Event: Next Stage Sustainability Bootcamp 2023
The Next Stage Sustainability Bootcamp 2023 took place between November 3rd and 12th. It was organized by the Alexander Innovation Zone in Thessaloniki and implemented by Ideas Forward, with the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom Greece & Cyprus.
The event supported teams whose efforts were related to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and targeted the Energy and Agri-Food sectors. The selected teams participated in 6 days of educational workshops, guest speakers, and networking, all designed to help them take their next steps and develop their ideas and business efforts. The program included:
- Training in entrepreneurial skills
- Personalised coaching
- Guest speakers and networking with experienced market executives
- Presentation of their efforts in front of market stakeholders and investors
- Awards and prizes
The program was based on the institutional role of the Alexander Innovation Zone and the knowledge, experience, and network of Ideas Forward, the organizations responsible for the Next Stage Sustainability Bootcamp 2022, which supported 12 teams for a similar period, resulting in prizes and services received by the winning teams.
The Next Stage Sustainability Bootcamp started on Friday the 3rd of November with an introductory session by Nikolaos Tsoniotis, co-founder of Ideas Forward, and Kostas Tramantzas, Director of the Alexander Innovation Zone, providing details about the program, its structure, and objectives. The presentation of the program was enriched with a welcome by Alona Tatarova, Programme Manager of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom Greece and Cyprus, and Mr. Dionysis Spiliopoulos and Pantelis Kontaxakis, representing the Volunteer Manager Centre of Greece.
Saturday and Sunday were dedicated to training and hands-on workshops on business model canvas, assumption validation and experiment design, key business tools that help teams identify their business model and key hypotheses in order to design the right experiments and gain insights into their target market. The training was conducted by Mr. Dionysis Spiliopoulos and Pantelis Kontaxakis with the support of Ideas Forward. The trainers not only laid the foundations in the framework of business skills, but with their own experience as former senior executives of companies with an international profile and managed to connect theory with practice on a practical level for the participants. This process was enriched with presentations by Dr. Dilay Celebi, Researcher and Professor at the South-East European Research Centre - SEERC, who presented the specifics of business models that incorporate sustainability objectives, as well as Mr. Panos Remoundos, manager of the Creativity Platform, who delved into branding and corporate identity issues.
On Wednesday, November 8th, the teams had the opportunity to interact with the presenters Dr. George Bontzio, co-founder of Agroverse, who presented his company's efforts in the field of robotic applications in agri-food, and Dr. Stefanos Tsiakmakis, co-founder of BIO2CHP, who spoke about the value of residual biomass in the decentralization of energy production. Then the groups were introduced to the basic principles and the different levels of presenting an idea from a high-concept pitch to a full presentation, along with the soft skills that can effectively enhance the visibility of an effort.
Saturday, November 11th was dedicated to the teams' presentations in an open and collaborative way, with the support of Nikolaos Tsoniotis, and Dimitrios Kourtesis of Ideas Forward, addressing the shortcomings in the presentation of the value proposition, the market opportunities and the roadmap needed to achieve the objectives, with emphasis on the principles of design thinking and the value of storytelling needed to create an integrated presentation..
The day was also enriched with talks by academics and producers. Mr. Evangelos Glavakis, agronomist, producer and founder of Krop spoke about trends in agri-food and how they affect our production and choices. Prof. Ioannis Mourtzinos, from the Department of Food Chemistry of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, introduced the groups to the added value of extracts that can change the production landscape and the goals of producers, while finally, Mr. Francesco Mussardo, founder of Alberami, joined from Italy, who presented how the shift to sustainable farming practices can both help the environment and ensure parallel incomes in the agri-food sector.
Sunday the 12th of November was the culmination of the teams' efforts. They had the opportunity to present their ideas before a group of evaluators and speakers including Mr. Gregory Hadjikostas, Vice President of Business Development at Foodscale Hub, who spoke about myths and truths of the investment landscape in the industry, and Mr. Nikolaos Koltsidas, President of Proud Farm Group of Farmers, who spoke about trends in the livestock industry and communicating innovations to farmers. The Next Stage was also honoured with the participation of Mr. Marco Della Puppa and Mr. Andreas Spyridis, representing the Greek-Italian and Greek-German Chambers respectively, who referred to the interconnection opportunities they can offer as well as to upcoming competitions that were of interest to the participating teams, concluding with Mr. Theodoros Tsamourtzis, manager of the AgroTechnology Export Cluster, who highlighted the potential of the network for interconnection with international markets.
After a rigorous but exciting competition, the startups were evaluated based on 5 key criteria:
- Evaluation Criterion #1. Customer need and value proposition
- Evaluation Criterion #2. Market Size / Economic Opportunity
- Evaluation Criterion #3. Competition and differentiation analysis
- Evaluation criterion #4. Team complementarity and level of readiness for the next stage
- Evaluation criterion #5. Progress of the team to date and the strategy for achieving objectives for the next stage
With the following teams ranked in the top 4 out of the 8 teams that participated:
- CDXI solutions, a research team from EKETA/IPTIL using satellite technologies and artificial intelligence for remote water quality testing.
- Corphes, an already established company in the field of production and exploitation of Greek herbs with a focus on innovation in their application.
- Zarzavat, a company in the production of vegetables adapted to the specificities of haute cuisine.
- ThinkBeeg, a team with a desire to educate young children and introduce them to the world of bees through experiential workshops.
The end of the Next Stage Sustainability Bootcamp marked the beginning of an ongoing collaboration between Ideas Forward and Alexander Innovation Zone on the one hand, and the teams on the other, as the awards aimed to support participants in their next steps with free consulting services, and the provision of collaborative office space. The Ideas Forward team will focus on supporting 3 teams in business and investment readiness, while the Alexander Innovation Zone will host teams on its premises for one year, removing the financial burden of setting up office space, demonstrating its continued support for the innovation ecosystem.
As the United Nations and the world's economies make major investments to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, innovation in processes, products, and services across all actors in the four-pronged helix such as governments, academia, industry, and civil society becomes paramount. Initiatives such as the Next Stage Sustainability Bootcamp and others are essential to ensure and create fertile ground for synergies and collaborations leading to a more inclusive, innovative, and sustainable future.