Start-up of the Day: Vienna Textile Lab dyes fabrics with bacteria

Bakterien, Textilfarben, Vienna Textile Lab

“Bacteria are the most intelligent, environmentally friendly and resource-efficient way to produce textile dyes,” says Karin Fleck, founder of Vienna Textile Lab. “Bacteria occur in nature, can be stored as a strain in laboratories and propagated at any time. They synthesize colors in a natural way”.

Karin studied technical chemistry at TU Wien in Austria. For many years she had various managerial positions at several energy companies such as Vattenfall Energy Trading in The Netherlands and in Germany. When she met Cecilia Raspanti (who had founded the company Textile Lab Amsterdam), she became inspired to use bacteria to make textile dyes. Cecilia had already tried this herself, but without much success. “It is not so much about the challenge of using bacteria as a raw material. More than anything, you actually need a lot of know-how and understanding of scientific methods. You then also have to go about it very carefully. There could potentially be germs among them,” Karin explains.

She had already been working with dyes when she was graduating. But the whole sector was new to her in principle. That’s why she sought support via:

  • Fritsch, a textile dye company in Vienna, which specializes in environmentally friendly dyes;
  • Erich Schopf, a bacteriographer from Vienna, who makes paintings using bacteria;
  • the Institute of Applied Synthesis Chemistry at TU Wien.

Microorganisms tend to produce microbial dyes in response to altered growth conditions. They protect cells from external influences such as salt or temperature stress, light or intense competition. These substances often also have an anti-bacterial effect. Bacteria-based textile dyes have the same properties as conventional synthetic dyes when used on a daily basis.

Karin Fleck elaborates further:

Bakterien, Textilfarbe, Vienna Textile Lab
Karin Fleck, Vienna Textile Lab (c) Michael Fraller

What solution does this bacterial-based textile dye offer and why is that important?

It is an alternative to synthetic dyes, which to a large degree have a detrimental effect on health and the environment. But also particularly for people in the textile industry who are constantly in contact with these dyes. Furthermore, everyone wears clothes and is therefore exposed to the chemicals that they contain. These dyes are currently under critical examination throughout the world. The EU has guidelines on synthetic dyes too. Dyes are banned on a regular basis or their use is restricted. This creates more room for new, innovative dyes. But especially for new production systems which do not rely on crude oil.

What has been the biggest obstacle that had to be overcome?

Our limited ability to hire people. The Austrian labor market is geared towards permanent jobs and employee security. Yet the world of start-ups is unpredictable. Above all, people are needed on a project basis in order to be able to cope with any peaks. You need to be able to react flexibly to the circumstances when you’re a young company who has growth spurts.

What has been a high point so far? What are you particularly proud of?

There have been many wonderful moments. Such as winning prizes. When we first started out, we already won 3rd place at the Climate Launchpad. This year we won the BOKU Start-up Prize from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. All the invitations we’ve received have also been very encouraging. For example, for the TEDxCanggu in Bali or for a pitch at CLIX , part of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

It’s also great to see how people, customers and organizations from all over the world know how to find us. We talk to people from the US, Indonesia, Sweden, Estonia, the Netherlands, Germany and so on. For instance, I came in contact with Material Connexion in New York. This is a collection of some of the most diverse, innovative materials for industry, local tradespeople, artists and designers. Samples from Vienna Textile Lab have now also been included in their collection.

We derive the most pleasure from everyone who supports us. People who let us know that they appreciate how good our bacteria-based textile dyes are. The experts who really help us out when we can’t figure something out right at that moment. But also local organizations that believe in our success. These include the Vienna Impact Hub or the TCBL, Textile clothing and business labs.

Bakterien, Textilfarbe, Vienna Textile Lab,
Bacteria are applied directly onto the fabric, where they multiply and develop a pattern. Karin Fleck, Vienna Textile Lab (c) Michael Fraller

How is everything going at the Vienna branch?

Fine. We can have confidence in the structures and systems. We have had many rewarding and supportive experiences involving funding agencies and universities. There are people here who are promoting us, even when they don’t know us personally. I can’t judge whether things are any better anywhere else. But I know that there is more money available for the biotech sector in Germany and the US.

Where will the start-up be in five years’ time?

By then we will have elevated our manufacturing method to an industrial level. We will have a customer base that will facilitate further growth, and perhaps we’ll be expanding on a global scale.

What distinguishes Vienna Textile Lab from similar companies?

We have opted for solid partners. This in turn makes us stronger and more competent. Aside from that, we want to remain transparent and have discussions with all potential customers or partners. Not only with large corporations, but also with niche companies, artists and designers. That may well make it more complicated, but that makes it all the better as well. We learn a lot through this kind of interaction and are therefore able to position and develop our products much more effectively. Last but not least, we have an extremely wide variety of our most important employees: bacteria.

Bakterien, Textilfarbe, Vienna Textile Lab
Bacteria are capable of producing a large proportion of the colors in the color palette. Nevertheless, some colors are problematic and need to be mixed. Vienna Textile Lab (c) Michael Fraller

Read more articles about start-ups here.

 

 

Start-up of the Day: only f**king perfect vegetables are good enough for the best restaurants

Ard van de Kreeke (52) from Middelburg became an organic farmer ten years ago. Prior to that, he had owned all kinds of companies in the sustainable quarter. But since he had bought a farm as a house with plenty of land and was kind of done with traveling all over the world, he thought: “I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m going to be a farmer.” As of this year, he owns GrowX vertical farming, a company that grows micro vegetables and supplies top restaurants in Amsterdam. He told Innovation Origins about what drives him.

What motivated you to set up GrowX?

I didn’t set it up, that happened back in 2016 thanks to John Apesos, a Dutch American from Amsterdam. However, the company turned out not to be viable, due to the high cost price of the products and the poor market. Apesos had hoped to produce for the general public, but the product is not yet suitable for that.

What is your product?

We grow mini vegetables in racks, using LED light and in cellulose instead of soil. Without any pesticides – just light, seed and water. For example, we grow wasabi mustard leaves, three different colored radishes and five types of basil. Our range now includes 50 varieties for the hospitality industry, chiefly the higher-end restaurants. I already had leading chef Sergio Herman as a customer at my organic farm and that’ s a great way in for other top restaurants. I deliver to Le Ciel Blue in the Okura hotel and La Rive restaurant in the Amstel Hotel. They use our mini vegetables to enrich their dishes.

What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

I had to shift the company’s culture from high-tech to regular farming. Technology is the means and not the end.

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

The biggest breakthrough was when the best restaurants started appreciating our produce. When it comes to vegetables grown in greenhouses, it’s a bit like: how can that taste so good? The opposite is true. You get a more concentrated taste. You can even influence taste by changing the color of the light. My customers – and they are really super-critical – absolutely love it. We didn’t do any marketing; word of mouth did the job. A number of chefs, like the Zeeland folk in Amsterdam, told their colleagues: you have to taste this, I have something pretty special. This year’s produce is already sold out.

What can we expect from GrowX over the coming year?

We have demonstrated that the product actually works. The only thing is that the production unit isn’t working as we would like it to be. This is due to personnel and energy costs and investment in technology. I want to robotize a large part of the production, so that a robot can water and weigh the plants from now on. That saves 25 % in costs.”

Where do you want to be with GrowX within five years from now?

In principle, I would like to have 25 of these units in place all over the world. In cities, close to the end user. You chop the vegetables and they reach the customer a few minutes later. I hope that by then we will not only have a product for the high-end user, but also for the mainstream consumer.

What does GrowX’s innovation improve upon compared to other products in your segment of the market?

There is already something like this, but it is so expensive, I’m already now more than 50 % cheaper than that. I can handle that side of things much better, thanks to robots and AI in the main. I’ m never satisfied, but it’s still not quite where I want it to be yet. I currently have 5 switches that I can turn, that should be 20. The major advantage is that I understand how a great chef thinks. Sergio Herman once said to me: everything has to be fucking perfect. We won’t do it for any less than that.

 

Slush Helsinki is filled with entrepreneurs, researchers and investors, but hardly any politicians

Suzanne de Kok Selstad is the CEO of ‘Skape‘, a Norwegian start-up consulting organisation. She lives in Stavanger and is a first-time visitor of Slush, the annual innovation and Start-up festival in Helsinki. She writes about her experiences at “the World’s LeadingStart-up Event” for Innovation Origins. This is Day 2 of the event. You can read part 1 here.

We are several people from our county Rogaland attending Slush for different reasons. Trond Medhus, Opportunity Manager for Invest In Stavanger (Greater Stavanger Region) stated that “Slush is the place to be for meeting start-ups, investors and entrepreneurs. Since we are in a global market, we need to be out there getting inspired, listen to the entrepreneurial stories from different angles”. There is indeed no doubt that this is a place that allows us to look into the future – and a perfect place for valuable networking as well. We are meeting people with the brightest ideas, talents, students, investors and on-the-go we get insights on the future technological trends. Next year, we want to bring more start-ups from the Stavanger region over to Slush and use this conference as a place to inspire young entrepreneurs and give them valuable insights and network.

“Money is flowing in the start-up venues”

Cato Meling, head of conference at ONS, the second-largest energy conference in the world, mentions that “it has been an inspiring day at Slush with engaging speakers and interesting themes”. The State of European Tech 2019, which was presented today, essentially states that money is flowing in the start-up venues and there is a need for more women in tech. This positive vibe throughout the event is contagious and incredibly inspiring, and I will for sure be back next year.

