At the end of 48 hours of presentations and pitches, the winners of the 21st edition of the National Innovation Award (PNI), Italy's most important and widespread business plan competition, promoted by PNICube, the Italian Association of Universities, Academic Incubators and regional Start Cups, were announced on Friday 1 December 2023, and organised this year in collaboration with the Lombardy Region and the Universities of Milan-Bicocca, Milan Polytechnic, Bocconi University and Milan State University, coordinated by the public-private ecosystem "MUSA" (Multilayered Urban Sustainability Action), with the support of PoliHub and the main partnership of the Iren Group, Nobento-iVision, Gilead and AlmavivA.
At the PNI the best innovative business projects selected from the 16 regional competitions (Start Cup) involving 55 universities, incubators and research institutions in 17 regions of Italy compete. The winners were chosen from the 71 finalist startups by a Jury composed of representatives from the worlds of business, research and venture capital on the basis of criteria such as the value of the technological or knowledge content, technical feasibility and development potential, adequacy of the team's skills, and attractiveness to the market.
Winning the ICT Award - with its €25,000 cheque - and the overall victory in the National Innovation Award 2023 was the startup Focoos AI, incubated in I3P and part of the ESA BIC Turin, which provides advanced software that automates the process of creating and training artificial vision networks optimised for any device. The innovative young company, from the Start Cup Piemonte Valle d'Aosta, had won fourth place ex-aequo in the regional competition at the awards ceremony on 9 November in Turin and thus gained access to the competition in the PNI. Focoos AI also won one of the cerimonia di premiazione del 9 novembre a Torino e aveva così ottenuto accesso alla competizione nel PNI. Focoos AI ha vinto anche uno dei Invitalia special prizes and was among the startups selected for the SearchOn We Make Future special prize, winning an exhibition space at the next edition of the WMF fair in the Startup District and participation in the B2B meeting area with investors from 49 countries.
The use ofAI for machine vision applications on low-power devices such as satellites or drones presents significant challenges for aerospace companies. Traditional AI models are often oversized, which means they require considerable computational resources and energy. Focoos AI provides state-of-the-art software that automatically designs and trains custom-optimised neural networks following customer requirements for end-application, hardware and data specifications, avoiding reliance on expensive hardware, eliminating time-consuming manual tasks and minimising human error. CEO Antonio Tavera added: "The technology significantly reduces energy consumption, improves operational efficiency and enables real-time data processing on the devices themselves".
The prize was delivered by Michele Svidercoschi, Director of Communications and Institutional Relations at Almaviva: "The award for the ICT category, among the many proposals of interest, rewards a project initiative that shows entrepreneurial vision, significant technological content, concreteness of objectives, attention to sustainability, and the positive impact of the solution. It is a project that expresses the characteristics of an innovative business culture, a vocation in which is reflected the essence of the mission of Almaviva, an Italian digital group, which supports the contribution of scientific research, and its transfer to the productive fabric, as a valuable asset to fuel growth and the challenge on innovation in our country."
Giuseppe Scellato, President of I3P, commented: "As an I3P incubator, we are very proud of the great success achieved by the Focoos AI startup and the other Piedmontese companies that have won important awards. These results testify to our ability to develop highly innovative solutions, products and services. We congratulate all the entrepreneurs and thank all our institutional and private partners who work together for the promotion and development of the innovative entrepreneurship ecosystem“.
(Source: press release I3P)