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Students create innovative business ideas for bioresources and food systems in the NOBALIS project

Image author: No LLU arhīva

As the risks of change in the global context increase, the need for innovative solutions in various sectors is also increasing. One of the dominant ones is basing solutions on innovations – technological, organizational and value-oriented. Innovation and its promotion are a topical issue not only in business development, but also in higher education and the university environment. Focusing on innovation in education and business can create new approaches and solutions to various problem situations, both on a national and global scale.

In order to analyse the innovation ecosystems of Latvian, Estonian, Norwegian and Swedish higher education institutions, active work is underway in the project NOBALIS (Nordic Baltic Universities boosting entrepreneurial and innovation systems). This project includes three stages of ecosystem formation: idea generation and development of competencies, research and implementation of innovations, as well as commercialization of ideas.

Within the framework of the project, one of the directions of activity is the promotion of the development of innovative business ideas by students. From 2022, the NOBALIS project has organized three student innovation-promoting activities, each of which includes both an idea generation hackathon and work with mentors for idea analysis and commercialization. In order to find out the best team, there is a competition of the best participants on the Demo Day, when innovative business ideas are presented to an international jury, claiming cash prizes. The third and final activity resulted in the Demo Day on May 2, when 11 teams presented their business ideas.

This year, the presentations of the Demo Day teams stood out with a distinct versatility and variety of ideas. Students presented several business ideas for technological solutions for houseplant care, agriculture, and daily consumption processes, as well as several innovative solutions for food products, with the main focus on the sustainability of food systems, the circulation of resources and the creation of value cascades between different sectors.

Business ideas that have been recognized as the best in the first two stages - the hackathon and the mentoring program - participated in the Demo Day. The ideas were evaluated by an international jury consisting of five members. Our country was represented by Madara Dobele, a researcher at the Faculty of Economics and Social Development of the Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies (LBTU ESAF).

In a fierce competition, the business idea of the food production company "YeastTech" about the reuse of yeast used in beer production in the production of other food products, represented by Andrejs Bānis and Olga Latisenko from Latvia, won the 1st place. Announcing the winners, the representative of the jury from Sweden, Mats Wiktorsson, emphasized: "This was a really committed team with a sustainable idea. Beer is a widely used product all around the world, and if you can find a product how to use a waste of beer, then it is really, really interesting. For the more, since it’s the waste management you can get most likely the start of your business for free or even better – maybe you can be paid for taking care of the waste. So, it’s a really good business model, and when you use a product or waste from one industry and transport it to another, these are truly innovative businesses. You will have good possibilities there! Of course there are a lot of question marks around how it will taste, that you have to work on. But I am very confident that you will reach that. A very good presentation, good idea and good team. Congratulations!"

The team of Clara Holmén and Edith Wolff from Sweden came in 2nd place. They presented the possibilities of mussel farming on the Swedish coast, providing both two product groups (in the use of molluscs and shells) and improving the biological capacity and sustainability of the managed area. Jury representative from Norway Muris Letic said about the 2nd place winners: "You had a good presentation, you were self-confident and answered all questions. You seemed very well prepared. You have talked to partners and reached out what is possible. We saw some potential issues how to actually get these mussels’ farms, that could make some challenges during the process. But you address sustainability issues for the Baltic sea, and also business model seems to be feasible with multiple sources of revenue. You had a good idea and a good presentation."

Nicole Hyslop and Suze van der Zwet from Sweden came in 3rd place. The laureates presented the business idea of the company "Lyckan" related to the creation of urban green areas indoors to promote social interaction and well-being functions. The representative of the jury from Estonia Anne Põder added about the developed business idea: "What we really liked about your idea was that you have this social aspect as a part of the business model. The particular strengths on what you are already working at this moment is market space and first clients. You presented very well your value proposition with problem statement as a background and a realistic plan how to proceed."

Comparing the experience of all three Demo Days, it can be seen that the students' innovative ideas cover an increasingly wide range of directions, being able to create not only a feasible business model, but also to solve the problems of sustainable development. The focus on bioresources and food systems is the direction determined by the NOBALIS project.

In 2021, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) launched a new initiative "The HEI Initiative: Strengthening Innovation Capacity for Higher Education", with the aim of promoting the innovation ecosystem and partnerships in Europe, highlighting the role of the knowledge acquisition process in the creation of innovation. The NOBALIS (Nordic Baltic Universities boosting entrepreneurial and innovation systems) project is one of the projects financed by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), which is implemented by partner universities and institutes in Norway, Sweden, Estonia and Latvia. Latvia is represented in the project by the Latvian University of Life Sciences and Technologies (LBTU).

More about the project is available at:

Submitted on: 21/05/2024