“We need more women in tech”

Day two was also exciting, with different insightful themes. Again, we had to make a choice! Like yesterday, we heard people discussing the challenges about talents. But also, about the different demands of talents themselves. Do future talents want to live in big, expensive cities? Can climate changes create new business opportunities? What can we learn from history? Several interesting questions were raised, allowing us to think for ourselves and dwell on the complexity of the future.

Since we got the opportunity to cruise around Helsinki on an e-scooter yesterday, we had to listen to Fredrik Hjelm, Co-founder & CEO of Voi Technology and Lawrence Leuschner, CEO & Co-founder of TIER Mobility. They shared insights about how their companies work together with cities to change regulations. They challenge cities to rethink their transport system. Most cities today are dominated by cars. They, however, raise the question: do we really need two lanes for cars? Berlin is, for example, moving away from extra car lanes and Paris is implementing safety actions for bikers.

Skapes Rudolf Hansen and Suzanne de Kok Selstad on their e-scooters in Helsinki

Cities can also think about changing the rules. More tenders for e-scooters in one in town? A maximum number of providers? Limit a licence for maybe two or three years? Madrid has a tender of 15-17 companies for different parts of town. And how about safety? Most accidents are between cars and scooters, we need to rethink the way they interact. It is, however, rarely the case between scooters or scooter and pedestrians.

Build a culture

Personally, I enjoyed the session about people, we know that it is all about people, especially in the startup world. How important it is to build teams, onboard new members, integrate them, build a culture. Always think of diversity: it breathes better decision-making, offers different angles. Start the process of building a company culture early and include people around you in the process. And if you lead a team yourself, dare to be vulnerable. Dare to say I don’t know and ask somebody who does.

At the end of Day 2, we saw the finals for research pitching. When I heard about these researchers, It immediately felt really good. So many bright ideas for future challenges… 95 ideas, 8 final pitches, one winner! The winner of the grand prize, the 100,000 Euro Skolar Award grant, is Thomas Hausmaninger from the National Metrology Institute of Finland.

“This positive vibe throughout the event is contagious and incredibly inspiring”

I felt privileged being at Slush where there were so many people who have this positive energy of being part of creating something. We need entrepreneurs, we need researchers, we need investors. The group maybe lacking were the politicians.

Slush 2019 is finished. Now, on my way back to Norway, I feel inspired, filled with new knowledge and blessed with a whole new network. I’ll be back!

Start-up of the day: Carefree electric travel with EP Tender battery trailer

The EP Tender looks like a camper’s tiny pod caravan that’s towed behind an ordinary car – but it isn’t! It is actually a mobile battery that will someday make it possible to travel hundreds of kilometers with an electric car. At present, most EVs usually don’t go further than 150 kilometers, so says the founder of EP Tender, Jean-Baptiste Segard. The battery is then empty and needs to be recharged. Segard hopes that the masses will switch to buying an electric car as soon as EP Tender’s battery trailer comes onto the market.

What motivated you to set up EP Tender and what problem did it resolve?

“I first came up with the idea of a trailer with extra capacity for the electric car like our current EP Tender when I wanted to buy an electric car myself. That was back in 2012. I couldn’t find a suitable electric car at that time. The range was not great enough for the few times a year when I wanted to travel much further. I thought it was a pity that there wasn’t a modular system around that would supplement the electric car’s battery so that I could occasionally travel longer distances with it.

At first I thought of a trailer with an internal combustion engine which might run on petrol. But in 2018, we switched to a trailer with an auxiliary battery, because then we would be better able to meet the needs of the electric car manufacturers. We will have to halve our CO2 emissions by 2030. And that is something that car manufacturers must also work towards.

150 kms of extra range

The rationale behind the battery is that you only hire it when you need extra range. Generally speaking, I think this would only be about six times a year for me. You can lengthen the range of your electric car from about 150 kilometers to 250 to 300 kilometers. You could also place a larger battery permanently in your car so that you can keep on driving. But that is far too expensive for most people. This remains an obstacle for them as far as switching to electric-powered transport is concerned.

Installing a larger battery is generally not an efficient solution for increasing the car’s range either, as most people drive just a few times a year further than an average car battery can handle. Otherwise you would be driving around with that heavy battery for no reason. You can compare the weight with that of a cow or a donkey. You’ll have these on your back seat during every short trip. Why would you want to do that if you don’t need to?”

The EP Tender team: Frederic Joint, Jean-Baptiste Segard (second from left), Hugo Basset, Fabrice Viot, Dingjie Ma, Hancheng Yang

What is the main obstacle you will need to overcome?

“It is very difficult to be taken on board in the development plans of car manufacturers. The automotive industry has been around for 120 years. And the planning cycle is lengthy when it comes to developing a new car. That said, we are in talks with a number of car manufacturers. However, a contract with any of them is yet to materialize. It is important that this happens. After all, the car manufacturers must apply for approval from the statutory regulators for use of the EP Tender system with their electric cars. They will only do that once they have our technology fitted to their cars. We cannot do that for them. As long as they haven’t got that done, there won’t be a market for us.”

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“In 2018, when we switched to a battery in the EP Tender instead of a combustion engine. That way you can rely even more on sustainable energy.”

The EP Tender mobile battery Photo: EP Tender

What can we expect from EP Tender in the coming year?

“Our business model must be in place by then. We are now completing a survey using data from 350,000 consumers which should show what most people would be willing to pay when hiring the EP Tender. As well as how often, where and when they could use the EP Tender. We are now putting the finishing touches to the robotics of the trailer so that it can connect itself to the car. The idea is that every 50 kilometers along the road there will be a service station where there will always be twenty EP Tenders ready to be connected. We are currently discussing the location of these service stations with energy companies. But also with private motorway operators in various European countries who have a state concession for these. They have an interest in electric cars being able to add energy in time so that they don’t end up stuck on the roadside.”

Where would you like to be with EP Tender in five years’ time?

“Then we would like to be profitable. Or at least break even. The outlook is that 40% of cars will be electric by 2030. So the demand for the EP Tender should have increased by then. By 2025, we want our trailer to be available for hire in the major European countries such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. But also in Austria, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Denmark. And we want to have a foothold in the US, China and India.”

What does EP Tender’s innovation improve upon compared to products in your segment of the market?

“That drivers of electric cars can drive a long distance without having to constantly worry about their battery’s energy reserves.”

Start-up of the day: Solar panels for DIY-ers – plug it in and you’re good to go!

The Supersola plug-in solar panel may be a nightmare for the installation industry. But this new gadget on the market is not that at all for the consumer who prefers to do as many chores around the home as possible by themselves. It will be up for sale next year. “Then anyone who can connect a plug to a wall socket can install a solar panel on their own,” says Julius Smith, founder of Supersola in Delft.

What was it that motivated you to set up Supersola and what problem did it resolve?

“About 10 years ago I first started working and began in the renewable energy sector. In other words, sustainable energy. Then I found out that the sales of solar panels were slower than we had expected at the company which I was working for back then. The question was why. That’s what I then looked into. It turned out that the majority of the Dutch population really wanted to generate their own solar energy. However, lots of people decided against buying panels in the end. It was often the case that when people did buy solar panels, they only did so a year after having decided that they wanted them.

The reason for this long period of reflection turned out to be that consumers aren’t able to easily find all the information they need in order to find a suitable installer. They also often don’t know which solar panels to buy, and what other products they need to connect them to. Not all components of all brands are compatible, and not all systems are the same. That makes the choice difficult. I then realized that I wanted to design a ready-made panel that consumers could buy with all the necessary parts already on it. So that you get a panel where you only have to plug the attached cord into a socket.”

What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

“When I told the suppliers of all those various parts that I wanted to make and sell a plug-in solar panel with everything on it, they would always say: ‘it can’t be done’. The entire solar panel supply chain is geared towards the installation sector. Whereas I want to bring this product to the consumer electronics market ready-to-use. That sometimes made it difficult when it came to getting cooperation.”

 

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“That was at the beginning of 2018 when we sold a hundred ready-to-use plug-in solar panels as part of a pilot project. They cost €700 each. Some of them were sold via our own website following a campaign on Facebook. While others were sold via Sungevity, a supplier of solar panels. Only one of those hundred had problems. The power cord was damaged when a windstorm blew through the village of that particular customer. We then sent them a new cable. That fixed the problem.”

What can we expect from Supersola in the coming year?

“That’s when we start selling the first commercial version of the plug-in solar panel. Initially through our own web shop. And we are also working on contracting other parties who are willing to sell our product. That’s not quite finalized as yet. Next year we want to focus on the Dutch market. After that, we plan to go abroad.”

Where do you want Supersola to be in the next five years? What is your ultimate goal?

“We want to be available in Europe and the United States by then.”

What does Supersola’s innovation do better when compared to other products on this segment of the market?

“If all consumers could buy our product, then there’s no longer a hitch when it comes to buying solar panels. You can start with one panel. You don’t have to spend more than €600 or €700. At the moment, installing solar panels costs so much more because you have to bring in an installer. Plus, you have to have more than one panel installed in order to recoup those costs. You’ll end up paying €5000. This would not be the case with our system. You can do it all yourself.”

Start-up of the Day: environmentally friendly cling foil made from beeswax

Problems with plastic waste reach the media almost every day. We are continually being confronted with it even in our own environment. Governments all over the world are trying to tackle this problem with regulatory bans, such as those on plastic bags and straws. Sandra Palazzolo and Kristina Immerz, two young women from the German region of Allgäu, have been working on a solution to the plastic problem since 2017. They are producing beeswax wrappers and cling foil at their start-up Wabenwerk (honeycomb). The products are not just for sale in the region Allgäu itself, but also in Austria and Switzerland and online via their own website. Now Wabenwerk has expanded its product line. The two founders are even playing with the idea of opening a shop in Kaufbeuren where they only sell unpackaged goods.

