Innovation is moving fast across the world and we are certainly living in a time of dynamic change and exciting new developments. Everyone can create something that is striking and useful for the environment, and in doing so, there’s more and more support and possibilities developing across markets.
Whilst innovation is booming, the value of deep tech startups is also rising year on year. Based on Dealroom data, last year European deep tech companies were worth a combined €700 billion! According to Dr Anna Tórz, the leading coordinator of the Scale-up Champions project and International Cooperation Officer at Poznan Science and Technology Park, international programmes tailored to the development of deep-tech startups have a huge role to play.
Connected innovation systems
“Over the past 2 and a half years, the Scale-up Champions project has implemented different programmes helping boost innovation and startup acceleration. The Startup-corporate Collaboration programme, The Investment Readiness programme, Startup Online Incubation and Market Discovery Tours”, said Dr Anna Tórz.
All of these projects focused on supporting deep-tech startups to enter new markets in the growing innovation hubs of Denmark, Spain, Poland, Estonia, and Lithuania. Collaboration between markets is a key to the success of these programmes.
The Scale-up Champions team have now organised more than 500 small and big events for about 375 deep-tech startups. More than 300 investors and 47 corporations from different countries joined the international project and advised innovators on how to boost their business plan, create a pitch deck, where to look for new partners and much more.
Dr. Anna Tórz, added: “Startups were engaged in improving their networking skills and having mentoring support on startup’s value proposition issues. They needed a road map when they were going to expand to different markets.”
Kadri Tammai Tehnopol Startup Incubator Manager, coordinating the Online Incubation and Market Discovery Tours, highlighted how during these events, knowledge sharing in terms of local markets, like insights, suggestions, validations, and preparation can help the companies to facilitate their growth more easily with low risk and low cost.
Kadri said: “If you know the market, probably you will not make the same mistakes that other competitors already did. Also, local partners can support building connections by opening their network of partners around the world, which will help to find potential future customers and build the trust that can ease your way into the new market.”
There were 15 different Open Calls to participate in the different Scale-up Champions programmes and scaling-support activities, and all deep-startups could choose one or several of them.
Investments in the R&D Field
One of the programmes launched online was the Investment Readiness programme for those eager to e-meet international investors and have individual consultations with mentors and experts on how to improve business plans and the pitch deck.
Through Scale-up Champions and similar projects, Unsinkable Robotics has been able to establish new partnerships within the Estonian and Norwegian business and maritime sectors. The team was advised by Danish maritime robotics specialist Resen Waves. According to Timmu Tollimägi, CEO of the startup, they expected to find technology partners in the destination country, in machine vision with the aim of exploring if they could find maritime partners with valuable experience.
Timmu said: “During the project, we raised a pre-seed investment of €200k. At the moment we have 3 pilots going on in Norway. Through strategic investors, it is easier to reach new clients as they are well connected within the industry”.
Juozas Baltušnikas, Co-founder of Science Architect, added: “During the tour in Estonia, I managed to introduce our technology to many investors. What especially helped is the Brella app, where I managed to precisely select the most suited investors and schedule meetings with them. With many of them, I will have follow-up calls. The Latitude59 event and the Brella app. together are game-changers”.
Juozas also added that Denmark is a great place to find deep-tech partners – based on the culture and personality of the Danes, as well as the scientific and deep-tech expertise available in the country.
Support for Better Knowledge
In 2022, Online Market Discovery Tours was released to support startups in the scaling process. Through it, regional congresses and expos tripled their chances to make impactful contacts. Founders were able to discover new materials for their product upgrades, legal frameworks to locate the business and funding options not previously considered.
Dimitri Ionesco, Founder of LightMirror participated in several Market Discovery missions organised by Scale-up Champions project. During the pandemic, he moved to Lithuania to implement more R&D and improve the prototype of panels that enlighten the public buildings and improve their energy efficiency. Here, he was able to get involved in the Scale-up Champions Webinars and find out about the programmes available for deep-tech startups. For him, such programmes for startups and incubation activities are a great push, especially for first-time founders.
He said: “In this programme, I made the first contacts in the Polish startup ecosystem. Our main clients are the infrastructure managers of the public hospitals. Usually, these buildings were built 50-60 years ago. According to the long-term renovation strategy of the Polish public buildings of 2022, Poland’s hospital and healthcare buildings are among the most energy-consuming facilities in the country. The average is 611kWh/m², while the country’s current requirements for new healthcare building construction are 110kWh/m². These numbers show the urge to change the situation.”
Dimitri affirms that for an early-stage startup, coming to a new country and participating in startup events is crucial to make the first contact. It’s a chance to meet many people in a short time – and every person is an opportunity for synergy, potential investment or can be a new client.
Kadri Tammai adds that during the on-site Market Discovery Tour, the companies received a huge amount of knowledge of new markets like local startup ecosystem overview, deep-tech sector development goals, local business culture peculiarities, insights in venture capital investments, collaboration opportunities with corporates/universities and so on – which will help to get the better view of the market fit.
Meetings with Global Corporations
Carmen Adán, Scale-up Champions Startup-corporate Collaboration program coordinator, finds that one of the most valuable parts of the project is that it allows corporations to scout R&D innovation and collaboration activities with startups. In fact, 47 well known global corporations, including the likes of Volkswagen, Pfizer, and Teltonika joined the programme.
Carmen said: “We were matching the applied startups with corporates’ challenges. In total there were 108 challenges in the categories Smart Cities, Industry 4.0, FinTech, MedTech, GreenTech, Retail, Biotech. Corporates had to pitch their main challenges and were reverse-pitched by startups with their unique solutions for chosen categories.”
Dr. Anna Tórz added: “Regional startup hubs and deep-tech incubators joined us as community partners. It has led to fruitful collaboration initiatives – consultation opportunities for startups, Demo Day Investors panels and even gave us the courage to apply for IASP Inspiring Solutions Awards”.
Scale-up Champions is an initiative that aims to scale-up innovative businesses across the EU and help startups to achieve market success. Following the support of the European Commission, Scale-up Champions aims to connect different European deep-tech startup ecosystems and support cross-border activities to standardise the growth routes in Europe.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871877