It is named AI-Twin (Autoimmune Inflammatory Twin) and promises to pave a new path toward personalized-on-chip clinical trials: this is the start-up that won Start Cup Piemonte Valle d'Aosta 2023. Supported by the Enne3 incubator, AI-Twin conquered the overall first prize in the competition thanks to a joint-on-chip system capable of emulating, in a single device under patenting, a functional 3D architecture of the joint that includes all the biological tissues that make it up.
Now in its 19th edition, the Business Plan Competition is organized as part of the PNI - Italian National Innovation Award and promoted by the I3P, 2i3T and Enne3 incubators to spread the culture of innovation, promote the economic development of the Piedmont and Valle d'Aosta regions, and support the emergence of innovative and knowledge-intensive start-ups in the Cleantech & Energy, Industrial, ICT, Life Sciences, Tourism and Creative Cultural Industry fields.
The winners were chosen from 153 submitted business ideas. As for the Business Plans received (133), 38% pertain to the ICT field, i.e., innovative products and/or services in the area of information technology and new media, such as e-commerce, social media, mobile, gaming, etc. Also liked is the Industrial sector (20%), followed by Tourism and Cultural & Creative Industry (16%) and Life Sciences (14%), while the Cleantech & Energy sector refers to 12% of proposed business plans. The 397 proposers participated mostly in teams and for the most part hold a master's degree (41%), in 22% of cases a bachelor's degree, 19% a diploma, and 18% a master's or doctoral degree.
The Start Cup Piemonte Valle d'Aosta organizing committee, composed by the three Piedmontese incubators, commented, "Year after year, the Start Cup continues to be a key event for getting a snapshot of local innovation and identifying areas to target funding and investment. The initiative recounts a healthy ecosystem, with an ever-growing network of incubators and partners, and with new startups offering ideas and contributions in sectors that are fundamental to our economy, from green tech to aerospace, with projects that are often of academic origin, thus contributing to enhancing the research results of universities. In this edition, in particular, the Life Sciences sector, dedicated to innovative products and services to improve people's health, topped the podium, demonstrating the increasing need to find solutions to problems affecting the medical sector."
Elena Chiorino, Councillor for Labor, Vocational Training and Right to University Study, said: "Investing in innovative startups means supporting the growth of innovation and competitiveness of our nation. We believe in the ability of people to come up with future-oriented business ideas by allocating resources to the initial development phase for the subsequent market launch. Piedmont is confirmed, also by the latest research published in the media, as a virtuous model for the birth of startups: projects that enhance the entrepreneurial spirit, stimulate the economy and create new jobs."
Andrea Tronzano, Councillor for Economic and Financial Planning, Heritage, Development of Productive Activities and Small and Medium Enterprises, commented, "A due thank you to the organizers of the 19th edition of Start Cup but especially to the 153 business ideas that participated in this edition, because this shows, once again, how much desire there is to do business. Institutions need to be at the side of good ideas to make them possible and help them. Start-ups have always been an opportunity for the growth of our entrepreneurial system, an expression of the typically Italian ability to seize new opportunities, experimenting and promoting ideas to increase competitiveness and development."
The winners of the 2023 edition
Thanks to the endowment made available by the Promoting and Supporting Entities and ESF+ resources, this year's total prize pool was more than 65,000 euros, disbursed in cash and services. The winners were announced and awarded at the event held on the morning of November 9th, 2023 at the University of Turin.
The start-up AI-Twin, pertaining to the Life Sciences category, won the first prize of €7,500. It is a breakthrough project for clinical practice, the pharmaceutical industry and academia. The team's goal is to develop a new generation of in vitro (Organ-on-Chip) systems: they are created with the use of a microfluidic device, from patient biopsies, useful for advanced research on new treatments and to enable patient-specific clinical studies on chips.
In second place, for a €5,000 prize, is another start-up from the Life Sciences field, RASGenix, supported by the 2i3T incubator, which with its Rasgenius project proposes the development of study and validation services for drugs (or potential compounds) that "target" the RAS oncogene and its mutated forms, in the context of cancer pathology.
Closing the podium and winning the third prize of €2,500 is the Spaice project: supported by the I3P incubator, it addresses the aerospace domain by developing advanced and robust artificial intelligence software (using Generative AI) for perception, autonomous navigation in space and robotic operations, as well as control, in order to enable In-Orbit Servicing for debris removal and satellite life extension.
Ranked fourth, fifth and sixth are:
- Focoos AI (supported by I3P), which has developed software for the aerospace market that, using transfer learning algorithms and techniques, improves the efficiency and speed of neural networks, which are designed and trained automatically to take full advantage of the resources of any edge device;
- Formile (I3P), which meets the training needs of SMEs with its platform, offering ad hoc products and software solutions;
- IAMGREEN (I3P), which designs high-performance machinery for improving the process of municipal solid waste collection, sorting and disposal, contributing to process optimization and environmental sustainability through the use of advanced technologies, such as AI and deep learning.