Innovation Origins spoke with co-founder Sandra Palazzolo about Wabenwerk and its plans for their launch on the market.

Both the founders of Wabenwerk: Kristina Immerz (left) and Sandra Palazzolo © Wabenwerk

How did you come up with the idea for the start-up?

Kristina and I are sisters-in-law. Even before Wabenwerk was set up, we had always made natural foils and we were busy being creative. One day Kristina read an article about beeswax in an organic magazine. We immediately became enthusiastic. ‘What a worthwhile and sustainable product!’ we thought, as well as easy for us to make ourselves.

The first beeswax foils were meant as a Christmas present. We worked so hard on the product and on the waxing technique and composition of the beeswax mixture, that they eventually became Mother’s Day gifts.

Sold out

Of course our friends also got beeswax foils, which proved to be very popular. A friend insisted on designing packaging for us. Another friend invited us to her craft market as exhibitors. We sold out at this market after just a few hours. We also received invitations to other markets and retailers were interested. That was the birth of ‘Wabenwerk Natural Foils.’

What makes Wabenwerk or your products so special compared to your competitors and what problems does it solve?

Beeswax manufacturers don’t see each other so much as direct competitors. At least that’s what experience has taught us over the years. We are all driven by issues ranging from pollution to microplastics to bee mortality. We are able to tackle all these problems through our work. This quickly creates a sense of community and an exchange of ideas. At first we could hardly believe it when we saw in black and white how much aluminium and cling foil you could actually avoid with every sheet you sold!

What has been biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

Our biggest obstacle was the EU legislation concerning the Food and Consumer Product Safety Act. We received a phone call from the city council who alerted us to the compulsory guidelines. According to this, we have to remind consumers to pack food directly in our foil. Aside from the financial burden, it was not easy finding a laboratory where the requisite tests could be carried out on natural products such as beeswax. For the time being, we have decided not to advertise the foils for food packaging. This brought us a few sleepless nights. We questioned whether it was really worth doing all the work. In hindsight, it was just a minor setback. But this obstacle seemed insurmountable to us at the time.

And vice versa: what are you particularly proud of?

We’re very proud when we’re at a market and meet customers from last year who enthusiastically tell us how often they use our beeswax foil and how much plastic they’ve managed to avoid this way. We’re also seeing more and more children and teenagers at these markets who pack their snacks in beeswax foil and proudly tell us that. Which always feels very special to us.

© Wabenwerk

What motivates you to go to work every morning?

There are many reasons to do that. The enthusiasm of our customers and retailers. The varied work that goes into production. The fact that we can realize our ideas and of course the continued success of our company. However, the main motivation is our team and the atmosphere in our workshop. Our work is a lot of fun for all of us and we make a sound and sensible product. What more could you ask for?

 What can we expect from Wabenwerk in the coming years?

We are planning a pure organic line, a vegan line and a do-it-yourself set for the new year. Above all, we want to offer companies, hotels and organizations the opportunity to have personalized beeswax foils designed for them. With their own logo, as promotional gifts or business gifts or Christmas presents. We have already started on that this year. We look forward to being able to do even more along these lines in the future.

What is your vision for Wabenwerk? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years’ time?

Our vision is to keep working on Wabenwerk with the same commitment, to build a worthwhile and sustainable company and to be proud of it. We are constantly trying to evolve and to do something good for our customers and our environment.

Are ypu interested in start-ups? Read all of the articles in our series here.
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Start-up of the Month: the storage revolution in Battery Land?

The month of November is already in full swing. However, at IO we’re taking a look back at the month of October. After all, we still owe you a Start-up of the Month! Each workday at IO you can follow those innovation-mad pioneers who are trying to bring the unexplored world of the future and science fiction into the present.

Our editorial staff will choose a weekly winner from all these participants and these weekly winners will compete against each other for the monthly trophy at the end of the month. And as we are not averse to a bit of democracy, our readers also get to have a say.

The winner of the Start-up of the Month October is … *drum roll* – the Swiss super battery from High Performance Battery Holding AG! They’re running off with the everlasting honor and this wonderful sketch by Christiane Manow-Le Ruyet.

/Christiane Manow-Le Ruyet

Got a taste for it

“Wow, we’re delighted that we’ve managed it. It was a breathtaking neck-and-neck race against Hawa Dawa until the very last moment,” says a jubilant Dr. Sebastian Heinz, one of the spiritual leaders of High Performance Battery Holding. ” This win is an incentive for us to keep on going. We are very grateful to everyone who voted for us. We didn’t expect that our battery of the future could count on so much support from social media!”

“Entirely in line with the quote: “After the game is before the game,” we’re now sauntering ahead. We are already looking forward to the results of the Innovation Origins: Start-Up of the Year Award,” states this month’s winner from Teufen, Switzerland.

Every weekday we select a European start-up of the day and at the end of every week, we choose a weekly winner. At the beginning of the new month, readers can have a say in who will be honored with the Start-up of the Month award. In recent months, the winners have come from all over Europe. Last June from Italy, from Spain in July, from England in August and our Eastern neighbours triumphed in September.

The monthly winners will also compete for the first Innovation Origins Start-up of the Year, to be chosen in mid-2020!

End results for Start-up of the Month: October

[democracy id=”7″]

Start-up of the week: see the forest through the trees again

”Your sneak preview of the future” is the slogan of Innovation Origins, and that’s just what we will highlight with our Start-up of the Week column. Over the past few days, five start-ups of the day have been featured and on Saturday we will choose the week’s winner.

Innovation Origins presents a Start-up of the Day each weekday

We shall consider various issues such as sustainability, developmental phase, practical application, simplicity, originality and to what extent they are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of UNESCO. They will all pass by here and at the end of the week, the Start-Up of the Week will be announced. Moreover, our weekly winners may be awarded another prize. Because at the end of each calendar month, our readers, together with the editors of IO, will select the Start-up of the Month!

Nefino – Smart wind farms

A common argument when discussing wind energy concerns efficiency. Wind turbines do not have a very positive image when it comes to revenue and profitability in comparison with environmentally harmful energy sources. Nevertheless, we need to live more sustainably en masse, so a way to monitor wind farms more effectively seems to be a logical step towards a greener future. After all, to measure is to know. But this is easier said than done.

A lot of factors have to be taken into account before the energy output of a wind farm can be optimized. These are actually too many factors to keep an eye on or keep track of in an Excel file, so solutions are sought in software. Nefino is a software system that works autonomously and becomes smarter and smarter the longer it runs. Aside from analyses, it also provides user-friendly overviews so that everyone knows exactly where they stand and are able to act accordingly. This is good for everyone – as a wind turbine that only runs at half power is a sheer waste of capital.

Sirum – ERP for SMEs

Almost all multinationals that are dealing with a complex logistics operation nowadays use systems such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). And because every company is unique as far as its logistics processes are concerned, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all software system. This is the reason why many of these types of systems are specifically tailored to the needs of a customer. However, this is where a problem arises with the smaller players on the market. These types of systems are very expensive, often too expensive for SMEs who would certainly benefit from them if the costs were not so prohibitive.

The German start-up Sirum does things differently: customers here are able to choose which modules they most need. In need of human resources but not fleet management? Does transport play an important role in this company, but has it outsourced its warehouse management? Everything is possible! All combinations can be put together according to your own preferences for a fraction of the price of customized ERP systems used by large companies. One more advantage? Since the system is in the cloud, data can be accessed from anywhere and the risk of failure is minimal. Meanwhile, the company maintains close contact with a community of open-source developers so that specific customer requirements can be linked to the people who are capable of arranging this for them.

Genomtec – Medical laboratory in the palm of your hand

A family doctor is usually the first point of contact when people come forward with medical complaints. A referral is often made to a hospital for a blood test if the cause of a problem is not obvious. After all, most GP practices do not have a laboratory hidden somewhere. Plus, this type of examination also necessitates a completely different kind of expertise. The Polish start-up Genomtec wants to offer GPs a mobile and digital blood sampler that can instantly analyze samples, making referral to a hospital a thing of the past. And one drop is enough!

Genomtec is connected to a handheld device which has the analysis equipment on board. Blood test results are delivered immediately and this saves a lot of money and time. The device is affordable and ensures that hospitals, which often have too much work on, are relieved. Any hospitalization that you can prevent is a gain, not only for the well-being of a patient but also for healthcare providers. And this is very welcome in times of ever more expensive healthcare. Moreover, it doesn’t affect your health insurance deductible. Everyone’s a winner with this mobile medical research laboratory.

 

Enerbrain – Buildings equipped with a sustainable brain

Usually, energy-saving measures are about the source. But an energy-efficient future works both ways. After all, less energy is needed if less energy is consumed. We are already working en masse on double glazing and smart thermostats, but this Italian start-up goes a step further. Enerbrain has developed a software environment that makes buildings as a whole ‘smart’. No, this doesn’t mean that the walls are listening in on you. It just means that the devices inside the building will work in tandem in order to reduce consumption as much as possible. Think of it as a smart thermostat, but then on a larger scale.

