30th July 2020
EIT Health accelerated start-up – UVera, has just secured EUR 2.5M funding from the European Innovation Council within the “Green Deal”. The team were selected as within the best 3% of innovative, impactful and sustainable projects recognised in the EU.
So, here we are, in the middle of summer of 2020, when the Sun is scorching Europe without mercy, and hundreds of thousands of Europeans aim to enjoy, despite pandemic restrictions and safety concerns, beaches, seaside walks or just being outside, trying to get a nice summer suntan. It is clear now that an innovation in sun-screening could not have arrived at a better moment. Enjoying the sun responsibly comes with a whole range of unexpected consequences, and the vast majority of commercially available sun protectors blocking UV rays from reaching your skin, thus reducing risk of getting, for example, a skin cancer, are not entirely safe themselves. Some ingredients used in sunscreens may damage the DNA, increase risk of cancer, or cause an allergic reaction. Once a responsible beachgoer enjoys a dip in the water, the sun protector gets washed to the sea, polluting it. Unfortunately, ingredients used in UV-ray protectors are confirmed to harm coral reefs and other sea life.
Pollution by sunscreen is more serious than you might think
You might be tricked to consider these issues insignificant. After all, you probably use your sunscreen sparingly, and a single container of UV protection is usually enough for a whole holiday. But consider this: sales of sunscreens in 2019 reached 1.2 billion units globally. That translates to lots of sunscreen washed down to the ecosystem. Think 700 (yes, seven hundred) 20-ton cargo trucks full of sunscreen dumped straight into the sea every year.
An innovation by UVera, a startup from Poland accelerated by EIT Health, may offer a solution. The company has developed a UV-protector extracted from natural microorganisms, which has the ability to block the whole spectrum of UV rays (UVA, UVB, UVC). No chemicals, no coral reef damage, only Mother Nature at work. Magdalena Jander, UVera CEO, says that the “substance” is confirmed safe for humans and has no impact on environment whatsoever. “It outperforms the narrow and not-stable UV-protection substances that are right now on the market. Furthermore its production is 100% eco-friendly. We are addressing the strong need of cosmetic industry while responding to the trend of growing eco-awareness. We can preserve biodiversity in aquaculture and fight against pollution without changing consumer habits”, says Jander.
“The Substance”, as it is called internally, has no catchy name yet, as it has not translated to a market product yet. That moment is nearing though. UVera has just scored yet another major win, by securing an EUR 2.5 M grant from the European Innovation Council. UVera’s innovation was recognised in EIC’s “Green Deal” funding round. In total, over €307 million was awarded to 64 start-ups from the European Union’s 17 member states. It is worth mentioning that over 2 thousand companies applied for the funding and only 3% got the grants.
The “Green Deal” also had an important angle. All recognised innovations had to prove that their project is environmentally friendly. UVera checks all the boxes. “To produce a single ton of the substance, we require about 90 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The same amount of oxygen is created as a byproduct of production process. Also, a fertile biomass is created. This can be put to various uses, from diet supplements to cosmetics and agriculture” – explains Adam Kiciak, UVera CMO.
InnoStars Awards spinned the ball
The company is enjoying a successful run. Earlier, in 2019, UVera secured the EIT Health InnoStars Award 2019 winning €25 000 of smart money, and €25 000 in cash for further development of their product. This year the company reached the EIT Health Catapult competition semifinal (with finals scheduled for Autumn 2020). Recently, UVera was also recognised as the EIT “Innovation in Action” – the promising project that has potential to revolutionise the healthcare industries in Europe.
“UVera is a model example of EIT Health InnoStars start-up acceleration. Over the course of various initiatives and projects, the company took advantage of not only funding, but also access to resources, know-how, mentoring and networking, intellectual property, and other forms of support provided by EIT Health InnoStars. UVera’s journey with us is a validation of our innovation acceleration system” comments Mikołaj Gurdała, EIT Health InnoStars Manager.
The recently secured €2.5M grant from the European Innovation Council will be used mainly to create UVera’s pilot manufacturing facility in Poland and Spain as well as certification of the component. Securing manufacturing capabilities is crucial to the company’s go-to-market strategy and graduating “the substance”, as it is now known, to a product available commercially to beachgoers and sun-bathers.