenges of our time and the future will be found in this network, which has the potential to transform into an ecosystem that supports goals and growing solutions that matter to everyone, worldwide.


Presenting the Global Top 100 outstanding projects: Artificial Intelligence-Based Referral System for Patients With Diabetic Retinopathy in Jalisco

Presenting the Global Top 100 outstanding projects: Artificial Intelligence-Based Referral System for Patients With Diabetic Retinopathy in Jalisco

This project provides an inspiring example of an AI-based referral system for patients with diabetic retinopathy. Aware of the high prevalence of diabetes and a shortage of ophthalmologists and eye illness detections services in the Mexican State of Jalisco, the founding members of this
project developed an AI model based on deep convolutional neural networks (DCNN) to enable a timelier detection of Diabetic Retinopathy in people’s eyes. The trained models preprocess and evaluate the suitability and quality and classify relevant ocular documentation with an exceptional specificity and sensitivity on local data.

Presenting the Global Top 100 outstanding projects: MALENA

Presenting the Global Top 100 outstanding projects: MALENA

MALENA is an NLP-based ESG analyst tool enabling investors to quickly review ESG texts developed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to make SDG-integrated investments in emerging markets. The tool is able to identify more than 1,200 ESG risk terms, then performs a sentiment analysis to assign positive, negative or neutral sentiment to the risk terms, depending on the context.


International Research Centre
on Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI)
under the auspices of UNESCO 

Jožef Stefan Institute
Jamova cesta 39
SI-1000 Ljubljana


The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this website do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

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