Refugee Projects Catch the Imagination at Social Innovation Investor’s Fair

On Thursday morning, the European Investment Bank (EIB) Institute and the European Commission held the Social Innovation Investor’s Fair at the EIB in Luxembourg-Kirchberg.

Guy Clausse, Dean at the EIB Institute, welcomed everyone with Hedda Pahlson-Moller, CEO at Omsint and Tiime, talked about boosting social enterprise across Europe by creating social innovation structures that lead to systemic change. She added that various entrepreneurs have been chosen to present their projects in front of venture capitalists and other professional ventures, with the format including counter pitches which have been intended to stimulate creativity and making projects better.

Twelve projects have been chosen from the Social Innovation Tournament and the Social Innovation Competition which showcase European social impact projects. The former is a flagship initiative of the EIB Institute’s Social Programme and financially rewards projects which aim to fight unemployment, marginalisation of disadvantaged communities or promote access to education in a wide range of fields. The Social Innovation Competition invited Europeans to develop game-changing ideas which could advance Europe’s growth model by challenging current assumptions and conceiving of new solutions. The selected projects are now seeking investment in order to reach their targets.

The eight 3-minute presentations were as follows:

– Hand-in-Scan (Budapest, Hungary): The growing problem of infections which is not only a problem of HealthCare. They have developed a digital image-based analysis which can be immeditaely uploaded to servers. One single case cost €5,000; one model costs €10,000. They are looking for €2.45m in capital. Candace Johnson said a business plan is needed to show how the business will grow.

– Orti-Alti (Turin, Italy): an urban regenation project to grow plants and vegetables above street-level in regenerated spaces, rooves, etc. They are looking for €50k to market and grow the network to produce up to 6 tonnes of vegetables annually. Marcus Freiburg (FAST) acknowledged the proof-of-concept but urged the project to work more on the business plan and financial model.

– Progetto Ould (Italy): the project addresses textile waste, helping the fashion inductry to rebuild their image, by recycling. They collect discarded material and make up clothes which they sell in their own shops (2) and other sales outlets (10). Their aim is to double their 2015 turnover by 2019 and are asking for €150k investment to develop the eCommerce website. Candace Johnson suggested the presenter could have communicated a more positive message and value proposition, also encouraging the pop-up-store approach.

– Politeia 2.0 (Greece): to create a living laboratory for innovation and governance, reconnecting citizens with decision-making processes in Greece. Their open toolkit is being used by many mayors. They are looking for €50,000 to scale up and make a change, investing in democracy. Markus Freiburg urged the project to work on the business model which could also look for public money.

– Magdas Hotel (Austria): the hotel run by refugees, turning perceived disadvantages into advantages by turning a former retirement home into a hotel and recycling the former contents. The project received international media attention since opening 10 months ago. They are looking to expand the concept internationally. Candace Johnson urged the project to have a mission statement and a clear USP, as well as focusing more on the skills of the refugees.

– Mobilearn (Sweden): Approximately 1 billion people are misplaced world-wide today, needed food, shelter and information – tools for integration; without these, ghettoes are created. The project takes the most information from various administrations and translates them. They are asking for €250,000 to set up a presence in Brussels. Marcus Freiburg suggested the added value of the project be presented more clearly.

– Blue Badge Style (UK): a style guide for the less able, a commercial company with a social impact. Going out requires military planning and comes with anxiety due to a lack of information. The project informs people where to go by a website, an app and an online access brochure. The project is looking for €490,000 in seed funding to provide 12-18 months effort in Europe. Candace Johnson urged the project to think bigger, comparing the model adopted by egergy credits.

– Piano C (Italy): In Italy, more than 30% of women do not return to the workplace after maternity leave. Women should not have to choose between a career and a family. The project promotes back-to-work programmes for mothers. Marcus Freiburg urged the project to focus more on identifying the impact change and to look at added value for other stakeholders.

The four 1-minute pitches were as follows:

– Ufeed (Spain): the project uses mobile devices and social media to help people in need by encouraging brands to donate directly to approved NGOs, with the funds raised paying for projects around the world.

– Filsia (Greece): the project provides hardware and software for rehabilitation concerning muscoskeletal, cognitive and neurological disabilities.

– Adie (Faance): the projects fights unemployment by encouraging individuals to operate franchising solutions, with 3 services offered to provide 200 jobs already. The aim is to provide 3,000 joby by 2020.

– Mattecentrum (Sweden): the project stimulate interest in mathematics, offer social franchising internationally.

Dominik Dominik said he was impressed with the elevator pitches which he admitted are very difficult to achieve. He stressed the need to include a Call to Action in each pitch.

Nicolas Buck of NYUKO talked about social entrepreneurship in Luxembourg and acknowledged the high attrition rate, with only 10% becoming successful. He referred to the 1,2,3 GO Social competition where, since 2011, 18 successful social businesses have be borne out of 131 initial applications.

The Investor’s Fair took place as part of the 2-day conference on ‘Boosting Social Enterprises in Europe’ from 3 to 4 December 2015. The conference is organised by the Luxembourg Ministy of Labour, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy and aims to examine how social innovaton is created and can be systematically integrated into the creation of economic activities.

Photo by Geoff Thompson

Original article appears here.

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