14 June, 2022 | News

Respyre wins the Innovator League and Glimp wins the Rough Diamond league of 2022!

About the Philips Innovation Award 2022: ‘More ambition than ever’. Article written by a journalist who was present at the Grand Final. Please find a recap of the Grand Final below!

“How these 8 student-entrepreneurs are building a brighter future for everyone

Big dreams are at the heart of the Philips Innovation Award ceremony. Here, the most viable and future-proof ideas of the youngest Dutch entrepreneurs are judged. What an inspiration! What an innovative spirit!

The 800 students, investors, interested parties and those involved in the Philips Innovation Award are sitting in the right surroundings. But meanwhile, the tension is palpable in the main hall of the Theatre Rotterdam. The murmur grows louder as the auditorium fills up more and more.

Who will walk away with the big prizes tonight: the 10,000 euros for the most promising Rough Diamond, and the 50,000 euros for the Innovator of the Year, the company that is said to have the most potential to conquer the world soon?

Full-scale accelerator programme

Some 17 years ago, this entrepreneurial competition for students started in a bar, where participants could – literally – submit their idea on a beer fillet. In the meantime, it has developed into a full-scale accelerator programme, in which the participants even receive pitching training from institutes such as Debatrix in preparation for the grand finale.

So it is not surprising that early this year almost 120 companies from all over the country applied to participate, of which – after a semi-final in April – 8 are now allowed to present themselves to the full house, full of spotlights, dreaming of becoming the next Lightyear or Felyx, two companies that were here before and have now made quite a breakthrough.

Challenging times

‘We live in challenging times’, said Stijn van Ooijen at the start of the evening. ‘We need to change how we travel, how we live, how we consume. But the startups we are going to see here tonight contribute to that. In a wave of innovation, they can help us live better and more sustainably. In that, I see a bright future.’

The chairman of the board worked with six other students for a year towards this day, which has been organised down to the last detail. He says he was infected by the enthusiasm of all the entrepreneurs he met during that year. ‘I always thought of a more corporate career. But now that I have been through this, I’m having second thoughts’, he admits.

It is not just the money to be won tonight that makes the final exciting, he says. It is also the honour, the fame, and – above all – the potential that is recognised. Because if 7 jury members like Philips CEO Frans van Houten and other prominent busness figures say they see it in you, then of course you can take it further.

8 finalists Philips Innovation Award

Host of the day Pieter Duisenberg guides the visitors deftly through the 8 pitches. The kick-off is for Aletta, who has developed a chatbot to build up an empathic relationship with participants in clinical trials and thus prevent (expensive) drop-outs in medical research.

Next up is Jefta Vriend, CEO of Glimp, a TU Delft spin-off that has developed a breathing therapy for burn-outs, supported by a tech solution, a sort of Fitbit, that helps people breathe in and out properly.

Third in the category ‘Rough Diamonds’, the place where companies shine that have only started about half a year ago, is Unifix Care, a company that wants to prevent the waste of (unused) medical resources in Western countries by collecting them and using them elsewhere in the world.

In the ‘Innovators’ category, the first to go to the front is Auto-Pilot, a company that uses artificial intelligence and Natural Language Processing techniques to make sense of, for example, large quantities of unstructured PDFs and e-mails.

After that, the Eindhoven-based company HART was given the floor. Just like in the semi-final, they impressed us with their ambition to develop a kind of ‘sense store’, with which you could ‘download’ extra senses, just like an app store. A ‘sleeve’ to translate senses into vibration, for the hearing impaired and deaf, is already a first proof of this.

Auke Bleij, who is next on stage on behalf of Respyre, brings an easel with a piece of his product: sustainable moss concrete, which can make cities greener, combat heat stress, filter fine dust and promote biodiversity. Bring cities back to life’, as civil engineer Bleij calls it in his pitch.

The next speakers, the men behind Savvy, also brought a physical product to show the audience. The company is already earning almost 1 million euros a year in turnover with their concentrated cleaning cubes, with which it wants to take on the P&Gs and Unilevers of this world, who are still dragging their cleaning products around the world with 95% water.

And then it’s time for the final pitch of this round, Eindhoven/Amsterdam-based Veridis, which has patented a smart technology to analyse plastic waste and get much more value out of recycling it. After which, it is up to the jury to perform the task of choosing a winner from all these companies.

Attendees are impressed

In the mean time, of course, the public doesn’t have to wait patiently. While they were first entertained and inspired by former Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, who once again reminded the audience of the importance of continuous innovation, the time of the jury deliberations was filled with a talk show featuring four entrepreneurs who have won their spurs, hosted by Humberto Tan. There were many words about ambition, hard work and big dreams. But also about diversity and a better work/life balance.

Plus: lots of praise for all participants. ‘I see much more ambition than in the past’, remarked Constantijn van Oranje, for example. And former BNY Mellon CEO Leonique van Houwelingen: ‘I am impressed by the energy and passion I see. If that comes together, I believe you can become successful.’

Investor and former TomTom CEO Alexander Ribbink, who says he is always looking for ‘the whole shebang’, also saw some examples of this. ‘I saw a few combinations of both great ideas and great people. I think that is the formula for success’.

Winners Philips Innovation Awards 2022

Which combination of great ideas and great people is ultimately judged by the jury to have the greatest potential? For the Rough Diamonds, it turned out to be Glimp’s burn-out solution, and for the Innovators, Respyre’s moss concrete. ‘The world needs these kinds of solutions’, said Philips CEO Frans van Houten. And so they should also have the big dream of conquering the world’.

A message that Auke Bleij also emphatically took to his heart. Because where the jury still advised him to look for a few ‘big international partners’, he says at the end of the final that he is already working on that. Winning this final? That is a great boost. Because if we won, we already knew that we could look forward to a lot more.’

In other words: it could well be that on this evening, in the Theatre Rotterdam, we have witnessed the future of green cities. A nice thought to return home with. Even though, of course, there had to be a party first. After all, they are still students…”

Knowlegde is power

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