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The Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society


EIB Institute Crowns Social Innovation Champions

The Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society

EIB Institute Crowns Social Innovation Champions

EIB Institute Crowns Social Innovation Champions

What does an app that allows blind persons to find their way, a start-up with innovative recycling solutions for solar panels, and new stitching material that makes recycling clothes easier all have in common? These are all innovative solutions that create positive impact, and they are all submissions to the Social Innovation Tournament (SIT).

Each year, the Tournament is organized by the EIB Institute, the philanthropic arm of the European Investment Bank (EIB), the investment bank of the EU and one of the largest green financers in the world.

The Social Innovation Tournament recognizes changemakers. These aspiring European social entrepreneurs identify a problem and innovate a solution that also makes the world a better place. This year’s Tournament final round was held on 29 September at the Erste Campus in Vienna. Fourteen finalists from more than 200 competitors presented their concepts to the jury and audience.

Reflecting on the joint collaboration with INSEAD in the context of the SIT Competition, Maria Luisa Ferreira, Head of Social for EIB said “we are pleased to partner with an institution of academic excellence, but not less important with individuals like the late Hans Wahl (member of the SIT Jury between 2016 and 2019) and Katell le Goulven (member of the SIT jury since 2020), with whom we share the same basic values: faith in humans and their inherent creativity to solve societal and environmental challenges, i.e. impact entrepreneurs”.

Inspiring Ideas

Projects can compete in the General Category and the Special Category, each awarding first and second place winners with prizes of €75,000 and €30,000 respectively. The winner in the General Category also benefits from mentoring by EY in Belgium. In 2022, the Special Category theme invited solutions that grow the ‘Blue and Green Economy’. A €10,000 award is given to an Audience Choice winner chosen by the general public.

The 2022 General Category first prize for social entrepreneur of the year was awarded to Austrian start-up Dreamwaves for their app, WaveOut. The app guides blind persons using sounds to find their way independently through crowded cities. Second prize in the General Category went to Newcy, a French firm that offers solutions to replace disposable cups with reusable cups in companies.

The Special Category first prize went to Rosi, a French start-up that developed solutions for recycling solar panels by extracting highly purified raw materials. Second prize in the Special Category recognized Algaenergy, a Spanish biotech company tapping the potential of microalgae solutions. The Audience Choice prize was awarded to the Italian start-up Hale for their app that helps woman with chronic pelvic pain.

These winning solutions beat a strong field of more than 200 submissions and fourteen finalists, all with projects that stand to make a positive social impact. Other solutions explored:

  • How to get teenage girls interested in programming, Imagilabs from Sweden
  • How the elderly and their children can follow medication safely, Pillio from Germany
  • Effective recycling solutions for fashion, Resortecs from Belgium
  • Preventing plastics going down rivers into the oceans, Seads from Italy
  • Music becoming experiential for deaf people, Eufonia from Italy
  • New materials and approaches to fashion, Mycotex from Netherlands
  • An app that makes recycling easy, Junker app from Italy
  • A timber tracking network to ensure traceability, Beetle for Tech from Austria

This is just the beginning of the journey for these great ideas. All fourteen finalists, whether prize winners or not, will join the Social Innovation Tournament alumni network and gain access to investors and innovators that can advance their work. This is how the Tournament is striving to be more than a competition and bring great ideas to life.

The Social Innovation Tournament was a showcase of solutions for a sustainable tomorrow. We need new strategies, new approaches and new business models to drive growth moving forward. Well, here they are – governments and investors take note. These solutions truly make business a force for good and should be scaled up

Championing Change

The EIB Institute launched over a decade ago to “change tomorrow today”. The Institute envisioned a European ecosystem of impact entrepreneurship – without borders between countries, sectors and industries – to facilitate real innovation that often occurs at the edge between sectors. A competition was proposed to select and nurture entrepreneurs in Europe with a primary purpose to generate a social, ethical or environmental impact.

Today, the Social Innovation Tournament is an annual competition open to European start-ups working on innovative solutions to social, ethical or environmental problems on the continent. The Jury for the Social Innovation Tournament 2022 was presided by Pieter Oostlander and composed of Justina Alders-Sheya, Elena Casolari, Katell le Goulven, Olivier de Guerre, Concepción Galdón, Ilonka Jankovich and Reinhard Millner.

Scaling Solutions

Moving forward, the EIB Institute will work with Tournament alumni and provide access to tools to scale impact. Alumni receive mentoring and access to capacity building programmes on scaling impact, pitching, fundraising, managing and measuring impact, mental health, resilient leadership. The network opens opportunity to tap financial resources such as small grants programmes and human resources, including experts from the EIB Group staff. The growing alumni network also provides opportunities to connect, raise the visibility of solutions and gain recognition. Opening the door for more impact and more funding is a win-win for the EIB and for communities across Europe.

In the next five to ten years, impact investment is poised to grow. Impact investors often say there are not enough good ventures. Impact entrepreneurs say there are not enough investors. The Social Innovation Tournament shows that there is potential to scale up impact by connecting investors and entrepreneurs. The Hoffmann Institute looks forward to building on this engagement into the future, and remains committed to support the Tournament and open opportunities for the INSEAD community to pursue impact entrepreneurship.

Read the press release for the Tournament here

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