Vega fund grantee sees sweat as a solution to measure training efficiency
An international jury announced new grantees of the financial support of the Vega fund of SEB Bank and the University of Tartu Idea Lab. The support fund of 14,700 euros was divided between three development projects selected from 23 submitted applications. When the selected projects reach the market, visually impaired people can be more independent, the work of researchers can be more efficient and quantifying training will be taken on a whole new level.
The largest support of the third call of the Vega fund – 7500 euros – was awarded to the project BIEX, which sees sweat as a key to measure the efficiency of athletes’ training. “Sweat is not a waste product. While sweat works as a cooling mechanism, it also provides deep health data through analysis of its constituents,” described the leader of the project Christof Neuman.
According to Neuman, BIEX is working on a skin patch to provide an immediate analysis of sweat that will be used for training optimisation and health monitoring. “This will take quantifying fitness beyond movement tracking to full understanding of the physiological events leading to exercise gains also known as the training effect,” said the grantee.
The PowerAlgae team who received 4000 euros strives to develop the most efficient microalgae farming photobioreactor in the world, something that the researchers have long waited for. The efficiency gains come from increased energy efficiency, as well as from remote management option, which enables to optimise the researcher’s working time. The bioreactor is equipped with smart sensors that provide real-time and accurate information on the “health” of the growing microalgae. The team hopes their product helps researchers who work on the practical applications of microalgae as well as academics who are motivated by publishing articles and are conducting lab tests with high accuracy.
The support of 3200 euros was given to the Extra Leg team, which develops a smart home device that allows visually impaired people use the already existing smart home solutions to make their home safer and more efficient. The team explains that modern homes have more and more electric devices that may be costly or sometimes even dangerous to keep plugged in while not used. Thanks to the device of Extra Leg, visually impaired people can get an overview of things that may otherwise be difficult to notice. The team uses the support of the Vega fund to carry out user testing and fine-tune the product to meet the requirements.
Member of the jury, the Head of Business Innovation at SEB Mart Maasik considers the project of Extra Leg absolutely necessary, as the developed device gives visually impaired people an opportunity to be more independent. “So far, visually impaired people did not have any solution to this problem apart from relying on the help of other people. This is the greatest and best purpose of technology: allowing people live a better life.”
The jury focussed on finding projects that do not have limitations in terms of geography or human resources. According to Maasik, the winners stood out among the rest by how far they are from marketing their product. “All teams have their competence and target group, but before they can get private funding from the market, the project teams have to test their product. Vega fund gives them financial support to carry out tests and understand whether this is the solution the market really needs,” said Maasik, adding that after testing and analyses it will be easier for the teams to find investors, as they already have proof that the world needs the product or service.
According to Heili Ollin, Project Manager of the Vega fund of SEB and the UT Idea Lab, the next call of applications will open in autumn and its support fund will be even bigger. Ollin added that in September, also a series of seminars will be organised at the University of Tartu, aiming to help teams submit better applications.
“At the seminars, we will explain what is expected of a project team applying for the support. Based on the previous applications, we can say that teams should work more on the business side of the project and think about how to implement their project in practice and make big money,” said Ollin, giving hints on how to prepare a successful application.
The submitted applications were evaluated by an international jury consisting of the UT Vice Rector for Development Erik Puura, the Head of Business Innovation at SEB Mart Maasik, the head of the UT Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Andres Kuusik, Investment Manager of SmartCap AS Indrek Kelder, business angel at EstBAN Erki Mölder and Neil Thomas from Ventac Partners.
The Vega fund, created by SEB Bank and the University of Tartu Idea Lab, is the first funding facility for knowledge-intensive ideas. Through the fund, SEB Bank gives 150,000 euros over a period of three years to support the transfer of innovative solutions to everyday use.
Additional information: Heili Ollin, Project Manager of the Vega fund, tel: +372 5362 9365, email: heili.ollin [ät] ut.ee;
Mart Maasik, the Head of Business Innovation at SEB, tel: +372 665 5256, email: mart.maasik [ät] seb.ee.