According to the designers, the Enerbrain system can reduce consumption by as much as 30 %. And the best part? The user doesn’t have to do anything at all because the system works completely autonomously. Installing eNodes in a building means that the humidity, CO2, temperature and air pressure are constantly monitored. This data is linked to optimized conditions in the system so that no more kilowatt hours will be wasted than is strictly necessary. This should put an end to dumb air conditioning systems that are still in many commercial buildings and are notorious for their high wastage rate.

Drone analysis – Tree counter with a propeller

The Drone analysis story is about a school project that eventually got out of hand. This drone project from Roy Monissen and his partner in crime Sebastiaan van Adrichem was originally designed for the football field. They used it as a tool to analyze football games. The high-tech football analyses from above, however, did not get off the ground owing to tricky regulations. But the duo then came into contact with a tree nursery. They didn’t want to have a game analyzed, but wanted to have a monitor that could detect plant diseases. Drone analysis’ self-learning software turned out not to be a football analyst at all, but a tree doctor instead.

Just imagine yourself there, you’re facing an orchard and have to count exactly how many plants there are. Often you can’t see the forest for the trees, pun intended. This is an impossible task, especially in the case of larger areas. It gets even worse if you also have to keep an eye on each individual tree. This drone provides an overview and shares its findings with the help of a comprehensive map. The software also gives growers advice on how to divide up their land as effectively as possible.

Monissen and Adrichem already have their affairs in order in spite of their young age. Their project already offers fantastic opportunities. Although it seems that Drone analysis is by no means finished yet when it comes to counting. This way Drone analysis should evolve into the flying forest ranger of the horticultural sector over the next five years. We at IO are happy to support these kinds of ambitions. Which is why Drone analysis can call itself start-up of the week this week!

You decide: who will be our Start-up of the Month for October?

Innovation Origins also chose another five Start-up of the Weeks last October. Now that November has arrived, we’re taking a moment to look back. After all, we still need to hand out our monthly trophy and depend on our readers to help us decide.

You and our editors will decide who will walk off with this wonderful honor. And to refresh your memory, here are the five weekly winners one more time!

Week 40: High Performance battery

Week 41: Etagrow

Week 42: Chakratec

Week 43: Hawa Dawa

Week 44: Vitibot

You can vote until 5 pm next Friday. The winner gets to be in the spotlight and earns eternal fame!

[democracy id=”7″]

Start-up of the Week: Let’s drink to that!

”Your sneak preview of the future” is the slogan of Innovation Origins, and that’s just what we will highlight with our Start-up of the Week column. Over the past few days, five start-ups of the day have been featured and on Saturday we will choose the week’s winner.

Innovation Origins presents a Start-up of the Day each weekday

We shall consider various issues such as sustainability, developmental phase, practical application, simplicity, originality and to what extent they are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of UNESCO. They will all pass by here and at the end of the week, the Start-Up of the Week will be announced. Moreover, our weekly winners may be awarded another prize. Because at the end of each calendar month, our readers, together with the editors of IO, will select the Start-up of the Month!

Magnotherm – Cool refrigeration magnets

We mainly know fridge magnets as a decorative item on the doors of our dull white goods. Although they often add a personal, feel-good touch and can be practical for shopping lists, they remain primarily a cosmetic feature of a refrigerator. Up until now that is. Did you know that magnets actually can play a prominent role in a refrigerator? And not just any role but the absolute leading role, in any case if it is up to Magnotherm. This German start-up addresses refrigeration in an entirely novel way.

And it is not just limited to refrigerators. Air conditioning and freezers can use this method to carry out their cooling function as well. This is a lot more environmentally sustainable than the gases that are still currently in use. Those gases are flammable and make a significant contribution to our ecological footprint. In fact, those greenhouse gases are more potent than carbondioxide.

How does it work? Think of it as a kind of microwave, except precisely the other way around. Bonus points by the way for the founding father who goes by the name of Max Fries! His name will no doubt delight English-speakers when they hear what kind of work he does.

DAC – Cooled air

Now that winter is approaching, cooling is apparently totally cool. Because this second start-up also has something to do with this branch of industry. Now, however, they are not magnetic coolants, but cool air cooled by … air. The Ukrainian team behind DAC was greeted with furrowed brows when they asserted that they could pull off this neat trick. It was said to be a Harry Potter magic spell that would only work in fiction. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Collaboration was sought with the Czech Pavel Panasjuk and now they want their idea to become a reality. Because why would you use any polluting gases, when you can also use air to cool things?

The entire cooling process avoids the use of any greenhouse or toxic gas. The air is cooled by itself with a kind of kinetic reaction of the gases that can be found all around us. And this works better than you might think. These cool ‘wizards’ are able to lower the temperature of their immediate surroundings by 60 degrees within one minute. At the moment they are looking for investors who have no faith in hot air or castles of air, but who do have ears for a cool castle built on concrete ideas.

Neuron Soundwave – An ear for equipment

Appreciate it, fix it!” – that’s the slogan of the most recent public campaign in the Netherlands. Why? People throw away far too much stuff that might just as well be repaired. Great excuse to buy a new one, right? Still, repairing something is not just easier on the wallet, but it’s a sustainable option as well. Equipment breaking down nonetheless never happens at a convenient time. Frequently you don’t find out that there’s something faulty until it stops working. If only there was one system that could tell you exactly when something is about to break down. After all, prevention is better than cure. Neuron Soundwave was created for this very reason. This Czech system ‘hears’ when a part of a nearby device is about to fail.

Mechanical parts that are almost worn out have a different sound signature than brand new parts. As a rule, a human ear cannot really distinguish that. But it is now child’s play thanks to the self-learning system from Neuron Soundwave. It’s very simple. You put the Neuron Soundwave receiver in a room, and it provides an ear that listens to the devices that surround it. When the receiver recognizes an anomaly, it alerts the user via an e-mail or a text message. A device rarely breaks down on its own accord, often it’s the result of an earlier process. This astute listener is connected to the futuristic Internet or Things so that no one else need be involved in the intercommunication. Moreover, it is capable of being self-taught as it shares the data with all the other Soundwaves. These are are all underpinned by an algorithm that is increasingly becoming capable of recognizing malfunctions of various equipment.

Eyesynth – I hear, I hear what you don’t see

Actually it’s quite strange that we know more about distant galaxies than about our own grey matter. Thankfully, in recent years innovation has made it possible for us to find out more and more about the workings of certain processes. These can be foreseen. An example of this is Eyesynth, which gives blind people the opportunity to see with 3d glasses by listening. Hearing the appearance of objects? No, this is not a hallucinogenic drug but rather futuristic technology. In the human brain, senses are constantly working together in order to perceive something. For the Spanish start-up Eyesynth, the principle that they focus on is called synesthesia. This means ‘crossed senses’ and causes sensory perceptions to flow through each other. This allows us, for example, to smell certain colors or visualize music. Okay, maybe it is a bit like hallucinogenic drugs …

Babies are 100% synesthete. As a person gets older, this trait disappears in most people. About 14 percent of the adults have a (light) form of synesthesia. These are often quite creative people. Eyesynth’s 3D glasses mimic this effect. Some very encouraging preliminary tests show that it seems to be a godsend for the blind and visually impaired. The data from their surroundings are converted into sound by this technology, creating a geometric ‘shape’ in the brain. The wearer then associates this sound with a specific object. Does it work? Absolutely! Even very small details can become visible. For example, even those who have never seen daylight are able to transform into veritable visual thinkers. Sounds a bit like a superpower, don’t you think?

Vitibot – the winegrower on wheels

The start-up VitiBot is perhaps the biggest nightmare for hedonistic travelers who want to do vacation work in a southern European vineyard. Whereas automation in agriculture has been rapidly spreading over the past few decades, winegrowers still rely on manual labor and fossil fuels to keep things ticking over. Surveying grapes, harvesting them and then stamping them into a pulp has been done by people for centuries and requires many helping hands. Where does this start-up happen to come from? No, for once we won’t pull the wool over your eyes. As it happens, Vinibot simply comes from France.

Vitibot designed a smart autonomous winegrower with the very congenial name of Bakus. It works completely autonomously, can be used 24 hours a day and is very energy efficient thanks to its electric motor. Bakus has already undergone a considerably lengthy developmental process and does exactly what a human winegrower with a lot of experience can do. Will there come a time when robots do all the dirty work on the vineyard while people just relax and enjoy the wine? This might just happen!

An entire fleet of these kinds of mechanical Ilya Gort’s will have to be built in the coming years. And the first signs of this perhaps happening are quite auspicious for these French guys. They have already secured their first substantial financial investment this year. In the coming period, a further investment of millions is called for from European funds and venture capitalists. The aim is to have the product on the market within two years and in this way help move wine production into the 21st century. No doubt the traditional images of harvesting, stamping and subsequent wine tasting will go down in history. But is that such a dreadful thing? The pleasure of wine is usually not really in the drawn-out production process, but rather in the final product. Speaking of finished products, Vitibot is almost ready for the market. Is this the new chapter for grape cultivation? Only the future can tell us that. In any case, they have our confidence with our Start-up of the Week incentive prize. Santé!

Start-up of The Day: Mobility solutions for the future – everything under one roof

“Mobility Solutions for the Future” is the field of expertise for FMS GmbH (Future Mobility Solutions). The company, based in Gaimersheim, Bavaria, is active in areas such as consulting, planning and development of systems for digitization and autonomous driving. This includes communication between cars and traffic lights. In addition, they provide technical services in the automotive sector including the conversion of existing vehicles. Future Mobility Solutions was awarded the Bavarian Founders Prize 2019 for its innovative concepts in the concept category.