The top six projects are also awarded a prize of €1,000 each for entry into the 21st edition of the PNI - Italian National Prize for Innovation 2023, the "champions cup" among the winning business projects of the regional Start Cups, which will be held in Milan on November 30th and December 1st, 2023, co-organized jointly by the Milano-Bicocca University, Politecnico di Milano, Bocconi University and Università Statale di Milano.
The special awards
Special prizes promoted by the sponsors and partners of Start Cup Piemonte Valle d'Aosta 2023, interested in contributing concretely to the development of innovation, were also awarded.
The Cuneo Prize of €10,000, dedicated to the best business plan that establishes the company in the Province of Cuneo and made available by Fondazione CRC, went to Autoferm, a start-up supported by I3P and dedicated to the development of an innovative method of sparkling wine and brewing focused on increasing the quality and healthiness of products, which allows a reduction in environmental impact and production costs.
The Autonomous Region of Valle d'Aosta, tending to entrepreneurial development in the territory, has awarded the Valle d'Aosta Prize of €7,500 for the establishment of the company in the Pépinières d'Entreprises of Aosta or Pont Saint Martin to Ampero, which proposes an innovative service of design and production of electrical switchboards "as a service," exploiting innovative AI, Robotics and Augmented Reality technologies.
The Piedmont Aerospace Cluster has awarded the Space Sustainability Prize of €7,500 to the best business plan that considers the theme of sustainability in aeronautics or space, thus choosing the ORiS team: supported by I3P, its project aims to build an in-orbit infrastructure for the transmission of wireless energy toward the lunar surface, through a constellation of satellites positioned in nearly stable lunar orbits, which store energy during their orbital period using photovoltaic panels and batteries, and then transmit it toward the lunar surface through a laser beam.
The Social Innovation Prize, of €7,500, was offered by Fondazione Laura & Franco Beltramo ETS to support the business plan that promotes social progress and the development of better living conditions: winning it was Frida (I3P), which has developed a new orthosis for idiopathic scoliosis in adolescents, which is characterized by greater comfort than other orthopedic corsets and accelerates treatment through a technological innovation that allows the doctor to control the orthosis remotely, through electrodes for electrostimulation and automated pads, bringing gradual correction of the scoliotic curve.
LINKS Foundation, which put up a City of the Future and Sustainability Prize worth a total of €7,500 in cash and services for the best project with an impact on sustainability, awarded it to Nabu, an I3P-supported project that developed IoT and data analytics solutions to improve sustainability and efficiency in water management, particularly in agriculture, through sensors to be installed in the field and a web platform.
Jacobacci & Partners awarded two prizes with a total value of €7,000, disbursed in the form of services: the Jacobacci Gold Prize of €5,000 to Focoos AI and the Jacobacci Silver Prize of €2,000 to ILICO2SEP, an I3P-supported startup that builds plants to capture carbon dioxide in post-combustion processes through a new ionic liquid technology.
The Unicredit Start Lab Prize offered by UniCredit, which consists of a mentorship session to assess a project's eligibility for targeted content of the Start Lab program, went to AI-Twin.
The three 5G & Emerging Tech prizes offered as part of the City of Turin's CTE NEXT project for the best 5G-related entrepreneurial projects, were awarded to:
- Demand Side System (I3P), a project involving the use of AI system for direct load control energy communities to maximize self-consumption and provide flexibility to the grid;
- Else (I3P), which proposes a smart integration hub for plug & play home automation systems with user interface via dedicated software platform;
- Starview (I3P), which has devised a real-time image processing service designed for satellites, telescopes and military aircraft to maximize the accuracy of clear information from space data.
The special mentions
Several special mentions were also awarded during Start Cup Piemonte Valle d'Aosta 2023:
IAMGREEN was awarded "Green&Blue" mention by GEDI Group as the best climate change impact project that can integrate innovation, technology, protection and enhancement of natural resources in order to generate economic growth and environmental protection.
AI-Twin's on-chip systems also won the "Equal Opportunity" mention as the best project aimed at promoting the principle of equal opportunity and women's entrepreneurship.
The "Social Innovation" special mention, designed for initiatives that involve the development and implementation of new ideas to meet social needs, went to Seaform (I3P) and its modular floating platforms that, through innovative proprietary technologies, enable life on the water, in all its forms, with the goal of making the modules as little impact as possible on the marine ecosystem.
The "Sustainable Technologies" mention, awarded by Jacobacci & Partners to the best project that stands out in the field of sustainable technologies, was won by Plant Flow Solutions (2i3T), a B2B service for measuring gas exchange CO2, H2O) in plants based on proprietary technology that will improve future production in agriculture through a deep understanding of plant behavior and their reactions to environmental stimuli, optimizing growth performance.