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Jumpstarting innovation

Covid-19 could have seen Europe’s start-ups retreat into their shells, to wait for the worst to pass. Instead, many have been spurred on to achieve new milestones, pushing forward with the development innovative solutions that will contribute to making the post-pandemic world a better place.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has brought forth many challenges for most branches of industry, and start-ups across a wide range of fields have risen to this challenge, taking the opportunity to validate their innovative solutions and connect with the demands of the continent’s many stakeholders.

Several of the most innovative start-ups were part of the latest EIT Jumpstarter cohort, which reached its conclusion late last month.

Flagship

The flagship programme of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), EIT Jumpstarter is a pre-accelerator programme led by EIT Health and involving other EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) with the goal of boosting innovation and entrepreneurship in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe.

Innovators were coached by world-leading experts to help turn their ideas into businesses. Through a training and pitch contest process, participants built and validates viable business models around their ideas for products or services. At the final, on November 25, a total of 36 teams from all over Europe showcased their budding start-ups in front of a jury of experts and potential investors, competing for a prize pool of 160,000 euros.

“The EIT Jumpstarter programme is an excellent opportunity for students, researchers and entrepreneurs,” says Dora Marosvolgyi, EIT Jumpstarter mentor and project manager at EIT Health InnoStars. “Participants receive a whole mentoring package from EIT experts, which allows them to learn how to build business in a truly global environment. The programme works like a springboard. Many of the accelerated teams set up their own businesses and launch revolutionary products on the market.”

Building communities

EIT builds knowledge and innovation communities (KICs), partnerships that bring together businesses, research centres and universities.

The aim is to drive innovation and entrepreneurship to find solutions to major societal challenges. Tracks of the Jumpstarter programme are coordinated by individual KIC’s: EIT Health supports innovative healthcare solutions and deals with public health issues, EIT Food supports the food system transformation to make it more healthy and sustainable, EIT Raw Materials develops ways to make economy more circular and competitive, EIT InnoEnergy works on renewable and more sustainable energy sources, EIT Manufacturing supports development of modern and highly-capable industry, and EIT Urban Mobility develops ways to implement decarbonised, hi-tech mobility which will keep us moving through the 21st century and beyond.

“I am really proud that throughout its four years of existence, the programme has created an opportunity to develop many innovative businesses and has trained 335 innovators,” adds Marosvolgyi.

Winners

Among this year’s winners are a number of start-ups from the emerging Europe region.

In energy, the winner came from Latvia: DronePlan, whose automation software helps power distribution companies who want to run regular inspections of power lines by means of drones. It allows them to save time, optimise inspection costs and improve safety during the inspection. The solution allows power companies to make savings as it negates the need for special equipment such as hydraulic platforms, scaffolding or helicopters. Artificial intelligence generates automatic reports which facilitate immediate decisions.

In the raw materials category, ReCatalyst from Slovenia is revolutionising the way we make hydrogen fuel cell catalysts. The firm produces next generation patented platinum-alloy nano-catalysts that are two-three times more efficient, exhibit enhanced stability as well as enable a 50 per cent reduction in the required platinum per hydrogen fuel cell system.

The team recently reached Technology Readiness Level 6, making their products ready for commercial use and, as such, market entry. The team’s dream is to achieve a five-ten fold reduction in required platinum over the next five-ten years and become the global enabler of the sustainable ramp-up of hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The technology comes from the Slovenian National Institute of Chemistry and arose from the PhD research of one of its founders, Dr Matija Gatalo. In order to transfer the idea into a successful business, Dr Gatalo joined forces with co-founder Tomaž Bizjak, and together they have created a track-record of success over the past two years that has seen them win several innovation awards. EIT Jumpstarter is just the latest.

Democratising energy

When it comes to urban mobility, the winner was Horizer from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Horizer engages in the design, development, manufacture, and sale of solar modules, energy generation and storage systems compatible with any vehicle.

Horizer’s aim to fragment and democratise the energy market by providing every person with the means to have clean, mobile energy accessible, shareable and tradeable anywhere. Companies with a vehicle fleet and vehicle owners using Horizer’s solar module and energy app are already reducing fuel consumption, costs and CO2 emissions by 32 per cent.

Another winner from emerging Europe came in the manufacturing category: ArcLub One, also from Slovenia.

ArcLub One is a cryogenic machining system based on lubricated CO2. The system provides innovative and sustainable cooling and lubrication in computer numerical control (CNC) machining. ArcLub One is a self-standing system that can be adapted to any existing CNC machine in order to replace conventional cooling and lubrication with emulsions. It is based on an innovative way of combining CO2 with any lubrication media, thus providing sustainable CNC machining operations without any need for cleaning.

In addition to sustainable and clean CNC machining operations, other benefits occur when using the system: the tool life can be prolonged more than 200 per cent and production costs can be reduced up to half. Moreover, these benefits arise at low energy consumption and low CO2 consumption, a remarkable competitive advantage.

Other EIT Jumpstarter winners in 2020 include Fetalix from Portugal, in health, the first regenerative fetal-inspired solution to treat low back pain through a minimally-invasive application, and Greek firm Coffeco in food, which has designed and developed a holistic approach in order to reuse 100 per cent of coffee waste.

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