The best green tech startup in the CEE region is Woola from Estonia


Estonian startup Woola won the largest sustainable technology startup competition in Central and Eastern Europe – PowerUp!. Winning team won 50,000 € and the title of startup company of the year as well as the opportunity to join EIT InnoEnergy’s business accelerator programme. This year, with a predominantly female jury, EIT InnoEnergy expressed support for gender equality in an otherwise male-dominated energy sector.

The PowerUp! competition, organized for the sixth time by the EIT InnoEnergy, Europe’s largest sustainable energy impact fund, is the largest and most important competition for startups in the CEE region. Out of more than 360 startups that applied for the program, 14 startups from different Central and Eastern European countries entered the final round of the national preliminary rounds.

The Grand final took place on the 25th of June online. The representative of Estonia, the startup company Woola, which produces wool packaging material, was awarded the “Startup of the year in the CEE region” title. As the winner of the competition, in addition to the € 50,000 prize money, Woola will have access to the EIT InnoEnergy’s extensive network and financial investments.

According to Anna-Liisa Palatu, one of the founders of Woola, the victory came as a big surprise. “The competition was intense and in addition to us, there were several businesses with great potential in the finals. Winning makes us very happy and the prize money is a lot of help, because we are currently involved in an investment, which we will direct to start our production. Participating in the PowerUp! competition organized by EIT InnoEnergy will definitely contribute strongly to the development of our company,” said Palatu.

Woola is an eco-friendly bubble wrap made from sheep wool. The product is shockproof, heat-proof, and at-home compostable within six months. Woola makes use of an abundant resource that would otherwise be thrown away. Every year, 153 tons of sheep wool ends up in a landfill in Estonia alone.

PowerUp! competition has been brought to Estonia under the leadership of science and business park Tehnopol. According to Heleri Holm, Tehnopol’s project manager, EIT InnoEnergy expands the opportunities for Estonian startups to succeed in the world: “For 10 years now, Tehnopol has contributed to the emergence and growth of green technology companies in Estonia. Representation of EIT InnoEnergy and bringing the PowerUp! competition here is very important, as EIT InnoEnergy is one of the largest supporters of the green field in Europe”.

“We are very proud of our companies, in which EIT InnoEnergy has invested. Woola’s product is economical, simple and ingenious. I believe that we have all perplexedly looked at the amount of plastic used for packages. Now there is an alternative for it and we are looking forward to the massive use of the wool packaging material created by Woola,” Holm added.

It was not the first time for Estonians to bring home the main prize from this prestigious competition. In 2015, the startup company Lainergy won first place with the idea of a new floating power plant. In 2016, Polarsol Global, which deals with unique renewable energy heating and cooling systems, was crowned the winner of the competition. The winner of 2018 was the startup company Zubax Robotics operating in Estonia, which has developed a technology that allows to significantly increase the energy efficiency of the space industry. In 2019, the Estonian company Roofit.Solar was awarded the special clean air award. In its solar panels, the usual roofing material is combined with solar electricity production.

Viezo from Lithuania, the runner-up of the Grand Final, is developing new types of material that can produce energy from vibrations and use this instead of batteries and received a €10,000 prize, while the third place and a cheque of €5,000 went to the team of Pocket Virtuality from Czechia who came up with a solution of augmented and virtual reality technology that specializes in real-time remote communication.

This year the members of the jury consisted of Oksana Prykhodko (Innovation manager at DTEK), Marzena Bielecka (Managing Partner and Founder of Experior Venture Fund), Jennifer Dungs (Lead for Transport and Mobility at InnoEnergy), Jakub Miler (CEO of EIT InnoEnergy Central Europe) and Dominik Zalewski (Co-founder of urban tech agency, Urban Impact). The fact that the majority of jury members were women is testament to EIT InnoEnergy’s commitment to promoting gender equality in the relatively “male dominated” energy sector.

“While many market channels and sources might dry up for small companies, with the backing of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology we are here to continue our support of innovative entrepreneurs with financials, know-how and valuable partnerships to help take their products and services to the next level”, says EIT InnoEnergy Central Europe’s CEO, Jakub Miler.

Video of the announcement of the winner of the Granf final on June 25: 

The competition can be viewed here:

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