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Focoos AI is the overall winner of the Italian National Innovation Award 2023

The young innovative company won the ICT Award and the PNI 2023 cup. The projects of AI-Twin, RasGenix, SpAIce and IAmGreen also won awards.

At the end of 48 hours of presentations and pitches, the winners of the 21st edition of the PNI - Premio Nazionale per l'Innovazione (National Innovation Award), 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 December 1st, 2023. The awards ceremony was 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.

PNI is a national competition for the best innovative business projects, selected from the 16 regional competitions (Start Cups) involving 55 universities, incubators and research organisations in 17 regions of Italy. The winners were chosen from the 71 finalist start-ups 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.

Top of the podium: Focoos AI

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 at I3P and part of the ESA BIC Turin programme, providing 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 come fourth ex-aequo in the regional competition at the awards ceremony on November 9th in Turin and had thus gained access to the competition in the PNI.

The use of AI for machine vision applications on low-power devices such as satellites or drones poses considerable 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 customers' requirements for end-application, hardware and data specifications, avoiding reliance on expensive hardware, eliminating time-consuming manual tasks and minimising human error. "The technology significantly reduces power consumption," added CEO Antonio Tavera, "improves operational efficiency and enables real-time data processing on the devices themselves."

Michele Svidercoschi, Director of Communications and Institutional Relations of Almaviva, presented the award: "The recognition 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. 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 into the production fabric, as a valuable asset to fuel growth and the challenge on innovation in our country."

The special awards of PNI 2023

During the awards ceremony, numerous prizes and special mentions were also awarded to the most deserving innovative start-ups of the year, including many to projects from the regions of Piedmont and Aosta Valley:

  • Invitalia Special Prize for the best female-led start-ups from research, in collaboration with the Osservatorio Scientifico Imprese Femminili-OSIF, awarded to RasGenix (Start Cup Piemonte Valle d'Aosta) and DoubleDamp (Start Cup Emilia-Romagna);

  • Invitalia Special Prize for the best start-ups identified in the 4 innovation sectors, won by RarEarth (Start Cup Lombardia) for Cleantech & Energy, Focoos AI (Start Cup Piemonte Valle d'Aosta) for ICT, SpAIce (Start Cup Piemonte Valle d'Aosta) for Industrial, Livgemini (Start Cup Lazio) for MEDTech;

  • EIT Health Special Prize to AI-Twin (Start Cup Piemonte Valle d'Aosta), start-up in the Life Sciences-MedTech category (voucher to access the EIT Health Mentoring and Coaching Network in Europe);

  • SearchOn We Make Future Special Prize offers the 4 selected start-ups - Focoos AI (Start Cup Piemonte Valle d'Aosta), Foreverland (Start Cup Puglia), Preinvel (Start Cup Puglia), Livgemini (Start Cup Lazio) - an exhibition space at the WMF 2024 fair, in its Startup District, and participation in the B2B meeting area with investors from 49 countries;

  • SearchOn AI For Future Special Prize for the best start-up applying AI for quality of life: Focoos AI (Start Cup Piemonte Valle d'Aosta) wins an exhibition space at the AI Festival to be held in Milan in February 2024;

  • Encubator Special Mentions awarded to Further (Start Cup Emilia-Romagna), Preinvel (Start Cup Puglia), RarEarth (Start Cup Lombardia), BluLite (Start Cup Campania), Edera (Start Cup Lazio), IAmGreen (Start Cup Piemonte Valle d'Aosta), InnoMarble (Start Cup Toscana), VisioNing (Start Cup Lombardia), for direct access to the semifinal phase of the 2023 edition of Encubator, an acceleration programme promoted by the Milan Monza Brianza Lodi Chamber of Commerce, PoliHub and Politecnico di Milano aimed at technological projects in the field of sustainability and Climate Tech;

  • MUSA Special Prize "Urban regeneration - City of tomorrow" in the amount of €15,000 awarded to IAmGreen (Start Cup Piemonte Valle d'Aosta), which has best responded to the main challenges related to the urban and sustainable development of cities, improving the quality of life and mobility, with the aim of making our urban spaces more sustainable, efficient, digitised and inclusive.

The Italian network of innovation

"I am extremely proud," commented Professor Paola Paniccia, President of PNICube and Delegate for Business Development, Start-ups and Spin-offs for the University of Rome 'Tor Vergata', "of this 'two-day event' that recounted an Italy that innovates, that makes a difference, that can bring about the change we all urgently need. Once again, thanks to the enthusiasm and energy of our young talents, we saw the mission of PNICube come to fruition: to give light and shape to the best innovative start-up projects born from research within the universities and research organisations of the network that I have the privilege of leading."

"The 2023 edition of the PNI is a crucial moment to strengthen the collaboration between academia, the private sector and the community, promoting solutions that concretely improve people's lives," emphasised Giovanna Iannantuoni, President of Musa and newly elected President of CRUI. "Our collaboration with the Lombardy Region and PNICube in the National Innovation Award 2023 aims to reward excellence in research and innovation with a strong social impact. Participation reaffirms MUSA's commitment to a sustainable and inclusive future, emphasising the importance of technological innovation that is responsible and contributes to reducing inequalities and imbalances."

"We are very proud to have hosted the final of the PNI 2023; we did so by making available the spaces of the institutional headquarters because we believe that our Region is and must continue to be the 'Home of Ideas'. Our challenge is to continue to grow, a progress made of environmentally sustainable economic growth," commented Guido Guidesi, Councillor for Economic Development of Lombardy Region. "We need innovation to win this challenge, a new generation of innovators who can become the new generation of entrepreneurs. In the 'House of Ideas'," he concluded, "innovators will always find the support of the Lombardy Region."

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