The EU will support 257 small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) from 31 countries who aim to get their innovations faster to the market. The companies have been selected in the latest round of the SME Instrument, which is part of the recently launched European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot. The funding of €12.65 million in total comes from Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme.
Examples of the projects selected to receive EU funding include solar street lights, software that uses augmented reality to help industrial plants monitor their production chain, a diagnosis tool for sleep apnoea, an innovative mobile payment technology, a custom-made paint vending machine and a wrapping machine for sustainable packaging.
In this phase of the SME Instrument (the so-called Phase 1), each project will receive €50 000 to draft a business plan. There are 253 projects in total as several companies can team up to propose one project. The companies will also get three days of free coaching and business acceleration services.
Most companies selected for funding work in the field of health, engineering and information and communication technology (ICT). Most companies are based in Spain (45), Italy (28) and Israel (23).
The European Commission received 2009 proposals for this first Phase 1 cut-off of the SME Instrument this year. The next application deadline for SME Instrument Phase 1 is in May 2018.
Applications for phase 1 or phase 2 can be submitted at any time, as the SME Instrument is managed as a permanently open call with several cut off dates per year. Applications are evaluated as soon as there are submitted.
Please, introduce Watly (and yourself) and the vision with which it was founded.
My name is Marco A. Attisani, and I am the founder and CEO of Watly. We intend to provide solutions to some of the most fundamental and global human needs: access to clean water and sanitation, as well as free-energy and connectivity. Our mission is to improve global living standards for the most in-need people in the world.
For that reason, we are building the first thermodynamic computer in the world, Watly. Watly is also a water purification system and an electric power-station. It generates electricity off-grid to power its own internal electronics as well as thousands of external devices. It purifies water from any source of contamination, without the use of filters. Watly is exclusively powered by solar energy.
In what ways has Watly benefited from participating in professional organisations, incubators, and the like?
During the 3 years of our company’s history, we have been selected as the top start-up in different international competitions and European accelerators. We have been awarded multiple times with valuable nominations as well as with monetary prizes. I wish to name the most relevant programmes we have been a part of that actually added value to our start-up: European Pioneers and Premio Marzotto.
How would you characterise the environment for pursuing R&D in the EU?
The problem I see with EU R&D sponsors is that they are far from being as visionary and bold as their US counterparts. R&D in Europe lacks not only serious money but also an attitude towards innovation. In Europe, we lack the vision and courage to build something really unexpected and revolutionary. The Horizon 2020 program is an exception to this, but that is not good news for R&D because Horizon 2020 cannot possibly cover all R&D investment needs.
Has Watly been able to leverage EU funding?
The Horizon 2020 program is said to help the EU’s most innovative SMEs to turn their concepts and prototypes into commercially successful products. Well, I would say that this was absolutely the case for us!
Watly is one of the companies to have benefited from this great financial instrument. In September 2016, we will officially present our ultimate version of Watly, the first thermodynamic computer in the world. This will be possible only because of the SME Instrument and nothing else. We have an ambitious plan, and we really think we will go IPO in less than 8 years from now. On that day, when big investors will finally be on board and satisfied customers spread all over the planet, we will certainly remember that our first and most prestigious investor was indeed the EU. We owe Horizon 2020 a great company success, and in due course, we will deliver beyond expectations.
What results, products, or successes would you like to point out?
It is quite clear that we are addressing one of the greatest challenges of humanity but also one of the biggest business opportunities of the 21st century. There is an enormous market for those entrepreneurs and investors willing to take a step forward.
Our feasibility study leads us to a straightforward conclusion: we are among the pioneers and very few first movers of the 4th industrial revolution. For this very reason, we may also soon become the leaders of this market. Thanks to Horizon 2020 we will prove the viability of our product by September 2016.