On Monday evening, the Philips Innovation Award was presented for the 18th time. ExCulture won the award in the Innovator League with their sustainable innovation for blood thinners. Plense Technologies took home the main prize in the Rough Diamond League, a category that focuses on promising startups founded after October 2022.
Aisling Foley (Irish) and Ilaria Poledri (Italian) are the founders of ExCulture. They have focused on the heparin market, a substance that has been used as part of blood thinners for nearly a century. Heparin is extracted from pig intestines, and due to epidemics, particularly in China, there have been shortages for years. In collaboration with TU Delft, ExCulture is working on a fermentation process that can produce heparin compounds without the need for slaughtering pigs.
Refining the business plan
The jury praised the innovative product, strong presentation, and capable team that they believe can achieve global success. “Participating in the program has helped us refine our business plan and message,” says co-founder Aisling Foley. The €50,000 check is a welcome support for ExCulture in their long journey toward their ultimate goal: developing a real product.
“We will use the money to further test our heparin compounds. We can also use it to travel to the United States for discussions with potential investors, as the heparin shortages are strongly felt there,” says Poledri.
The Philips Innovation Award is the most important entrepreneurship award for students in the Netherlands. Tamo Meijer is the chairman of the organization: “It is not just a competition but a comprehensive program for student entrepreneurs and recent graduates. They receive assistance from experienced business coaches in refining their ideas and access to a large network of investors. In this way, raw concepts gradually become real business plans.” For this edition, a total of 155 young companies applied. After an initial jury selection, thirty candidates emerged and were prepared for the semifinals in three training days.”
“We offer them the opportunity to have direct conversations with investors without a pitch setting. It is this feedback that is considered very valuable,” says Meijer.
The jury members of the Philips Innovation Award:
- Roy Jakobs (Chairman of the Jury, CEO Philips)
- Eline van Beest (CEO Hybridize Therapeutics)
- Robert Verwaayen (Founding Partner Keen Venture)
- Janneke Niessen (Founding Partner CapitalT)
- Alexandra Jankovich (Co-Founder and Managing Partner SparkOptimus)
- Mark de Lange (Founder and CEO Ace & Tate)
- Shawn Harris (Founder Nature’s Pride)
The Innovator League had a total of five finalists, including Heliostrome. This startup develops software to help farmers in dry areas irrigate their fields with solar energy. Innoflex uses thin-film technology to filter nitrogen oxides from the air, hoping to provide a solution to nitrogen emissions in livestock farming in the future.
Fabulous Fungi is developing a sustainable alternative to synthetic clothing dye by using special fungi. Weco is working on a new generation of wave energy converters, generating sustainable power at a price comparable to wind energy. There are plans to open a test facility off the coast of Scheveningen.
Rough Diamond League
The Rough Diamond category focuses on tech companies founded after October 2022. The finalists were DeltaV, Sixth Sense Diagnostics, and Plense Technologies. The jury was ultimately most impressed by the latter startup.
Plense Technologies “listens” to plants using special microphones capable of capturing ultrasonic sounds. “With the use of algorithms, we translate this into concrete data, such as the amount of water present in a plant. This technology can increase crop yields,” says co-founder Berend de Klerk.
A valuable trajectory
According to him, participating in the program has provided him with valuable insights. “You are coached and challenged in various ways. It has really helped us think even more deeply about our business model. Furthermore, it is a great platform for gaining more visibility.”
The startup recently began a pilot project with a paying customer. De Klerk plans to use the €10,000 prize money to develop more prototypes. This will help Plense Technologies accelerate the testing phase. Like the other finalists, the startup has one ultimate goal: to bring a commercial product to the market.