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Nearly 100 Hungarian SMEs Joined the International Health Innovation Circuit

17th June 2024

Over the past six months, more than 90 Hungarian SMEs have been able to showcase their healthcare innovations internationally. EIT Health InnoStars – iLex Innovation Competition, powered by the Budapest Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has opened doors for these companies to find European partners to validate and market their projects. Among numerous outstanding projects, nine were awarded first place in six categories by an international jury. These projects range from a smart pen for post-stroke rehabilitation to a needle-free medication delivery system.

The competition concluded in early June with an awards ceremony at the Budapest Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BKIK) headquarters. EIT Health InnoStars and the iLex Group, a legal-innovation development and AI research start-up group, invited applications from innovative SMEs whose projects promise significant impacts in the healthcare industry.

Participating teams showcased their innovations to a European audience through EIT Health’s extensive network, gaining insights and feedback from international experts, and learning about European best practices in health innovation. The entries were judged by a nine-member jury of Hungarian and international experts, chaired by Hans Hofstraat, former Vice President of Innovation at Philips Research. Other notable jury members included Dr. Ferenc Dietz, President of Dennis Gabor University; Bertalan Jászkuti, CEO of Syreon Research Institute; Ákos Csókay, Secretary General of BKIK; and Dr. Tamás Bábel, a biotechnology expert.

Distinguished guests at the award ceremony included László Bódis, Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Innovation, who spoke about SME innovation activities and state programmes aimed at strengthening SMEs. Ádám Rottenbacher, Chief Operating Officer of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) was also a key speaker of the event, highlighting the contribution the EIT makes to support innovative SMEs. Honoured guests at the ceremony included László Korányi, Deputy Director General of the National Innovation Agency; and Ákos Karsay, Head of Department at the National Health Insurance Fund Management.

The EIT emphasizes collaboration between education, research, and industry, the so-called knowledge triangle. To underline this commitment, representatives from several higher education institutions attended the ceremony, including the University of Óbuda, University of Debrecen, Hungarian University of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, and Dennis Gabor University. Investors and accelerators, such as the White Unicorn incubator and venture capitalists from Óbuda University, including Imre Hild from Széchenyi Capital Fund and Ákos Dervalics from GreenBrother, were also present.

“No one can innovate alone; collaboration and networking are essential—and this competition has significantly facilitated that. We are proud to provide a platform where talented entrepreneurs can showcase and validate their developments, finding new partners to enter the European market. Hungarian entrepreneurs can collaborate with organizations like SYNLAB Italia, one of Europe’s largest diagnostics groups. Networking proves effective, as recently demonstrated by a French research institute developing and marketing a test for diagnosing bipolar disorder with SYNLAB Italia. We hope to soon assist Hungarian innovators in finding the partners they need to advance,” said Dr. Ferenc Pongrácz, Deputy CEO of EIT Health InnoStars and one of the jury members.

“The power of innovation lies in our ability to transform bold ideas into reality and make a tangible difference in the world. For iLex Group, it is crucial to support companies that aim to enhance healthcare with their solutions. This competition provided an excellent opportunity to showcase the significant results that Hungarian SMEs can achieve. We are proud to have been part of this journey and are excited to see how these innovative ideas will shape the future,” said Dr. Marianna Ritter, CEO of iLex Group and one of the jury members.

“The words ‘innovation’ and ‘inventor’ carry positive connotations, but in Hungary, the word ‘entrepreneur’ often does not. I am delighted that we encountered so many brave and talented entrepreneurs at the competition and awards ceremony. As the largest regional chamber in the country, our aim is to provide meaningful and effective support to our thousands of voluntary members and the 300,000 registered businesses in Budapest. Budapest is full of talented entrepreneurs who demonstrate their creativity and perseverance every day. I believe that with the right support and, most importantly, partnerships, we can help them reach the next level. I congratulate all the participants and wish for Hungarian innovations to continue gaining worldwide recognition,” said Dr. Ádám Balog, Vice President of BKIK.

 

The winners – Hungarian innovations for a healthier Europe

The jury awarded 9 companies 1st prize in 6 categories.

  • Healthcare Software: Fitpuli Ltd. and Kreativo Ltd. for the Fitpuli Surgery mobile application, aiding in elective surgery preparation and rehabilitation.
  • Medical Device: Krisztina Katalin Puskás and her team for GraphoPen, a tool for stroke patient rehabilitation through neural stimulation and measurement.
  • Healthcare Service Innovation: Pálvölgyi-Digital Ltd. for developing needle-free treatment centres for painless, safe, and environmentally friendly drug administration.
  • Environmental Sustainability: LenoPack Ltd. for a recycling project to reduce plastic use in healthcare institutions.
  • Healthy Food: Hello Good Food Ltd. for developing allergen-free, low-carbohydrate, high-fibre pizza and bread.
  • Facilities Management Solutions for Healthcare Institutions (joint 1st place for three teams):
    • GWR NANO Ltd. for the durable, energy-efficient and fast-applying nanoceramic thermal insulation material of the same name,
    • OrthoGraph Ltd. for its RFID-based solution for hospital cleanliness monitoring and management of hospital beds through 3D building information services,
    • and NanoCleanWorld for developing two cost-effective and environmentally friendly (hydrogel and GB Universal) water purification technologies.

 

In addition to the winners in each category and special prizes, certificates of completion of the Syreon Research Institute eHTA training were awarded at the ceremony. Early Health Technology Assessment (EHTA) is a methodology for assessing early-stage health technologies.

A lifetime achievement award was presented to Prof. Dr. Károly Bretz, a 93-year-old honoris causa professor of kinesiology at the Hungarian University of Physical Education and Sports Sciences, who continues to innovate with numerous patents during his career and is still active today (his project for the instrumental examination and rehabilitation of patients with osteoporosis won 2nd place in the medical device category).

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