The 15 semi-finalists of the InnoStars Awards 2021 bring pioneering innovations

Is there a more accessible solution for visually impaired people than guide dogs? Can we minimise the need for live animal experiments? The heart is a pump, but how does this pump really work? These are questions that some of the semi-finalists of the InnoStars Awards asked themselves at the beginning of their innovation journey. Now they are back with concrete solutions.

We are one step closer to the end of one of EIT Health’s most competitive programmes, the InnoStars Awards, but there is no need to be upset. On the contrary: the fun part has just begun for the semi-finalists. The 15 shortlisted teams will each receive €25,000 to cover four months of training and mentoring. The lucky semi-finalists will also gain invaluable investor connections through EIT Health’s world-class network.

What comes next? After training, the top ten teams - to be announced in October - will be selected to present their business plans at a pitch competition. This will be a unique opportunity for recognition for all the participants as the jury is comprised of international healthcare professionals, representatives of EIT Health market experts and partners within the industry. Along with gaining recognition for their ideas, the ten finalists who participate in the InnoStars Awards final pitch, compete for three top prizes: additional €25 000, €15 000 or €10 000 in funding. Beside the listed teams, EIT Health will provide mentoring support for further 20 runner-up start-ups with €4000 value.

“The InnoStars Awards was a game-changer for us. The support came at a crucial time, at the peak of the pandemic. With the received funding we could solve the problems of assessing the heart damage of COVID-19 patients much quicker. The funding, however, was not all. EIT Health InnoStars has a world-class network of industry experts, and the support we received from mentors and advisors was crucial for our development” – says Justin Balčiūnas, Operations Manager at Ligence.

The programme was launched five years ago with a goal of helping start-ups – from countries with moderately developed innovation capacity – convert healthcare ideas into viable products and marketable solutions. Successful participants of the InnoStars Awards have got the chance to attract investors and shorten the time it takes to get their ideas to market.

The past years have been great success with regard to the number of applications – they increased by 47% year over year – but 2021 was a record breaker.  

“Through the InnoStars Awards we want to give participants all the support they need to further enhance their knowledge and to extend their professional network. We believe in the power of education and reskilling. There is a great need for new innovations. Our continent is at a turning point: the European population is aging rapidly, chronic diseases are more and more widespread and growing multi-morbidity is a reality for many patients. These all place a huge pressure on healthcare systems all over Europe” – says Tamas Bekasi, RIS Business Creation Manager at EIT Health InnoStars.

List of InnoStars Awards semi-finalists 2021:

Navhetec (Italy) offers an innovative solution by developing a new way to isolate and concentrate plant bio-functional compounds with healthy properties. Their products are purified plant vesicles, small lipoprotein structures existing in plant juice that “naturally” collect and concentrate several bio-functional elements. The vesicle concentrate has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and, thanks to their technology, can be available in different forms for applications as a nutraceutical, for functional foods and beverages, and in cosmetics. Plant vesicles can be added to products already in the market and regularly consumed, thus providing a healthy diet without changing consumers' habits.

AidPlex (Greece) developed a solution, ScolioSense, which aims to tackle the problem of scoliosis by offering a patent-pending patient management system, consisting of a smart wearable device for real-time monitoring of patients' adherence to treatment, a gamified mobile app for patients, and a web app for clinicians.

Nanoker (Spain) developed advanced technical dental implants, nanocomposite ceramic, disruptive, root-form and versatile monoblock implants. Newly developed ceramic nanocomposites and nanostructured bioactive ceramic glass materials finally allow effective and superior substitution of widespread titanium based dental implants that aggravate peri-implant disease affecting not only oral health and implant survival, but patients' overall health.

• JEMTech (Italy) designed a videocardiograph for the non-invasive 3D assessment of the heart. This clinical device is based on a single 3D camera and an AI software that allow to quantitatively assess the mechanical function of the heart in real-time.

PolTiss (Poland) developed a solution, PhotoBioCure, an alternative to surgical repair of hernias, which is one of the most performed operations in the world. The start-up designed injectable patches which form customized implants in situ in vivo, which can positively impact patients’ comfort during treatment, among others.

RuPharma (Portugal) is a project that is a spin-off of Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa (FCUL). The team aims to develop new anticancer drugs for highly metastatic cancers. The solution is protected by an international patent already.

AIMED (Romania) designed a solution, LEDD - Lung Ecography Differential Diagnosis, which aims to introduce a new, non-invasive, low cost, accessible, fast alternative answer for lung cancer and pulmonary fibrosis differential diagnostic based on transthoracic ultrasound image processing and artificial intelligence algorithms, which can also be used in follow-up and for biopsy guidance.

Rethink Medical (Spain) developed T-Control, the first and only catheter with a built-in fluid controlling system, that improves quality of life of patients, prevents infections and help in leading active lifestyle.

Navolab Diagnostics (Hungary) developed a solution, Theresa Kit, an in-vitro diagnostic tool for quantifying patients’ inherent risk for observing therapeutic resistance driven by the activity of multidrug transporter (MDR) proteins.

Endobios (Portugal) designed E-Chem®, a solution that discovers health-benefiting value chains in undervalued commercialized bioproducts or nonmonetized biowaste from algae, microbes, or plants. It raises the value of bioproducts and provides new solutions to end customers seeking over-the-counter therapeutics that prevent disease and improve health, mostly as nutraceuticals, immunostimulants, microbiome health, antiaging, skin health or wellbeing products.

Deed (Italy) developed a solution, get™Aura, a wrist wearable device that enables pionieristic functions to limit certain widespread pathologies. The product could allow a higher level of prevention, health monitoring, with usage of biometric strong authentication method based on ECG.

• Liverinn (Lithuania) is developing an AI-based solution for automated liver diagnostics that could be done in seconds. The technology aims to eliminate blood vessels and liver formations by making measurements of functional liver volume even more precise.

Neurosalience (Estonia) develops a tool for early detection of dementia from MRI scans. The tool aims to decrease patient-related costs and improve the quality of life of patients.

Tully (Romania) developed an Emotion Management Smart Assistant, which helps people with complex conditions live better by improving the way they recognize, manage and deal with their emotions. The vision is to ultimately create a full range automated psychological support for sensory integration disorders, from specific (ADHD, Bipolar disorder, Autism) to general conditions, like anxiety or depression.

• APPERCELL (Hungary) developed a solution that aims to revolutionize biomedical research and drug development by commercialising a high-throughput microelectrode array system with automated data analysis platform, which enables faster, safer and more efficient drug discovery, while minimising the need for live animal experiments.

Learn more about the key details and the application process of InnoStars Awards here and check back for the introduction of the selected teams in the upcoming weeks!