Innovation Origins spoke to director and co-founder Prof. Dr. Harry Wagner about his company.

The founders: Prof. Dr. Harry Wagner and Dipl. Ing. Josef Obermeier © FMS

How did you come up with the idea for this start-up?

Mobility is an issue that affects all levels of society. The changes in mobility over the next 10-15 years will be similar to the changes telecommunications went through during the past 15 years. New trends will lead to new business models. Along with new players on the market and changes in the value creation structure. We want FMS to address this transition and provide total solutions. Not just for industry, but also for cities, municipalities and public transport companies.

What makes Future Mobility Solutions so special compared to the competition and what problems does it resolve?

We differentiate between mobility solutions that are used in a product and mobility services that guarantee users access to future mobility. Digitization and software development play crucial roles in both cases. Our added value is that we look at the entire mobility ecosystem. For example, we develop solutions for autonomous driving and the associated concepts for infrastructure managers. We are able to cover the entire development cycle for mobility-specific problems. In addition to functionality and software development, integration and testing are also possible. As well as research and the creation of innovative solutions.

As such, we can design mobility solutions for both consumers and businesses, digitize business processes and models or build applications. The ‘Virtual City’ is one of our products. Traffic and mobility can be visualized on a large scale and simulated in the future using this tool. This enables us to support various related projects in a targeted manner.

What has been the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome?

Last winter, when had no heating in our offices and were fully booked up with orders and the delivery of our warm, soft shell jackets was also delayed. This didn’t break the team spirit fortunately, but working on developing software code with cold hands was a bit uncomfortable.

© FMS

What motivates you to go to work every morning?

What motivates me at the moment is that the heating in our newly renovated rooms actually works. Seriously: What motivates me is working with my teams on the diverse and innovative solutions that we are proud and passionate about developing for ourselves and our customers.

Was there ever a moment when you wanted to give up?

Every day at 5:30 a.m. when the alarm goes off. But at 5:45 the anticipation of a new day kicks in. We haven’t thought about giving up yet.

And vice versa: What are you particularly proud of?

This year, I was especially proud to receive the “Bavarian Founders Award” in the category “Concept” and to be nominated for the last round of the eMove360° Award 2019 in the category “Mobility Concepts & Software”. I am above all proud of my team here, because these awards are for our employees and their ideas.

What can we expect from you in the coming years?

Various solutions for improving mobility. We call one of them Mobility Roaming, but we don’t want to talk about that yet. Aside from that, we will continue to work on developing Virtual City as an industry-wide solution. Above all, we want to have a positive impact on tomorrow’s sustainable mobility.

What is your vision for future mobility solutions?

We want to be a leading partner for all mobility issues in the future and develop excellent, unique and innovative products, services, processes and business models in cooperation with our customers.

 

Start-up of the week: charging your car can be done in minutes

”Your sneak preview of the future” is the slogan of Innovation Origins, and that’s just what we will highlight with our Start-up of the Week column. Over the past few days, five start-ups of the day have been featured and on Saturday we will choose the week’s winner.

Innovation Origins presents a Start-up of the Day each weekday

We shall consider various issues such as sustainability, developmental phase, practical application, simplicity, originality and to what extent they are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of UNESCO. They will all pass by here and at the end of the week, the Start-Up of the Week will be announced.

Moreover, our weekly winners may be awarded another prize. Because at the end of each calendar month, our readers, together with the editors of IO, will select the Start-up of the Month!

start-up Sovigo

Sovigo – nanomedicine to treat intestinal complaints

The way we use medicines is still somewhat primitive. Maybe that’s not surprising, because our options are limited when it comes to taking medication. Most organs are well protected from the outside world. Nevertheless, this also means that medicines cannot be administered very effectively. Dosages are therefore often higher than necessary because they have to travel a long way through our bodies.

Sovigo wants to change this through nanotechnology. Their capsules are about 100 nanometres in size, which is 10,000th of a millimeter (!) The main advantage is that this nanomedicine is effective solely at the point where the medication is actually needed. Preliminary results are encouraging for treating intestinal disorders.

 

Blue Planet Ecosystems, Ökosystem, Fischzucht

From sunlight to fish, Blue Planet Ecosystems wants to shift pisciculture to computerized container systems

Climate change and dwindling agricultural land are major challenges for food and feed production. The supply of animal protein is particularly problematic.

The start-up Blue Planet Ecosystems, based in San Francisco and Vienna, wants to shift pisciculture (fish farming) to computerized container systems. The ecosystem is to be simulated in such a way that nature is able to grow in self-sustaining LARA systems (Land-based Automated Recirculating Aquaculture).

Lara Systeme (c) Blue Planet Ecosystems

start-up Doks. Innovation

Doks. Innovation – flying management assistants

This German start-up’s drone system has brought a new automation revolution to warehouses. The flying assistants are able to make an inventory of a warehouse on their own by making a kind of digital impression of it. At present, maintaining a warehouse is a time-consuming task. Doks. Innovation promises a time gain of no less than 90% and a cost reduction of 80%. Data collected by the drones are subsequently made available in a proprietary data analysis system. Similar concepts are focused on a single management system as a rule, whereas Doks offers a universal system.

start-up Wheelblades

Wheelblades – move your wheelchair without fear through snow

Giving freedom back to people who have limited freedom of movement. That’s the noble goal that former snowboarder Patrick Mayer has committed himself to. Mayer ended up in a wheelchair for a long time himself and personally experienced how winter can throw a spanner in the works. Moving through snow and over ice in a wheelchair or with crutches is just not much fun.

Which is why he came up with Wheelblades, a kind of mini-snowboard that gives more stability to the front wheels. For people on crutches, there is the SafetyFoot, an extra foothold for underneath crutches. And Wheelblades are also suitable for prams, so that you are able to go on a winter hike with your little one without any hassles.

start-up Chakratec

Chakratec – ‘just a quick refill’ will soon also apply to electric cars

Recharging: it is perhaps the greatest sore point that is associated with electric mobility. Compared to traditional refueling, it takes ages before you can get back on the road. If it’s up to the Israeli start-up Chakratec, this will soon be a thing of the past. Their kinetic battery fills up about as fast as your diesel tank does. Yet the potential is even greater: the battery has unlimited charging cycles and contains no pollutants.

They are setting their sights on a heroic reputation. A start-up ‘for the benefit of humankind’. What makes this mission even more challenging, is that the market in which they have delved into is dominated by Chinese companies. How do you stand out? The solution is simple and difficult at the same time.  Come up with something completely new. The result is a kinetic battery with flywheel technology.

A battery can be highly innovative; but without a good charger it is of little use. Chakratec maintains that current infrastructure has been overwhelmed by reality and is suffering from too much red tape. It would be possible to create fast charging stations anywhere, even with a weak network, with the relevant fast charging technology.

The potential of Chakratec’s technology has not gone unnoticed. The start-up has already won several awards, including one for best storage technology. They can add another feather in their cap because the favorable prospects for Chakratec make it the Start-up of the Week!

Worldwide quest

There is a frantic search going on around the world for efficient and sustainable batteries and the subject is also regularly addressed by Innovation Origins. At the beginning of this month, for example, we spoke to the start-up High Performance Battery, which is also trying to bring a new type of smartphone battery onto the market. Or does the future for cars lie with hydrogen technology? We sought answers to that question here in this series.

Lack of team spirit? That’s why so few German scientists become entrepreneurs

In the Global Competitiveness Index 4.0 issued by the World Economic Forum in 2018, Germany ranked third behind the USA and Singapore as a top location for world-class research. In terms of innovative capacity, Germany was in fact the undisputed leader of the 140 countries evaluated. Nevertheless, spin-offs from scientific institutions are relatively rare. The rate is just 5%, whereas it is 19% in Estonia (32nd place overall).

A research project sponsored by the Joachim Herz Foundation and carried out at the Entrepreneurship Research Institute of the Technical University of Munich (TUM ERI) has now looked into the reasons why German academics are apparently reluctant to set up companies. In an initial preliminary result, the researchers found out that the problems often lie in three essential factors for success. Namely: team spirit, pragmatism and soft skills.

Over the course of their study, the research team is spending several months overseeing more than 100 entrepreneurial teams. This involves experts from universities and companies working together, some of them at the Entrepreneurship Research Institute at the TU Munich. Participants provided information in weekly online questionnaires and interviews on the challenges they faced when setting up a spin-off.

© Pixabay

Teamwork important for success

Expertise is not enough when it comes to starting a business. Not even when you’ve completed your degree summa cum laude. And innovative technology isn’t enough either. At least as important, is a good working knowledge of the market in order to be able to gauge which idea has the potential for commercial success. Which is precisely what scientists tend to lack after graduation. That’s why, according to experts, it’s important for academics to start a company with people who have industry and start-up experience.

In addition to this lack of familiarity with the market, the results of the study show that there is another major obstacle that often stands in the way of young entrepreneurs. Nicola Breugst, Professor for Entrepreneurial Behavior at the TUM School of Management, explained during the presentation of the preliminary results that many start-up teams find it difficult to find a common and straightforward path. This lack of consensus concerns the decision as to what the product is supposed to be able to do. As well as the question of how this vision can best be implemented. “The start-up teams begin by discussing various ideas over and over. Without being able to commit themselves to one course of action. So, eventually they fail,” she said. “Therefore, university and other start-up funding institutions should not be limited to just providing technology and knowledge of the market. They also have to offer soft skills training, e.g. team-oriented coaching.”

