On 14 and 15 November, the 2019 Global Final of the world’s largest green business ideas competition was held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Known as ClimateLaunchpad, the EU-supported competition recognises companies with the greatest potential to combat the global climate crisis through their energy efficient solutions.
Diapers as fuel
This year, a record number of entrepreneurs featured, with 2 601 applying for national competitions from 53 countries. The start-ups were then whittled down to 131 with each having at least two representatives present in Amsterdam.
Kenyan clean fuel startup – Leafy Ke whose innovation converts used diapers into fuel for use in the home, was announced the overall winner of this year’s edition.
In addition, several Eastern Partnership Countries featured prominently and of the 16 finalists, one hails from Ukraine, making it one of the best cleantech start-ups worldwide.
CO2 for faster plant growth
Founded in March this year, Kiev start-up Carbominer provides a carbon dioxide capture solution to satisfy greenhouse operators’ need for cheap and climate friendly CO2.
“As a father with five children, I was worried about how rising levels of CO2 could potentially cause allergies among today’s population. Being an engineer, I told my wife about building a small carbon capture device for our children’s bedroom to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide they were inhaling. The first prototype proved the concept and we soon began thinking about how our capturing technology could be used in other ways,” says Carbominer CEO Nick Oseyko.
The idea of developing a similar unit to capture CO2 to use in growing plants came next and soon after Carbominer was born.
Nick, his daughter Vika, as well as his business partner Michael have already developed a prototype which is smaller, more portable and crucially, much cheaper than their competitors. Several greenhouses in Ukraine are already keen to buy captured CO2 from Carbominer as it can increase plant growth by up to 30-40%, boosting revenues significantly.
The duo plans to develop an industrial scale prototype by March next year. Watch this space.
Other notable Eastern Partnership start-ups
Another start-up present in Amsterdam was Moldova’s Nida. The team has come up with the innovative idea of producing single use cups and plates from pomace – the residue from grapes.
“Moldova is one of the top wine producing countries in the world but most of the waste from the grapes is being discarded in fields. Our idea aims to make cups and plates from this waste and then sell them on to coffee shops,” says Daniela Luca, Nida’s Business Development Officer.
Nida’s innovation is exciting as it has the potential to help solve a major global issue – our dependence on, and overuse of plastic.
Azerbaijani start-up Airflec, meanwhile, is developing a smart device that is placed on the boot of the car. It works by catching wind to generate additional electricity when the car is moving. This extra energy increases driving range by up to 10% and reduces charge time.
“The device doesn’t hamper the aerodynamics of the car and when the driver releases the accelerator it actually causes the car to reduce its speed. Even when the car is parked, the device captures any wind present, generating additional electricity,” says Airflec CEO and co-founder Aydan Gadirzade.
A final product ready for commercialisation will come once wind tunnel experiments are completed next year.
Smart and clean
With solar panels needing regular cleaning to function properly, Georgian company Irnero has developed an inexpensive smart self-cleaning system for solar panels without any need for human involvement. The system can be installed wherever the solar panels are located and can be operated with a mobile application.
“Our innovation is ideal for use on hard to reach places that are not easy to clean. Its smart electronic system detects when a panel is dirty and automatically cleans itself. It does away with the need to contact an expensive team to come and clean the panels,“ explains Irnero founder, Luka Patchkoria.
Irnero already has a cooperation agreement with the biggest solar panel producer in the region and is soon to embark on mass production.
Biohydrogen from waste
Finally, a company from Armenia has developed a method of generating biohydrogen from wine, coffee and beer residues. The end product is pollution free and renewable as an energy source. Compared to other biohydrogen production processes, the technology used is 100 % waste based and there is no need for high temperatures during production.
Could it be you next year?
ClimateLaunchpad comprises four stages: boot camp, intensive coaching, national finals, and the Global Grand Final. Entrepreneurs or startups can apply in their own country and at least seven innovations per country are selected. They then attend a two-day boot camp, followed by six intensive coaching sessions to perfect their pitch and business model. Held in some 70 locations across the world, these sessions involve community member trainers from EU-supported EIT Climate-KIC, the organisation behind ClimateLaunchpad.
Following this, the teams are ready to present to the Jury at the national finals. Finally, the winners of each national final then have the opportunity compete in the Global Grand Final, which changes location each year.
One of the ClimateLaunchpad trainers is Mr Ron Bloemers, who has 25 years of hands-on experience with cleantech, renewables and start-ups.
“During ClimateLaunchpad, we generally see two co-founders with their idea. We give them the foundation to turn their ideas into a start-up, and we teach the basics of entrepreneurship,” he says.
Bloemers also has some advice for budding clean-tech entrepreneurs. “For the first two years, you will constantly face new problems – that is a given. Success depends on how fast you can solve these problems.”
The Global Final winners received cash prizes, and all the finalists, including Carbominer, will next enter an Accelerator Programme for cleantech entrepreneurs run by EIT Climate-KIC.
Cleantech entrepreneur Frans Nauta founded ClimateLaunchpad in 2014. His mantra was simple: if you want to solve a complicated problem, give it to entrepreneurs and solve it in steps. This led to ClimateLaunchpad’s motto of ‘fixing climate change one startup at a time’.
More details on all the finalists can be seen here.
Thinking of applying? See a list of national contacts who can advise you here.
See more energy-related projects on the EU4Energy website.
Author: Tom O'Connell