In a showcase of the finest healthcare innovations in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, over 30 promising early-stage start-ups took to the stage on 24 November for the EIT Health InnoStars Awards Grand Final.
The jury selected Shuttle Catheters, a team from Greece to take 1st prize at one of Europe’s most competitive accelerator programmes with catheter innovation with multiple life-saving applications. DP Innovation from Hungary with a pocket-sized smart nebuliser for inhaled drug delivery came second, while Medicud from Italy took 3rd place with a medical device for treating wounds with a negative pressure dressing.
For the 6th edition of the Grand Final, EIT Health InnoStars presented a broader portfolio of start-ups, from RIS Innovation Call teams that are at the beginning of their journey, as well as from Attract to Invest teams that are fully operational with a portfolio of clients. The 32 teams that took the stage all had the chance to compete for a special Public Award, and Media Award.
108 companies from Central, Eastern and Southern European countries applied for the 6th edition of the EIT Health InnoStars Awards, a competition for early-stage start-ups with a prototype or Minimum Viable Product.
In June, the 20 best teams received €25,000 of smart money investment, personalised acceleration and mentoring, as well as access to two boot camps, where they had the chance to develop their business plans further. EIT Health also organised validation interviews for participants with potential customers, investors and partners.
After presenting their advanced business plans, the jury selected 10 finalists and invited them to pitch their projects at the InnoStars Awards Grand Final. The finalists represented various fields in biotechnology, medical technology and life sciences, ranging from a real-time monitoring device aiming at the traceability of transfusion blood bags and a digital iron deficiency screener, to an advanced antibacterial wound dressing and ultra-personalised nutritional advice platform.
At the Grand Final on 24 November, the top three teams received prizes worth €25,000, €15,000 and €10,000, respectively. In addition to the prize money, EIT Health also provides winners with networking opportunities with EIT Health InnoStars Partners, healthcare providers and investors. Among the top 10 start-ups, Italy was represented by four teams, Greece by two, while one each came from Estonia, Hungary, Romania and Czechia.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a major chronic disease affecting millions worldwide and growing due to an ageing population. The winning Greek team’s technology addresses an unmet need for minimally invasive PAD procedures in roughly 30% of all chronic, severe arterial stenosis cases.
Shuttle Catheters is developing an innovative catheter technology to enable minimally invasive procedures for crossing through severe artery stenosis, plugging arterial ruptures, and preventing gastric reflux complications. According to founders, this could mean savings of €7.5 billion for the European healthcare system and reduced morbidity rates, thanks to averted open bypass surgeries for roughly 300,000 patients.
“The grant and the high-class training provided by EIT Health InnoStars experts have helped us move forward with our solution to enter the market very soon. InnoStars Awards is the best place to kick off the MVP and get an extra bonus – access to the biggest community of innovators, investors, hospitals and other key stakeholders who are relevant for our project’s success” – said Mihalis Boutaris, Founder of Shuttle Catheters.
According to the team at second place winner, Hungarian startup DP Innovation, the large surface area of the human lung, combined with its abundant blood supply, makes inhaled drug delivery one of the best routes for treating an array of disorders. The problem is that current inhaled delivery devices waste a lot of medication, and deliver less than a quarter of the active ingredient. Because of this, current devices cannot be used to deliver expensive or high-precision agents, such as insulin, antibiotics or gene therapy, or replace injectables.
Sprin, the start-up team’s solution, is a pocket-sized smart nebuliser for inhaled drug delivery. The device aims to help to deliver precision medication in a safer, more effective and pain-free way. The company was awarded €15,000 in funding.
Rounding out the top-place winners is Medicud, an Italian team developing a medical device for treating wounds with a negative pressure dressing. The device aims to be used both to prevent post-operative infections as well as chronic wounds. The device is portable, wearable and easy to use. The company was awarded €10,000 in funding.
“InnoStars Awards is one of EIT Health’s programmes for early-stage start-ups. During the past six years, almost 70% of accelerated solutions in the programme have already been launched on the market. This underlines how valuable it is to invest in innovative biotech, medtech and digital health spin-offs and start-up teams discovered in the Central, Eastern and Southern European region. We provide teams with mentoring, validation and networking opportunities to help turn their ideas into viable products and services that contribute to better healthcare and enable European citizens to live longer, healthier and happier lives”, said Tamás Békási, responsible for the InnoStars Awards programme at the EIT Health InnoStars.
This year, a special Public Award and Media Award are also given to two high-quality start-ups. The winner of the Public Award is ApniWave, a startup from Greece working on a smart screening device combining a sensor, an onboard computer and an AI-enabled software suite to detect obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome (OSAHS) at home.
The start-up team is awarded an exclusive media training course and communications masterclass. The team participates in the RIS Innovation Call, which is a unique programme supporting the development of local innovative healthcare projects located in moderately-progressing European regions.
The winner of the Media Award is Home Diagnostics from Spain with their home testing products, called Ailin. Their tests aim to help people have a scientific, rigorous and personalized understanding of the state of their health. Based on test results experts provide recommendations and a clear roadmap to achieve an optimal state of health.
The Media Awards winning team will participate in the Attract to Invest programme coordinated by EIT Health InnoStars that prepares companies from CEE and Southern Europe for successful investment rounds.