Less perfectionism, more pragmatism

Another major hurdle for entrepreneurs in Germany found in the results of the study, is the “German virtue” that is appreciated worldwide. Perfectionism. Under the motto ‘fail fast and early.’ start-up teams are required to present potential customers with prototypes early on that are not completely finished. That’s with the aim of finding out whether there is a market for their products. However, this testing and obtaining feedback at such an early stage contradicts the scientific mindset. That is, incomplete findings do not provide a basis for decisions and communication with others. For this reason, academics must learn to think less scientifically and in a more ‘pragmatically enterprising way.’

Prof. Breugst presents the preliminary results © Bert Willer / UnternehmerTUM, October 2019

“The preliminary results of the study show that even interdisciplinary academic start-up teams with similar initial situations and challenges are pursuing very different directions in terms of development. Teams that listened less to the expert tips from our incubator and who lost themselves in their decision-making processes have generally not been successful,” explained Prof. Dr. Dr. Holger Patzelt, Professor of Entrepreneurship, also at the TUM ERI. Scientists should dare approach possible target audiences and important stakeholders even with prototypes that are still works in progress. However, he stressed that they all had some things in common: curiosity, willingness to take risks and openness to new ideas. “After all, even if in the worst case they do not produce any results, scientists should engage in research projects as this is an important prerequisite for spin-offs”.

Three-year study

In this three-year research project, the researchers want to find out how scientists become entrepreneurs, which factors support or inhibit this process, and which ‘fundamentally relevant but often neglected psychological processes’ take place within academic spin-offs. A further goal is to understand how interdisciplinary start-up teams work together successfully, find compromises and develop common core values for their companies. They also want to see why some university chairs produce more start-ups than others.

Dr. Nina Lemmens from the Joachim Herz Foundation said that the education system and funding opportunities in Germany are ideal for entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, there are still very few people who dare to start a company or who give up too soon. “What is the reason for this? Is it the mindset? Lack of willingness to take risks? Or the fear of failure? How can we scientists be encouraged to experiment more?” she asked. The final results of the study will be presented at the start of 2021 in Berlin.

More articles on entrepreneurship can be found here.

Start-up of the day: This is how you make prams and wheelchairs fit for winter

Whether with a pram or in a wheelchair – anyone who travels in snow with small wheels has a hard time. Moving around becomes an immense effort. Patrick Mayer demonstrates how ingeniously this problem can be solved. The former snowboard professional was himself bound to a wheelchair for a long time. Nowadays, he can sometimes use crutches to move around again. And thanks to his invention Wheelblades, even in snow and on ice. We spoke to Patrick, who started the Swiss company Wheelblades.

Founder Wheelblades: Patrick Mayer ©wheelblades

Patrick, from your own experience you know how difficult it is to use a wheelchair in snow. What steps have you taken to address the current situation?

As a first step, I experimented by myself and created a simple working model. When I noticed how well my idea worked, I looked for a professional engineering agency to help me produce a professional prototype. Then came the pre-production series and ultimately the definitive version.

Interestingly, the problem hasn’t just been around since today.  Why do you think it took so long to find a workaround?

Certainly one of the reasons for this is that I myself am affected by the problem. I just simply wasn’t prepared to accept this limitation of mobility. On the other hand, I knew that there are a lot of people in wheelchairs all over the world who would be happy with an assistive device like this. Niche or no niche! I took a very serious financial risk in order to design the Wheelblades products. Not everyone is willing to do that. I am driven by a vision and you have to start somewhere.

Which obstacles almost forced you to give up?

Financial constraints, isolation and errors in large-scale operations.

And in retrospect, what are you particularly proud of?

That I always believed in my visions, never gave up and very often went far beyond my comfort zone, no matter how great the challenges were.

Are there any other inventions that you are planning which will make life in a wheelchair easier?

Of course there are more ideas, but I don’t want to talk about them here. There are some companies out there among the manufacturers of assistive equipment who steal ideas. Then they present them as their own. Unfortunately, I also went through this experience. If my plans work out, then all wheelchair users will soon be able to look forward to a really special sense of freedom. Although those people who would rather sit on the couch at home probably won’t like my new ideas.

Wheelblades SafetyFoot for Sand, Ice & more ©wheelblades
Wheelblades SafetyFoot for sand, ice & more ©wheelblades

To what extent does your start-up influence your current life and hobbies?

My company is dominating my life at the moment and there is not much time left for friends, hobbies, leisure time etc. But if you want to build something up, you have to be prepared to set your personal needs and desires on the back-burner.

Do you have any advice as an entrepreneur which you would like to share with other newcomers?

  • There must be a vision that drives and fulfills you.
  • Give it your best shot or give up.
  • Start small and don’t consider yourself too good for any job.
  • Have buffers planned in. Both in terms of finances and time.
  • Consult with friends and advisors who support your project honestly and sympathetically.
  • Don’t let yourself be swept away by slick catchphrases such as: “I’ll make you really big”.

Are you interested in start-ups? We report on other innovative companies here.

Start-up of the Day: From sunlight to fish, Blue Planet Ecosystems wants to shift pisciculture to computerized container systems

Blue Planet Ecosystems, Ökosystem, Fischzucht

Climate change and dwindling agricultural land are major challenges for food and feed production. The supply of animal protein is particularly problematic.

The start-up Blue Planet Ecosystems, based in San Francisco and Vienna, wants to shift pisciculture (fish farming) to computerized container systems. The ecosystem is to be simulated in such a way that nature is able to grow in self-sustaining LARA systems (Land-based Automated Recirculating Aquaculture).

“We built everything ourselves, including the hardware,” says Paul Schmitzberger, CEO and co-founder of Blue Planet Ecosystems. We are a team of engineers, biologists and computer scientists. The hardware are LARA systems wherein the three stages of an aquatic ecosystem are reconstructed. From algae (phytoplankton) to zooplankton and then to the final product: fish.

Phytoplankton are phytosynthetic organisms that produce their own food from the energy of sunlight. A further characteristic is their high propagation rate. They can be harvested within four to seven days under ideal lighting and temperature conditions. This is a level of productivity that is far above that of traditional agriculture.

Zooplankton are microscopic and semi-microscopic invertebrates which are found in water. Zooplankton such as Daphnia have brief life cycles that go from the egg stage to maturity within just a few days. In nature, their population explodes when the environmental conditions are right. A condition that Blue Planet Ecosystems utilizes. The environmental parameters are optimized with a sufficient supply of food (microalgae). Daphnia are even more efficient than insects when it comes to converting vegetable biomass into valuable animal protein. This efficiency significantly reduces the environmental impact compared to keeping warm-blooded animals such as cattle.

Fish nourished naturally

Health-promoting nutrients synthesized by algae are bioaccumulated through the natural food chain into the end-product – as in fish. This food chain is interrupted in conventional aquaculture. Water protein is replaced by plant-based (fish meal) and animal-based (blood meal) proteins. Microplastics and other environmental toxins from industry and agriculture are invariably fed to farm animals. As a result, fish largely loses its health-promoting properties. At Blue Planet Ecosystems, the fish diet meets the physiological requirements of the organisms.

Our start-up company is researching the LARA system, which is based on renewable energy. To put it simply, it is a process in which sunlight is converted into fish. The algae unit that CTO Georg Schmitzberger designed has the ability to optimally “harvest” light and make it available for the algae.

The system enables the production of food largely independent of climate-related environmental factors. It avoids any price fluctuations associated with feed such as fish meal. LARA systems are also to be used in desert areas because of their greatly reduced dependence on water.

Paul Schmitzberger in an interview with Innovation Origins:

What motivates you? What problem do you resolve and why is that so important?

We are interested in the topic on an intellectual level – and we enjoy building things. First we researched how biological ecosystems work out of curiosity and then found out that we could resolve a major problem with them.

Over the next few decades, we will have to double animal protein production as the world’s population rises. Humankind is turning ecological treasures into agricultural land as a result of this. We solve this problem by decoupling animal protein production from the usual agricultural value chains. We do not need feed from vegetable or animal proteins which are affected by climate change.

Another aspect is the pollution of the world’s oceans caused by microplastics and environmental toxins such as lead or fertilizer. These toxins accumulate in the food chain and have potentially negative effects on sensitive people and those with health issues.

What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome? Was there ever a moment when you wanted to give up?

No, luckily we haven’t had that moment yet.

What have been the best moments so far?

We received a pre-seed investment from IndieBio in San Francisco, the most important Life Science Accelerator in the world. When we presented our laboratory scale prototype to 1200 people on Demo Day, it was really wonderful.

What achievements are you particularly proud of?

That we managed to go from a PowerPoint presentation to a prototype within a very short time. And build a good team – and find support for a technically challenging idea.

How difficult was it to get funding?

Funding is certainly the most difficult part of any start-up project. In Silicon Valley it is said that you need 120 contacts with venture capitalists for five Term-Sheets and five Term-Sheets for one investment. We’ve also been in a lot of discussions and have managed that.

How are the conditions in Vienna? Can you imagine a more ideal location for your start-up?

Since August we have been back in Vienna after five months at IndieBio in San Francisco. But we still have a branch in San Francisco. Silicon Valley certainly offers tremendous advantages in terms of location. Yet we also have very good scientists and great conditions in Europe. Above all, Vienna is an affordable location. Silicon Valley is incredibly expensive.

Where would you like to be with your company in five years time?

A stable, prosperous company and a well-functioning product that is well received by the market.

What makes your innovation better/different than other existing ideas?

