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The next great tech breakthough might not come out of Silicon Valley. It might be from the Vatican.

Since 2016, the Vatican has been working with a couple of Silicon Valley venture capitalists to develop the Laudato Si' Challenge, an international tech startup challenge. The goal? Help humanity better take care of each other, the Earth, and fight climate change.

The challenge has seen more than 300 entrants since it opened up.


This month, the Vatican finally announced their nine selections:

  1. A filter that lets people drink from polluted water
  2. A solar-powered lightbulb
  3. An app that reduces the amount of paper used in offices
  4. Tech that turns waste from breweries into flour
  5. A ride-sharing service for motor scooters
  6. A cash card that gives communities money in exchange for recyclables
  7. An idea to turn agricultural waste into cooking fuel
  8. Tech that could help farmers plan for climate change
  9. Tech that turns toxic manufacturing sludge into energy and clean water

More detailed descriptions can be found on the challenges' website.

While the Catholic Church might not be the first thing that pops to mind when you think about green tech, Pope Francis has been an outspoken supporter of it.

Pope Francis visits Congress in September 2015 to give a speech about the importance of fighting climate change, helping war refugees, and the U.S.'s role in world politics. Photo from Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

The challenge's name comes from Pope Francis's famous 2015 pro-environment encyclical letter, which called upon people to act as stewards of God's creation.

Like on "Shark Tank," the companies will receive both mentorship and funding — each of the nine startups that proposed the top ideas have received $100,000 in equity investments from Silicon Valley investors.  The Vatican isn't putting up any money for the challenge, but they've used their influence to bring together an amazing team of mentors and advisors for the startups, including Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, and the Pope's personal environmental advisor, Cardinal Peter Turkson.

(Not to mention, you know, giving these companies probably the most impressive name-drop opportunity ever.)

It's hard out there for start-ups, especially ones with a mission. They're new and the world doesn't always treat the new very kindly. But this challenge is a heartening reminder that when it comes to protecting people and the environment, we're all in this together.

And that, sometimes, you can find allies in unexpected places.

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