July 1, 2020 12 PM

Winner of the ‘Startup of the Year in the CEE region’ award unveiled

Woola from Estonia wins the EIT InnoEnergy 2020 PowerUp! Grand Final

The jury of the sixth edition of the PowerUp! Challenge startup competition announced the winner of the region’s most prominent contest for innovative enterprises and business solutions. Woola from Estonia was awarded a cheque for 50 000€ as well as the opportunity to join InnoEnergy’s business accelerator programme. The prize is complemented by other valuable contributions from key partners such as Amazon Web Services, Vestbee and the SpeedUp Group. The Challenge saw record participation this year, with over 360 start-ups from 20 countries across Central and Eastern Europe in the running for the main prize and future investment opportunities.

Estonia emerged as the winner of the CEE region’s biggest start-up competition organised by EIT InnoEnergy. In the sixth edition of the competition, Woola has been awarded the “Startup of the year in the CEE region” title and a cheque for 50 000€, along with the opportunity to join the InnoEnergy’s business accelerator programme. Furthermore, key partner Amazon Web Services offered credits to their AWS Activate program and business support, and other partners such as Vestbee and the SpeedUp Group also awarded the winner with services and grants.

Woola was established at the end of 2019 and produces packaging material from sheep's wool residues. The Estonian startup aims to disrupt the e-commerce market by significantly decreasing the production, consumption and landfill waste of environmentally harmful materials like Styrofoam and plastic. Woola is an eco-friendly bubble wrap made from sheep wool. The product is shockproof, heat-proof, and at-home compostable within six months. Woola makes use of an abundant resource that would otherwise be thrown away.

When selecting the winner, the panel of judges focused on the potential of the presented idea and solution to be successful on a global scale as well as the potential for the long-term development of viable products and services.

“The selection process was highly challenging, as all startups pitched a variety of fantastic products and solutions. In 2020, we saw the biggest potential in the team Woola from Estonia. We are excited to see the team’s journey in the future”, said Oksana Prykhodko, Innovation manager at DTEK and a member of the jury.

”We are extremely happy! Winning the title of the Startup of the Year in the CEE region can be a real game-changer for us and help us reach our next goals” – said Anna-Liisa Palatu, from Woola. „Participating in the PowerUp! Challenge by EIT InnoEnergy will certainly help in the development of our business”.

Viezo from Lithuania, the runner-up of the Grand Final, is developing new types of material that can produce energy from vibrations and use this instead of batteries. The electricity generated from wasted vibrations can power wireless IoT sensors, therefore prolonging their lifetime or increasing the amount of signals. The team received a €10,000 prize.

The third place and a cheque of €5,000 went to the team of Pocket Virtuality from the Czech Republic who came up with a solution of augmented and virtual reality technology that specializes in real-time remote communication. The solution may be used in the fields of engineering, medicine and smart cities. Thanks to this technology, the on-site worker can connect with an external expert who sees a virtual representation of the environment and can fully assist from a distance.

In 2020, the EIT InnoEnergy PowerUp! Challenge reached a new milestone. More than 360 startups from 20 countries in Central and Eastern Europe matched their strength in the region’s largest startup competition organised by EIT InnoEnergy, representing the highest number of participants in the history of the event. The main thematic areas covered in this year’s competition included sustainable energy, mobility, cleantech, and smart cities, however cutting-edge solutions demonstrating an out-of-the-box approach to pressing challenges have been also welcomed by the organisers. Due to the restrictions implemented as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Grand Final has been organized as an online event.

This year the members of the jury consisted of Oksana Prykhodko (Innovation manager at DTEK), Marzena Bielecka (Managing Partner and Founder of Experior Venture Fund), Jennifer Dungs (Lead for Transport and Mobility at InnoEnergy), Jakub Miler (CEO of EIT InnoEnergy Central Europe) and Dominik Zalewski (Co-founder of urban tech agency, Urban Impact). The fact that the majority of jury members were women is testament to InnoEnergy’s commitment to promoting gender equality in the relatively “male dominated” energy sector.

“The COVID-19 virus presented an unforeseen situation for the governments in every country in the region. The economic recession triggered by the measures designed to curb the spread of the virus presented grave difficulties for small enterprises and startups. It was precisely for this reason that we decided at EIT InnoEnergy to go ahead with our business creation and development programme, the PowerUp! Challenge. In an effort to act in the most safe and responsible manner, we organised both the country finals and the Grand Final of the Challenge online”, says EIT InnoEnergy Central Europe’s CEO, Jakub Miler.

“While many market channels and sources might dry up for small companies, with the backing of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology we are here to continue our support of innovative entrepreneurs with financials, know-how and valuable partnerships to help take their products and services to the next level”, he added.

The Grand Final was supported by a host of partners from the public and the private sector. This year’s Gold partner is Ukraine’s flagship energy company DTEK. DTEK extracts natural gas, generates electricity at solar, wind and thermal power plants, distributes and supplies kWh to end consumers as well as provides energy efficient solutions and develops a network of electric vehicle charging stations across Ukraine. “As technology constantly changes, evolves, we need the best partners to maintain our success on the market. With their help we can learn how to grow further, and how to maximize our opportunities and deliver on our potential”, said Emanuele Volpe, chief innovation officer of DTEK.

“We believe InnoEnergy is a great platform that gives us access to a unique ecosystem: a winning blend of the best startups in Europe, a vast array of international know-how and a proven track record of boosting growth for companies of all sizes”, he added.

In addition to being one of the most successful competitions in the region, EIT InnoEnergy’s PowerUp! initiative is also a gateway for businesses to secure millions of euros in investment and to be part of EIT InnoEnergy’s network, which offers financial resources, know-how and an extended hub of reliable partners to help companies to become successful globally.

EIT InnoEnergy was established in 2010 and is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union).


About EIT InnoEnergy

EIT InnoEnergy is the innovation engine for sustainable energy across Europe.

The company supports and invests in innovation at every stage of the journey – from classroom to end-customer. With its network of partners, InnoEnergy builds connections across Europe, bringing together inventors and industry, graduates and employers, researchers and entrepreneurs, businesses and markets.

Combining the potential of its three main thematic fields (Education, Innovation, and Business creation) the organization intends to maximize the impact of each, accelerating the development of market-ready solutions, and creating a fertile environment in which the innovative results of its work can be brought to market.