After an intense afternoon of entrepreneurs pitching to the jury panel, the ancient cloister of the Convento do Beato in Lisbon filled with guests who had all gathered for the eagerly-awaited announcement: the big winners of the seventh Altice International Innovation Award (AIIA).
Three awards were given across three categories, with prize money totalling 95 thousand euros to support the best of innovation. Sábado caught up with Ana Figueiredo, who told us “All these projects are very sound and consistent, with a lot of work behind them and much scientific application.”
The CEO of Altice Portugal feels it’s important for these winners to be “focused on sectors which are of the utmost importance to the country, such as health and energy transition.” But as the female CEO of one of the largest telecoms groups, Ana Figueiredo couldn’t help but point out that the first and second awards were given to two female entrepreneurs. “As a woman, I have to highlight the fact that two female-led startups are among the winning projects.”
The decision was made by the jury panel which, as well as the CEO, comprised figures connected to innovation, entrepreneurship and telecommunications: Alcino Lavrador (consultant), Anabela Pedroso (CEiiA), Diogo Araújo (ANI), Gil Azevedo (Startup Lisboa), Luís Santana (Cofina), Miguel Castro Neto (Nova IMS), Paulo Firmeza (Altice Labs), Pedro Santa Clara (TUMO) and Teresa Salema (Altice Foundation).
The final stage of the Altice International Innovation Award also included the Mobiis and Zoomguide projects in the Inclui category, Tympulse Medical and Karion Therapeutics, who both vied for the Startup award, and BreastScreening-AI and Methods for Improving Medical Imaging AI Models, which were both in the running for the Academy prize.
Three awards were given across three categories, with prize money totalling 95 thousand euros.
Winner in the Startup category: expressPIK
This isn’t the first win for Ana Teresa Maia, the CEO of expressTEC. Over the last few years, she has managed to win awards and distinctions which have propelled her project through various development stages. This startup with Portuguese DNA created a new diagnostic method especially designed to increase breast cancer patients’ access to personalised therapy, expressPIK.
There’s good reason to justify this win. As Ana Teresa Maia explains, “Over 600 thousand patients die every year because they don’t respond to treatments. Our expressPIK is the first RNA-based test to speed up and improve the best choice of treatment for each patient.”
The CEO believes this project will make it possible to “change the paradigm of clinical testing to make personalised medicine a reality.” This innovative idea won her 50 thousand euros.
Winner in the Academy category: Charging the future of EVs through the wheel
Emanuel Marques, a PhD student at the University of Coimbra’s Faculty of Science and Technology, is the face behind the project which seeks to revolutionise electric mobility. The academic proposes that a solution can be designed and optimised, as has already been done for smartphones, to achieve wireless car battery charging. The idea entails addressing some of the limitations of the techniques currently used, and substituting them with two magnetic couplers to transfer energy between the external side and the vehicle side.
“One of the greatest difficulties in this type of system [conventional] is the long distance between the ground and the base of the vehicle. A solution was proposed which uses the wheel as a transfer intermediary to achieve high performance,” he explains. The cash prize is 25 thousand euros.
Winner in the Inclui category: Lumen
Born and raised alongside family members with disabilities, the Romanian Cornel Amariei is particularly sensitive to the importance of inclusion. It was this desire to contribute towards the common good that led him to create Lumen, a technological solution geared towards the visually impaired who, up until now, have only had canes or guide dogs to help them. Mobility will now be made easier with Lumen glasses which replicate the features of a guide dog in a medical device that employs self-driving technologies, robotics and artificial intelligence.
Similar to a virtual reality headset, these glasses are able to analyse the surroundings and, using the information gathered in real time, guide the user. The founder of the company which won the 25-thousand-euro prize explains, “We built glasses which enable the blind to lead a better life. We have done this to empower the 39 million blind people around the world who can’t own a guide dog.”
With specific regard to this category, the Secretary of State for Inclusion, Ana Sofia Antunes, says she read “the synopses for the three final projects” and found them “all very promising.”
This year, Startup Lisboa partnered with Altice to sponsor the innovation award. The startups ExpressPIK, which won the Startup category, and Lumen, the winner of the Inclui category, will be supported by Startup Lisboa during their project incubation phase, with a view to raising capital.
In partnership with the National Innovation Agency, Altice awarded a further special distinction to Karion Therapeutics.
Winner of the Born from Knowledge Prize: Karion Therapeutics
In partnership with the National Innovation Agency, the organisation awarded a further special distinction to Karion Therapeutics, a Portuguese startup which seeks to develop innovative therapies for aggressive cancers with high mortality rates. The project, which was co-founded and headed up by the researcher Marta Costa, aims to create safe and effective treatments via a promising molecule. As it can be considered an orphan drug, it has advantages in terms of regulation and the requirements necessary for clinical trials in humans.
Marta Costa explains “This therapy aims to increase the patient survival rate, since it is extremely effective and powerful. At the same time, it preserves patients’ quality of life and doesn’t have any side effects.” Karion Therapeutics won the prize of 2500 euros.