The final of the 4TU Impact Challenge took place on the eve of Slush 2021, the biggest tech event in Europe. The jury chose Hable, a start-up from the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), as the winner. The company has developed a device that enables blind and visually impaired people to control their smartphones by means of Braille. “This way, they can still stay connected to the people around them,” says Ayushman Talwar, co-founder of Hable. The jury considered the entrepreneurs of Hable to be very special because they have very good contact with their users and customers. Consequently, their product fits in seamlessly with the needs of their users.
In the 4TU Impact Challenge, the best students from the four Dutch technical universities compete against each other. Each university had already held its own preliminary round in the spring. Two student teams per university were chosen. They pitched their idea during the national event, which took place this year in Helsinki (Finland) during the Slush event.
From stopgap solution to start-up
The founders of Hable are highly motivated to help blind and visually impaired people all over Europe with their device. Ayuahman Talwar initially developed the first prototype of the Hable One, as the product is called, for his blind grandfather. At the time, he never expected it to grow into a fully-fledged start-up, as he previously told Innovation Origins. The Hable One is a separate device that links to a smartphone. It enables the blind and visually impaired to type and navigate through their phone. The six keys lets them type all alphabetic letters, numbers and punctuation marks with the aid of Braille. The smartphone itself can be left in a bag or pocket while calling or apping.
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The eight finalists of the 4TU Impact Challenge will be in Finland for the next few days. During the Slush event, they will get to talk to other entrepreneurs and potential investors with the aim of taking their start-up company to the next level. “We are really looking forward to this,” says Freek van Welsenis from Hable after he received the trophy.
All of the finalists are working on widely different but promising innovations, from deep tech to handy online tools. Coapath, for instance, is working on a new test to quickly and affordably test crops, such as potatoes, for viruses and parasites. While Beesense wants to use the strong sense of smell of bees to recognise viruses such as COVID-19. Mouscle, on the other hand, is focused on the development of hardware. The company is working on a moving computer mouse to make sure that people do not keep their hands in the same position all day long. This will help to prevent a lot of muscular complaints. Sourcer, meanwhile, is working on software. This start-up tries to combat disinformation through an online tool. The tool helps people to search for reliable and complete information.
The four technical universities in the Netherlands are working together within the 4TU.Federation, of which the 4TU Impact Challenge is part of. They have joined forces to make the best use of their knowledge and creativity in the technology sector. They do this in the areas of education, research and the valorization of knowledge. The Impact Challenge is one example in the category of knowledge valorization. The students bring the knowledge they have gained back to society in the form of start-ups and student teams. Their products and services contribute to a more sustainable future.
Also interesting: This series on the spin-offs from the four Dutch technical universities
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