We believe that the value of industries of the future lies more in software than in hardware. But there has to be coordination between hardware and software – as well as with biology in our project.

What sets us apart is our software. We are building a system that simulates the natural ecosystem and are striving for a solution that is able to learn faster and more independently. Our Head of Data Science is a particle physicist. She spent ten years at Cern working on machine learning systems for Atlas experiments. Using extremely large amounts of data and sophisticated models. With us, she’s not simulating the universe, she’s simulating the ecosystem. Our expert in agriculture has designed fish farms in Sri Lanka, among other places.

Thank you for this interview

Learn more about Blue Planet Ecosystems on this link here.

Are you interested in start-ups? Read more of our articles on this theme here.

Start-up of the week: Greenhouse CO2 emissions can be reduced by tons

”Your sneak preview of the future” is the slogan of Innovation Origins, and that’s just what we will highlight with our Start-up of the Week column. Over the past few days, five start-ups of the day have been featured and on Saturday we will choose the week’s winner.

Innovation Origins presents a Start-up of the Day each weekday

We shall consider various issues such as sustainability, developmental phase, practical application, simplicity, originality and to what extent they are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of UNESCO. They will all pass by here and at the end of the week, the Start-Up of the Week will be announced.

 

De TORQAMP-turbo

TORQAMP – making existing engines cleaner

What if, in order to reduce road emissions, we are not just reliant on new, more sustainable vehicles (which are expensive), but are able to update existing cars using electrical technology? That’s the idea that the duo behind TORQAMP are working on. The TORQAMP is an electric turbo unit that can be installed relatively cheaply into existing engines.

In contrast to conventional turbo engines, this compressor does not emit any exhaust fumes in order to boost performance. The result: up to 35% less carbon emissions. The spin-off from the Eindhoven University of Technology is mainly geared towards the motorsport world at the moment. Nevertheless, the gentlemen do foresee a future where even diesel engines will no longer be emitting any soot.

De 4Silence-techniek langs de weg

4Silence – a novel way to reduce traffic noise

Residents living alongside busy roads think they are being fooled by the 4Silence invention. Not a meters-high sound barrier, but a kind of concrete grid that deflects noise upwards. This noise solution is cheaper and lasts longer than existing options.  Merely blocking noise suddenly sounds rather old-fashioned.

The men behind 4Silence fought for four years for legal recognition of their now patented technology. After all, it is not only residents who were skeptical. Several Dutch agencies have all tested it out for themselves. Apparently, a solution can sound so simple that some people refuse to believe it. Yet the first Dutch sale is already a reality and other European countries are soon likely to follow suit.

De Clean Energy Pack

Clean Energy Global – cloud power

Cheaper power supply and fast charging times: this is battery-as-a-service. The Berlin start-up Clean Energy Global is doing its best to establish this model. Suppliers and users of electrical systems are currently saddled with cumbersome and expensive batteries, e.g. for use in electric cars.

Clean Energy Global’s energy storage system should change all this. Their Clean Energy Pack offers universal energy storage for both mobile and stationary applications. The accompanying Clean Energy Net forms the underlying infrastructure that should make rapid storage and supply of electricity possible. Charge your car in one minute? This start-up believes that this is well within reach.

Voorbeeld labtest

Cytuvax – promising new vaccine for doctors and care providers

Doctors, firefighters and officers of the law must be properly vaccinated so that they do not pose a risk to the people they are supposed to help. But if you’re unlucky enough to have a vaccine that doesn’t work, it might simply mean the end of your career as a doctor or care provider. This is the case for about 5% of people where the Hepatitis B vaccine is concerned. The Cytuvax technology offers them much better prospects. Their vaccine is effective for 92 % of the so-named non-responders compared to the standard vaccination. The result: Cytuvax has already gotten one hundred doctors back to work.

Etagrow testruimte

Etagrow – no more throwing stones at glasshouses for being CO2 polluters

As our planet becomes more and more populated, there are increasingly more mouths to feed. The land that grows that food is becoming available less and less. Greenhouses are economical when it comes to soil and other raw materials. Yet they do consume much more energy. The culprit: that sixty year old technology in the lamps that are hanging overhead. Technicians Stefan Huebl and Florian Ablinger thought there should be another way to do this. And sure enough, it can be done differently.

The water-cooled LED system that they came up with – Etagrow – reduces greenhouse energy use by more than half. That’s ten tons of CO2. Per fixture. The lamps also maintain the right climate inside the greenhouse. If the inside climate is not what you need, then you can use an online management system to adjust it.

Recently the equipment was tested in a legal cannabis greenhouse. Eventually, the start-up also wants to introduce a second product line for small-scale usage, for instance for florists and people who grow plants at home. No, not those kind of plants …

The system is also suitable for vertical agriculture, i.e. for growing plants in buildings (also known as urban farming). This can also provide a solution in the search for more efficient food production. Not only is it a smart way of using space, but it saves a lot of transport costs as well. Earlier this year we visited the Seven Steps To Heaven vertical farm. You can read the interview here.

Because of the enormous potential for reducing CO2 emissions, we consider Etagrow to be the Start-up of the Week!

 

High-level French official: “Involve low-income households in the energy transition”

The French Government, like the other EU Member States, is faced with the complex task of involving the entire population in the process of making the French economy climate neutral by 2050. As it turns out, there are concerns about this. “It’s not just about devising the very best new renewable energy technology,” said Laurent Michel, Director General of the French Ministry of Ecology and Solidarity, at InnoEnergy’s conference on innovative energy start-ups held in Paris last week.

Low incomes

It is very important that scientists invent new and better technology, Michel pointed out. For example, think of better batteries for electric cars that will have a greater range as a result. “But this should be accessible to all low-income households as well.”

“They must also be able to participate in the energy transition. The transition to products that use renewable energy will have the greatest impact on them.” After all, they have very little money to spare and therefore run the risk of running into problems if they have to buy new appliances that they cannot afford. At the same time, subsidies for innovative energy applications are paid out of the tax revenue that they themselves contribute to.

That this paradox exists is obvious, even if the French senior official did not explicitly refer to it.

Millions for energy start-ups

As is the case with the other European member states, France has prepared a roadmap to meet the EU’s 2030 target. Each EU member state must emit 45% less CO2 than it does at present. All economic processes must be free of CO2 emissions by 2050. This task requires a major upheaval of the industry. In France, this industry is predominantly based on energy from fossil and nuclear sources. France will have to make the switch to the production of renewable energy. The same applies to French households.

According to the French climate change official, the government is committed to subsidizing start-ups that are developing forms for renewable energy generation or energy conservation. Many millions are being made available for this. In the so-named PPE plan, launched at the beginning of this year, the French Government promised to double the production of renewable energy within 10 years. Wind and solar energy will be used first and foremost for this purpose. The country also wants to close four to six nuclear power stations. France emits relatively little CO2 within Europe, mainly due to the large use of nuclear power stations. Several of these are outdated.

Sociological framework

Nevertheless, the aim is for everyone to be able to benefit from this, Michel said. “It is important for the state to develop a sociological framework whereby all French citizens will be able to participate”.

An initial condition is that French citizens first accept that the transition will actually take place. Otherwise, they will not take part. “That’s a challenge,” according to Michel. But once that has been achieved, our citizens must be given the opportunity to demonstrate their willingness to do so. Which means that if they want to recycle plastic so as to conserve raw materials and energy, they need to be able to do that somewhere. That’s what the French government must do when it comes to guiding society.

Call for proposals

The goal is for French buildings to undergo thorough renovations which will drastically cut down on their energy consumption, Michel states. Transport must be innovated. Engines should run as much as possible on electricity and hydrogen. In his view, this also applies to heavy trucks and other industrial transport.

Start-up entrepreneurs in France who have come up with ideas for this are able to count on subsidies from the French state. “A call for proposals was issued in September for this,” Michel says.

Director-General Laurent Michel of the French Ministry of Ecology and Solidarity Photo: InnoEnergy

Isabelle Reymen on the future of education: Cooperating on solutions for real-world problems

Students should get out of the lecture hall more often. They learn far more by finding solutions to practical challenges when they work in interdisciplinary teams. This is what Professor Isabelle Reymen at the Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e) is calling for. It is also exactly what she does at TU/e Innovation Space, where she gave her inaugural speech on Friday. With that, she has officially accepted her position as professor there and presented her vision on the future of education.

What once started out as a place to bring student teams and start-ups together grew into a new form of education. A place where students learn through experience. Companies present challenges to students from various study programs so that they can try to solve these together. Such as issues concerning sustainable energy, or the impending food shortage forecast for 2050. Companies, students and teachers work together on innovation in the broadest sense of the word. According to Reymen, this must be rolled out much further within the education system in the near future. In fact, Eindhoven University wants about eighty percent of its education to be structured this way by 2030.

You can read more about TU/e Innovation Space here.

The community is growing

TU/e began its experiment with this form of education and has since become an international role model. After a pilot in the Gaslab, a small building at the back of the campus, TU/e Innovation Space moved to a larger building in the middle of the compound. Since then, everyone has settled down and the first year in the new building (named Matrix) has come to an end. Reymen is now working on professionalizing TU/e Innovation Space even further. It’s all about providing more structure. “We worked very ad hoc during the pilot and supplied students with what they needed on request. Now we are planning to establish and structure processes more comprehensively. Like when it comes to determining and allocating the various challenges from companies,” Reymen told IO earlier.

