A new generation of cleantech entrepreneurs took home awards at the third annual ClimateLaunchpad EU Finals. A total of 87 teams from 30 European countries pitched their cleantech business ideas on 7 and 8 October to a jury in Tallinn, Estonia. Three women-led startup teams took home the three top prizes.
Breakthrough Business Ideas at ClimateLaunchpad EU Finals
Tallinn, Estonia-October 10, 2016: The third annual ClimateLaunchpad EU Finals took place in Tallinn. They were organized in partnership with Startup Estonia.
As Estonia prepared to inaugurate its first female president, Kersti Kaljulaid, the ClimateLaunchpad jury prepared to award the top three spots in the competition to women-led companies.
ClimateLaunchpad founder Frans Nauta announced the winners before a packed room.
The Top Three Winners
First Place: Gleather from Estonia. Gleather is a gelatin based leather-like material that is half the price of leather. Its production uses a miniscule fraction of the water and toxins currently used by the leather industry.
Second Place and Audience Award: Sponge from Turkey. Sponge is a product that can be used to both prevent oil spills and safely absorb contaminants from the ocean.
Third Place: Chrysalis from England. Chrysalis has a technology that enables companies to turn any kind of woody material into feedstock for commodities in the form of low-cost cellulose and high quality lignin. Their BioFlex solvent process makes use of even the most contaminated waste wood, which can’t be recycled and is typically sent to landfill where it poses an environmental hazard.
All three winners were women-led companies. Given the strong showing of female founders, Frans Nauta stated: “It’s great to see ClimateLaunchpad bridging the gender-gap around entrepreneurship and technology.”
Breakthrough Business Ideas
The competition was fierce, with 87 teams from 30 countries competing for the the top-3 spots. All teams in Tallinn had successfully finished the ClimateLaunchpad and won their national finals.
The result was a competition filled with breakthrough business ideas. Those included affordable carbon capture (Salcape, Norway), large scale wooden modules as wind turbine towers (Modvion, Sweden), a mini plastic recycling factory in a container for emerging economies (Faro, Belgium), a smart foil to prevent sand dust accumulation on solar panels (Level5Innovations, Cyprus), electricity generated through wave energy (Waveco), water desalination using frozen seawater (Cryotap, Greece), and an electric scooter sharing service (Felyx, Netherlands).
Experience shows us that we are sure to hear more from most of the competitors in the coming years. Past competitors are still going strong. As ClimateLaunchpad founder Frans Nauta told the competitors, “It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose today. What matters is that you have customers.”
ClimateLaunchpad Finals 2016: Voice of the People
The event was inspiring for competitors and attendees alike. Gathering so many creative minds together, all focusing on businesses that tackle climate change, made for a festival atmosphere.
“You set the bar for cool,” said Ben Murphy from the IP Group.
For artist Eeva Kaun, the event made her feel more optimistic about the future:
“Before I came to this event, I didn’t know so many teams were working on issues to reduce the impacts of climate change. This made me feel so hopeful and optimistic. We know change is coming. Fighting it will only make it worse. We need to find a way to ride it, like surfers on a wave. What I love about being here is seeing so many people ahead of the wave, developing solutions. It’s easier to make big changes in small countries like Estonia. If we are brave enough, we can show others how to live sustainably and make the changes needed so that the future doesn’t crash down upon us.”
Sponge co-founder Pinar Guvenc is one of the people working on creating products that address sustainability. She stated:
“I enjoy making new things, using my creativity, working with ideas that impact real life. Sustainability is not a choice, it’s not a luxury, it’s a must…the only way we will have a future in this world.”
Joakim Örneblad, from the Swedish startup Modvion, is working on “the IKEA of wind towers.” His team wants to build super tall wind towers that can be assembled on-site and packed small enough to be transported on existing roads. He had this to say about the ClimateLaunchpad event:
“There is so much optimism here. It’s so refreshing to be around so many people concerned with climate change and taking it seriously from a business perspective as well. At other competitions when people hear that we are working in clean technology they say things like, oh how cute. Here people take it seriously.”
Modvion was a semi-finalist in the competition and Urban Transitions theme award winner.
Bridging the Gender Gap
“Think bigger,” is the advice to women in cleantech from 2015 ClimateLaunchpad Finalist and Global Change Award recipient Ann Runnel of Reverse Resources. She noted that there were many more women at the event than in the previous year.
She added some advice to all participants:
“The best one can do is to keep on reminding people with ideas in the early stage to keep going on after each small failure because it only makes you stronger. The bigger you think and the more persistent you are, the higher you reach!”
The diversity was noted by many participants who shared their observations on social media. Katherine Foster, Development Lead at ClimateKIC- EU, tweeted:
— Katherine Foster (@foster_change) October 8, 2016
We Need Hope to Act
The ClimateLaunchpad competition is for early stage startups who need support and mentorship to take their cleantech and low carbon ideas further.
ClimateLaunchpad trainer and entrepreneur Mike Goodfellow-Smith pointed out that we’ve been scaring people to death about climate change for decades now and it hasn’t worked. “Now is the time to try something new, to give people the sense that they can do something and that there is hope.”
ClimateLaunchpad is Europe’s largest cleantech business idea competition, organised for the third time in 2016. It’s mission is to unlock Europe’s cleantech potential that addresses climate change. ClimateLaunchpad is a programme by Climate-KIC.
Climate-KIC is one of the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) established in 2010 by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the EU body with the task of creating sustainable economic growth in Europe, where the global challenges of this time to be tackled.
About the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)
The EIT is an independent body of the European Union set up in 2008 to spur innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe to overcome some of its greatest challenges. It brings together leading higher education institutions, research labs and companies to form dynamic cross-border partnerships – Knowledge and Innovation Communities, KICs – that develop innovative products and services, start new companies, and train a new generation of entrepreneurs.