”Your sneak preview of the future” is the slogan of Innovation Origins, and that’s just what we will highlight with our Start-up of the Week column. Over the past few days, five start-ups of the day have been featured and on Saturday we choose the week’s winner.
We shall consider various issues such as sustainability, developmental phase, practical application, simplicity, originality and to what extent they are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of UNESCO. They will all pass by here and at the end of the week, the Start-Up of the Week will be announced.
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Mobiele Stroom – If the extension cord isn’t long enough …
Not every place on the planet is connected to the electricity grid. That would be pretty pointless as there is no need for electricity in plenty of areas. However, there are places where it is sometimes needed and sometimes not. The Dutch start-up company Mobiele Stroom (Mobile Power) is ideal for these kinds of scenarios. What do they do exactly? The company name should offer some insight.
The sustainable generators are a godsend for inland shipping companies, festival grounds and ice rinks, among other things. What makes Mobiele Stroom more sustainable than diesel generators? They use a liquid form of biogas that is extracted from waste and recycled material. This eliminates any need for a noisy combustion engine which invariably release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And the noise-free element is also nice if you need to power a concert which has a few brief quieter moments.
KITRO – Throw food away? Not on our watch!
It’s actually quite a bizarre phenomenon; in a world where millions of people struggle to scrape together a meal every day, up to 40 % of all food in the western world is thrown into the trash without any involvement of the digestive system. Such a waste! Nobody throws good food away for fun, but where should we start? You often can’t avoid dealing with this, especially if you’re an entrepreneur in the hospitality sector. In the end, it tends to end up as a vague catch-all term: ‘food waste’.
This is the reason why the Swiss start-up KITRO was set up. They came up with a smart scale that is equipped with AI so that it immediately becomes clear how much food – as in money – ends up being thrown away. And it doesn’t stop there, because suggestions are also given immediately for how food items can be used with more efficiently. Those expenses will be especially hard for restaurant owners to swallow. Hopefully this will also no longer be the case for most of their future food purchases.
Untire – Less fatigued from cancer
A cancer patient often goes through a great deal; it’s a disease that wrecks lives. Sometimes a patient feels the need to get support or advice from (former) fellow sufferers. Fatigue and psychological issues often crop up in addition to the disease itself. Thanks to the app from the Dutch start-up company Untire, patients don’t have to feel alone at any point during the day. Untire combines the experiences of (ex)-cancer patients together with mindfulness and a community that helps patients feel empowered.
At least 80% of ( ex)-patients experience not only physical complaints but also psychological problems resulting from treatment. Although enough is done about the physical aspects, this does not apply to any problems affecting the mind. In those cases, a patient is more or less caught between between the devil and the deep blue sea. Nevertheless at the same time, good mental health is of fundamental importance for an optimal recovery. So, it is not surprising that the app is now being recommended by physiotherapists and nurses alike.
Sheltersuit – A sleeping bag as a fashion statement
Is it a blanket? Is it a coat? No, it’s a Sheltersuit! This unique and warm sleeping bag transforms into a warm winter jacket when unzipped. A Dutch start-up developed this remarkable combo especially for homeless people who have no guarantee of warm shelter during the winter, especially at night. Still, this all seems rather impractical. How do you deal with all that excess material, for one thing?
The secret here is the extra zipper around the waist. This makes the bottom part of the suit detachable so that the wearer won’t trip over the pieces of fabric that gather around their feet. Has this been made sustainably in some way? Absolutely! The clothing items are made from discarded festival sleeping bags and tarpaulin which the start-up gets from donations. Last year they received no less than 15,000 after just one appeal. And although they can’t solve the problem of homelessness, at Sheltersuit the main ambition is that homeless people will at least always be warm.
Healx – A light at the end of the tunnel for rare diseases
In times of a pandemic virus which is infecting millions of people, one is inclined to forget that there are some diseases that also exist which don’t affect millions of people, but are not any less distressing for those who suffer from them. A rare disease is usually a case of extreme bad luck. Because the disease is so rare, pharmaceutical companies tend to invest their money in other more mass-marketable drugs, like something against COVID19.
Yet something can be done about rare diseases with the help of AI. British start-up Healx has proven this. Their system speeds up the process involved in the clinical – as in, expensive and time-consuming – phase. How does it do this? Their AI platform has a huge database of biomedical information and rare diseases that is linked to a database containing the very latest patents, experimental medicines and modern medical treatment methods from all over the world. All day long, Healx does nothing else except search for matches between conditions and their potential cure. When it spots something that has a good chance of success, it brings that to attention.
This comes as a blessing; some people spend years experimenting with a method that turns out not to work. If only someone would have given advance notice about that. And this is the role that Healx plays for uncommon conditions where the scope for drug research is often wafer-thin. And does the app work? It sure does. In a few years, the system had already matched treatments for nine conditions that were proven to work in practice. An excellent example of innovation that saves lots of lives and therefore wholeheartedly deserves our weekly IO trophy!
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