This year’s Oslo Innovation Week (OIW), saw the fifth iteration of the week-long OIW 100 pitches event, a pitching competition which culminates in the award of 300,000 Norwegian Kroner to the winning entrepreneurs.
The entry round, which took place in the impressive Samfunnshuset, built in 1940s as the home of the Oslo Workers Society, pitted 48 businesses against one another in front of an expert panel and live audience in a day of pitching across six categories; life on land, health and well-being, green city solutions, circular economy, ethical finance, energy and ocean tech. A winner from each category would go through to the final event to be joined by two winners from a national pitching event for a chance to win the cash prize.
“I really enjoyed the 100 pitches contest there was a really great energy. I’m so glad I was not on the jury to pick the winners as that would have been a really tough choice.” Marthe Scharning Lund, vice mayor for business development and public ownership for the City of Oslo, who opened the event, tells me.
“I was very impressed, and again there were international teams and pitches that are looking for growth internationally. There were a lot of exciting pitches.”
For Scharning Lund, bringing the international business community to Oslo for OIW and to events like 100 pitches is a key strategy for the city.
“Norway has five million people,”she tells me. “We are highly educated and really good at technology but we are still five million and so we absolutely need to connect with challenges.So bringing talent and research in from other countries to Oslo is really important. But it’s also important for our businesses and clusters to reach out and connect internationally of they are going to grow. It works both ways.”
249 seed-stage startups from 37 countries applied to take part at this year’s 100 pitches event, which according to event organisers, Oslo Business Region, ‘give a platform to business solutions for the UN 17 sustainable development goals.’ Each pitch had to identify at least one of the 17 sustainable development goals that they are working to support as part of its application.
Each presentation was well delivered, and most were within the three minute timeframe meaning they mostly escaped the venue’s seriously impressive gong that rang at the three minute mark. My favourite moment of the day amongst the pitches was from Anett from Hemispherian, a project that aims to develop a treatment for aggressive brain tumours. Anett gave her three minute pitch and question and answer session whilst wearing her baby in a sling.
The event’s focus on business solutions to the sustainable development goals is reflective of the overall forward facing feeling and sustainability focus of this year’s OIW, with events across the week being split amongst four strands: future of work, cities, entrepreneurship and startup, quality of life.
Oslo is 2019’s European Green Capital – recognition for the city’s efforts to support sustainable city planning, green entrepreneurship and a car-free urban environment, all things reflected in the overall themes for OIW and the 100 pitches.
“We’re seeing some really interesting things happening with the technology communities that have been developed though oil and gas, which are now shifting from oil and gas to renewables and joining with other clusters that are renewable clusters which is really exciting,” Scharning Lund, tells me.
“We have one which we’ve just opened which is the Subsea Cluster which has changed focus and rebranded as the Energy Valley Cluster and is entering into a partnership with the Solar Cluster. It is exciting to take the oil and gas technology, which we are the best at in the world, and bringing into over to renewables, which is a part of the green shift, of course.
“The health clusters in Oslo are also growing at a really fast pace and they are reaching out, in Europe but also into China and into Asian markets. I’m excited about that as they are creating a lot of jobs and growing.”
In addition to inviting international businesses into the city over OIW, the city takes a proactive approach to supporting innovation within its business clusters.
“The city of Oslo is buying goods and services to the value of 27 billion Norwegian Kronor per year and our procurement strategy is now being used to promote the green shift and innovation in, and of, itself but also in the green shift; we have to step that up a bit now in the coming years. And we can do that by using the economic muscle that the city has to drive both a political agenda and innovation in the business community,”says Scharning Lund.
“I think the business community, clusters and research communities in Oslo have responded really well. I think they seize the opportunity when they have a government that is so set on targets that we are going to meet, and the ability to use our procurement strategy to create markets and take down the risk. We can do even more on that.
“The other thing is that is really important for us is that whilst we are a small city, we are big enough that we can test out new solutions here that can then be scaled up to other bigger cities. What we are doing here, and we are going to scale up, is that we are opening up our city and its agencies and services to smaller companies and startups.
“This is not part of procurement but actually a grant where our agencies can apply with the startup and say that they want to test out a new product early and we will pay for that testing period. I think that is a good way to help the startups when they need to build credibility and are looking to raise capital. But it will also help the city better its services and drive innovation.”
The winners from each of the themes in the qualifying round were:
Life on land – Zero Waste Biotech
The presentation started by grabbing our attention with the statistic that there are 1,300 million tonnes of food waste produced globally per year. Zero Waste Biotech has developed a machine to take all biodegrade waste, initially from restaurants or food service businesses, and burn it within the machine to create energy for the business from the material. The company currently has contracts with McDonalds, NHS, MOD and Carnival Cruises amongst others. The machines are leased and serviced by Zero Waste Biotech to businesses and save them 30% on waste costs and 20% on fuel costs.
Health and wellbeing – Nordic Brain Tech
Founded in June 2019, Nordic Brain Tech has developed software and a wearable to help the 1 billion people who suffer with migraines, get preventative treatment by monitoring and tracking biofeedback from the wearer.
Green city solutions –The Littery
“When litter hits the bins, everybody wins,” Michael Manniche told the audience at the end of his presentation, delivering the best line of presentations during the Green city solutions theme.
The Littery is a smart bin that encourages people to sort litter correctly before depositing it in the correct bin, rewarding the user with a lottery ticket when they do. The machines also have compactors and sensors tell the operators when the bin is full and in need of emptying.
The Littery aims to get contracts with existing waste management providers who will subcontract their services and has been trialled in Paris and Malmo where the winning lottery ticket had a €5,000 prize.
Circular economy – iHopa
iHopa is a platform that allows people to share the cost of purchases for items. The website currently shows a range of items that people have uploaded looking for co-purchases including a chassis for a Bugaboo buggy, a drone, a Les Gibson guitar, an automatic mower and several boats amongst other things.
Ethical finance – Impact Mapper
Impact Mapper is a tool that allows organisations to track their social impact – tracking and visualising data, trends with the ability to share and report on them.
Sixth winner – Marna Energi
Marna Energi offers solar and battery power storage for use at private and commercial premises using power storage in lithium battery packs that are recycled from Norwegian electric vehicles.Creating ‘second life storage’ extending the life of the battery and means the battery can last for up to 20 years.
The overall winner for OIW 100 pitches was Evoy, a Norway-based business that has developed electric propulsion technologies for the marine sector.
The full qualifying event was also live-streamed and can be watched at the following link – https://www.facebook.com/osloiw/videos/385503145458331/
Main image by Julie Hrncirova