• 11 — 04 — 2024
Start-up Idea Competition 2024

The sugar revolution, a low-cost method for identifying microorganisms in blood for the Third World - or the traceability of coffee using satellite data: In the 18th edition of the “Start-up Idea Competition” at Science Park Graz, the young founders illustrate the claim to combine technological progress with social entrepreneurship. Here are the winners of the six categories at a glance.

Photo Credit: KPhotography | Ekaterina Paller

Morality meets entrepreneurship: new business ideas to solve a social problem are in the fast lane - at least at Austria's oldest start-up idea contest. At the traditional “Start-up Idea Competition” at Science Park Graz, the young founders underlined their ambitions to bring systemic change, explains Martin Mössler, initiator and Managing Director of the start-up incubator: “It has never been as clear as this year that young people are increasingly shifting their entrepreneurial focus to ‘social entrepreneurship’. We see a growing commitment among over 150 applications to bring significant and positive changes in society - based on economic measures.

This year, for example, the focus was on sustainable solutions in the areas of healthcare, nutrition, environment and climate.” For Science Park Graz itself, the objective remains unchanged in the 18th edition: “Our competition aims to provide young innovators with a platform from which they can realize their entrepreneurial dreams. By supporting these visionary projects, we are actively contributing to solving some of the most pressing global challenges and promoting an ecosystem in which economic success and social progress go hand in hand,” explains Mössler. 12,000 euros, i.e. 2,000 euros per category, were distributed to the winners.

In line with the trend, the winners in the six categories are therefore pursuing social business models in particular. Such as Johannes Liesche, winner in the Health category: the Graz-based company is developing a novel approach to identifying microorganisms in blood. “We can offer hospitals a new method for identifying microbial species based on AI-supported microscopy. Compared to methods commonly used in Austria, our approach is much faster and more cost-effective,” explains the young entrepreneur, who is particularly keen to succeed with his solution in third world countries. Accordingly, he is already cooperating with African hospitals.

The approach of young entrepreneur Sebastian Vogler, winner in the “Space” category, promises the traceability of coffee and cocoa: satellite data is used to precisely determine the location of plantations, while artificial intelligence enables deforestation analyses and yield forecasts. With his concept, the young founder is addressing the EU regulation on “deforestation-free supply chains”, which comes into force at the end of the year. “Our solution improves traceability, ensures compliance with environmental regulations and opens up broader market access, thereby strengthening the global agricultural supply chain towards sustainability,” explains Vogler. He already runs a start-up, “Beetle for Tech”, which is based at the Austrian incubation center of the ESA space agency. 

Lisa Reiss, founder of “Smiling Food”, is also tackling a social problem: the winner in the “Special Societal Impact” category is working with her team to combat the problem of excessive sugar consumption: “We are developing a patentable sugar alternative that mimics the function of sucrose in food matrices for various applications without harming health,” explains the founder. In other words, the sugar substitute is used in special foods - such as chocolate and jam initially - does not require any sweeteners and is 100 percent natural. Reiss is currently looking for new employees.

Lukas Höber from Kapfenberg and Roberto Lärche from Vienna, winners in the Energy category, have developed a technology that can be used to store CO2 in industrial waste materials. “In this way, we are supporting the decarbonization of heavy industry by permanently capturing CO2,” the duo explains. Based on the concept presented at the “Start-up Idea Competition”, CO2 is stored in slag, a by-product of steel and iron production, or construction waste, for example. The duo is currently fundraising to realize the methodology.

Michael Klamminger came out on top in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) category: Zeamless, the name of Klamminger's platform, aims to offer “digital identity management for everyone with a special focus on EU data protection and accountability regulations”. The native of Puch near Weiz in Eastern Styria is taking on none other than Google. Because in future, according to the winner, people should “continue online with ‘zeamless’ instead of ‘logging in with Google’”.

With his AI-based software for mechanical machining processes, Muaaz Abdul Hadi from India and Graz won the Mobility category. While quality control is currently usually only carried out after the manufacturing process, Hadi's approach enables inspection during the process itself: “Based on our solution, we want to stop the machining of workpieces immediately if errors occur and thus save material, machine time, tool use, energy and costs,” explains the production engineer, who holds a doctorate from Graz University of Technology.


About the Idea Competition

The Science Park Graz organized the “Start-up Idea Competition” in its 18th edition. A total of 12,000 euros was paid out to the winners in the six different categories. The jury members this year included: 

  • Dagmar Eigner-Stengg (Leitung Gründercenter der Steiermärkischen Sparkasse)
  • Gudrun Haage (Büro für Gleichstellung und Frauenförderung TU Graz)
  • Christoph Adametz (Technologietransfer TU Graz)
  • Arno F. Likar (LIKAR Rechtsanwälte & HAI Smart Equity)
  • Gernot Faustmann (Research Management & Services Uni Graz)
  • Martin Mössler (Science Park Graz, ESA BIC Austria)

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