Eventually, more students will be able to turn to TU/e Innovation Space as a result. In the last academic year, more than 1,600 students followed courses this way. They worked together on 46 projects. Already students from all of the faculties have worked at the TU/e Innovation Space. A large proportion of the students have joined the community outside of their regular courses. Via a start-up or a student team, for instance. Undergraduate students are able to do their final project via TU/e Innovation Space. Master’s students are also given the opportunity to work on a practical challenge as part of their study program. This is how theory and practice converge.

Education is being transformed

In her inaugural speech Reymen mentioned a few examples of how education is being transformed. Like working in interdisciplinary teams more often, learning on the job and the increasing importance of self-reflection for students. They are able to define their own trajectory much more now, often through projects at TU/e Innovation Space, for example. This requires a certain degree of discipline as well as an open attitude. Teachers are expected to have a coaching role in this. According to the professor, students want to have an impact on society. They really want to make a contribution. This is possible, particularly when the university focuses on socially relevant research and is open to challenges from industry.

The future of  TU/e Innovation Space

In addition to the further expansion of challenge-based learning, (education which works with practical challenges), Reymen also wants to focus on the challenges of the future. For example, she wants to see more opportunities in the fields of agri-food and AI. Networks need to be expanded in order to achieve this. This will enable the university to forge new partnerships with entrepreneurs. Furthermore, work is underway with regard to challenges on which students at various levels (bachelor, master, HBO, MBO) can work together. The university is collaborating with Fontys and Summa for this reason. The first steps have also been taken towards working with the other (technical) universities in the Netherlands on a food related challenge for the Ministry of Defense. There are still plenty of opportunities for TU/e Innovation Space to grow even further, Reymen states.

Research into forms of education

In addition to the day-to-day management, Reymen is also involved in research into this form of education. A culture that encourages students, companies and knowledge institutions to collaborate on projects needs to be in place in order to make this type of education possible. The High Tech Campus is an example of this kind of innovative ecosystem. There is room here for various parties to work together and activities are being organized to support that. Reymen has the view that universities play an increasingly important role in this. Primarily because they are becoming more and more active in collaborations with companies.

In the near future, the professor will focus on further research into the specific role of TU/e Innovation Space within these regional ecosystems. Additionally, she is also looking at themes inside the university. For example, what the best method is for assessing work carried out by interdisciplinary teams. She is also examining how students can learn to reflect more effectively on themselves and how discipline plays a role for students.

It’s about people

Eindhoven University is located in a region where cooperation is commonplace. It is therefore not surprising that it is a leader in the field of challenge-based education. But in the end, it is people who make up a team. Which is why Reymen says that this is the most important thing for her research and work at TU/e innovation Space: it’s all about people.

Start-up of the day: ‘Everest Climbing’ has designed a rotating climbing wall ft. integrated AI

Gone are the days when artificial climbing walls were turned into towering peaks. As from now, there are revolving climbing routes. Your advantage: thanks to the sensor, the climber will always be provided with another type of grip. The flexibility of the vertical treadmills also makes them suitable for use at events, as a training device and for rehabilitation. The fitness training machine Everest Climbing was developed by the Polish-German team of entrepreneurs Piotr Malecki and Dariusz Salamonowicz. The latter told us more about the product.

How did you come up with the idea to start Everest Climbing?

We wanted to create a piece of sports equipment that was more versatile than anything before it. A piece of equipment that’s fun and that benefits everyone’s health and fitness as well. When we started out, we had completely different ideas, yet we were never entirely satisfied with them. Then Piotr said “Let’s build a climbing wall.” At first I thought it was just a joke. But when he told me what he meant, I was thrilled.

The idea itself is not altogether new. Because our climbing wall works according to the principle of a treadmill. But it is vertical and climbing grips were mounted to it. You can best see how our climbing wall works in this 40 second video:

 

 

What distinguishes Everest from conventional climbing wall solutions?

It’s hard to talk about standard solutions because this kind of equipment is relatively new and produced by only a few companies around the world.

But we were the first to use motion sensors on this type of equipment. This allows the climbing wall to automatically adapt to the needs of a climber. We also developed a new system that constantly and automatically changes the position of the climbing grips in relation to each other – while climbing. This means that the climbing distance is not only unlimited, but it is also never repeated. It is this system that makes our climbing wall so special. By the way, we have patented it.

Creating a constantly changing route has a double advantage. On the one hand, climbing never gets boring, because you never know when and where the next climbing grip will turn up. And on the other, the maximum level of exercise efficiency can also be achieved.

We also use climbing grips that have been specifically designed for us. In the beginning we worked with conventional climbing grips and tried them out at various levels of difficulty. But after about two years we decided to produce our own grips.

Were there moments when you almost gave up?

Maybe giving up is a bit of an overstatement. But we have already wondered a few times what we would do if we weren’t financially successful. In moments like those, we always brainstormed, tried to analyze our mistakes and adjust our strategy. And we kept on going. Fortunately, there are two of us who are founders. Because it was often the case that when one of us was desperate, the other was full of optimism. So we were always able to support each other both mentally and emotionally.

And what are you particularly proud of?

Of the possibilities that our climbing wall offers everyone. When it comes to entertainment, it puts a happy smile on everybody’s face, because it’s a great deal of fun. In the fitness area, it produces faster and more fantastic results than any other machine in the world. It develops all muscles, burns calories, helps build a perfect figure, not to mention it’s fun. In addition, it is has been greeted with a sense of hope and positivity in the rehabilitation sector.

Which solution of yours can we look forward to next and where do you want to go from here?

That’s a very good question. The Everest climbing wall is our top priority. But we have been working on a new product for a year and a half now. This is the VR Motion Simulator. Up until now, these simulators had been very large and were designed with the entertainment industry in mind, but not for private users. Soon we will be introducing a small VR Motion auto-racing simulator for home use that anyone will be able to afford.

We would like to establish Everest GmbH in the three areas of entertainment, fitness and rehabilitation. The entertainment industry is always on the lookout for new products. They have already embraced our product and have fallen in love with it. The next step for us is the fitness industry, which is currently our focus. A few days ago we signed contracts with our first reference gyms. We are also currently in talks with a large fitness chain.

And in the near future we will also be turning to the rehabilitation industry. We have met so many fantastic people at various events who, despite their handicaps, have not given up on their dreams – including their sports dreams. We also want to realize our other ideas. There are still some projects that are on the back-burner that are waiting for their time to come.

Finally, do you have any tips for other entrepreneurs?

We are still at the very beginning of our path. So I don’t feel authorized to give tips to other entrepreneurs. – Perhaps one thing: please don’t underestimate the importance of marketing and financially-strong partners nowadays. Even the best product should be placed on the market.

Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards for problem-solving and flexible entrepreneurs Atilay Uslu (Corendon) and Paul Eggink (Temper)

The winners of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards were announced during the grande finale in Theater Amsterdam. Atilay Uslu, co-founder of Corendon, and Paul Eggink, CEO and co-founder of Temper, have both won entrepreneurial awards. The awards are designed to motivate and inspire entrepreneurs to make the most of themselves, their customers and their employees.

Eggink has been chosen as a promising entrepreneur because his company has quickly gained a relevant place in a world of increasingly flexible work methods. According to the jury, he has shown with his company Temper that social impact and a fast-growing, technology-driven platform can go hand in hand. In contrast, Uslu is at the helm of a stable and long-time successful company. The jury praised him for his ability to see solutions where others experience problems.

International elections

The co-founder of Corendon has a chance to become the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year. This international election will take place next June in Monaco. Successful entrepreneurs from sixty different countries will be participating. According to EY, the vision, strategic direction, personal integrity and influence all factor in determining who the entrepreneur of the year will be. Along with the social and international impact of entrepreneurs.

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Award has been presented for the past 30 years. The prize has various categories. The main category focuses on large companies with established entrepreneurs. This year’s prize is going to Uslu. Entrepreneurs such as Jan-Renier Swinkels from Bavaria and Tijn van Elderen from Brabantia have preceded him. There is also an Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year category, for a young entrepreneur who is leading a successful start-up or scale-up. Apart from the victorious Eggink, Lightyear’s Lex Hoefsloot was also nominated.

Award voor familiebedrijf VDL Group

This year, the VDL Group won EY’s oeuvre prize for family businesses. This award was presented for the fourth time this year on behalf of the EY Family Business Center of Excellence. VDL, originally from Eindhoven, combines the clout of a multinational with the open, informal working atmosphere of a family business. In the opinion of the jury, VDL is ensuring continuity in the areas of sustainability, employment and innovation with almost 17,000 employees in more than 104 subsidiaries in more than 20 countries.

“The winners have gotten to the top through trial and error,” says Marita de Hair, program director of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year. “Not only have they won a prestigious prize, but they have also become part of a network of entrepreneurs with a distinctive character. These entrepreneurs inspire each other.”

Realizing sustainable growth

Aside from a lot of praise, the winning entrepreneurs will also have the benefit of a large network, pitch training and an EY strategy session. ” We use the training to help the entrepreneur get their own story across effectively,” Katja Hilckmann, Associate Partner at EY, told IO earlier. “During the strategy session, entrepreneurs and their management team will draw up a roadmap based on the seven pillars with the aim of achieving sustainable growth. It is about: customer, transactions, digital content, people and culture, business operations, financing and risk. This is how we work together so that we can define concrete steps towards achieving set objectives.”

With this award, EY wants to put entrepreneurs who are behind a company into the spotlight. Hilckmann: “A company is made up of people together. It grows through the input of various employees, but began with the vision of that one entrepreneur. That’s what makes the award so interesting.”