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The Finalists

From: EIT ICT Labs

WINNER: Germany's Trifense fights the unknown cyber-threats

Protecting a company or organisation against known cyber-security threats is one thing; protecting them against unknown cyber-threats is quite another. But that is exactly the goal of Trifense, a Technical University of Berlin spin-out named as an EIT ICT Labs finalist for the EIT Awards.

"It is crucial for governments, operators of critical infrastructures such as utilities, and companies in all sorts of sectors from financial services to healthcare to be able to detect such risks and protect themselves against them," said Trifense Managing Director and Co-founder Patrick Duessel. "A modern society can be vulnerable to pretty huge threats. Our technology can address this appropriately." Read the interview.. or read Trifense: Just the facts

'Smart Signs' point the way to market

Ever get lost in a building? Maria Lijding wants to sell you some computerised signs so that never happens again. Her company, Smart Signs Solutions, is developing personalised signage that can point the way for each visitor in a business, hospital or other big building. And it is one of three finalists from the EIT ICT Labs KIC, competing for the EIT Award.

When the Dutch computer scientist was developing her company, her main goal was efficiency. She wanted people to be able to find their way around large buildings, such as hospitals and offices, more easily and quickly. Today, she realises that it's comfort, not efficiency, that tempt customers. "No-one cares if it takes Mrs. Smith an extra 15 minutes to find her way to the doctor's consultation room," Lijding says. "What matters is if Mrs. Smith has had a stress-free experience and arrives feeling relaxed." In other words, it is the positive impact that Smart Signs products can have on people that is the attraction for companies. Read the interview... or read Smart Signs: Just the facts

With this start-up, a smartphone is just a Blaast away

Early in 2010, two groups of Finnish entrepreneurs went on a blind date. One was a research-based team, led by Joonas Hjelt, the other a telecoms industry team, led by Vesa Kemppainen. "We were introduced by investors we both knew," says Hjelt. The teams met at Aalto Venture Garage, a co-working space for Baltic and Nordic entrepreneurs at Aalto University. They clicked and ended up fixing a second date. By June of the same year, they had co-founded a company and called it Blaast.

The main aim of Blaast is to bring mobile applications and a smartphone user experience to people who don't own top-of-the-range phones. With Blaast, the "apps" run in a cloud computing environment - on remote computer servers connected to the phones, rather than on the devices themselves. Read the interview... or read Blaast: Just the facts

From: Climate-KIC

WINNER: One man's journey produced Naked Energy

For a career path, Christophe Williams has not made the obvious choices. He started at St. Martin's art college in London, and went on to be a creative executive in the ad world. But then he went solar, founding Naked Energy, a renewable energy company. And now his company has been nominated as a finalist in the European Institute of Innovation and Technology's (EIT) entrepreneurship awards.

Williams is the first to say he has an artistic, not technological, background. Nonetheless, engineering isn't entirely foreign to him: his grandfather designed a renewable energy system in the 1960s and his father was a mechanical and aeronautical engineer. "It must have rubbed off on me," said Williams, whose own past projects have included working with the government on its global climate-change advertising campaign, 'Act on CO2'. Read the interview... or read Naked Energy: Just the facts

Ennesys wants to cover your building in algae

It's hard to imagine that tiny algae could generate enough energy to heat a building, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and clean wastewater. Yet at Ennesys, founded in January 2010 by entrepreneurs Jean-Louis Kindler and Pierre Tauzinat, the technology is being developed to do just that.

The French company's vision involves installing on a building's facade a series of thin panels, known as photobioreactors, in which algae are added to wastewater to generate energy. The flat panels are "like water tanks that are just a few centimetres thin," explains Kindler. "The algae give the water a green colour," he adds, keen to reassure anyone concerned about what panels of wastewater would look like on the side of an office building. Read the interview... or read Ennesys: Just the facts

A Dutch spin-out wants to see solar panels - everywhere

Thomas de Leeuw and Jan van Kranendonk, who both graduated in December 2011 with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from Delft University of Technology, were far more ambitious than most students. During their studies they founded the solar energy company Sunuru, wrote their respective Masters theses on the commercial and technical feasibility of Sunuru, and secured a Dutch patent for their product.

De Leeuw plays down their achievement. "It's a relatively simple product, combining standard technology in a smart way," he says. "We were quite surprised that nobody had thought of the same thing." Read the interview... or read Sunuru: Just the facts

From: KIC InnoEnergy

WINNER: Think CO2 wants to build your ideal 21st century home

Rosa Vilarasau was approaching her 40th birthday when she decided she had had enough of working for a Spanish confectionary company. "If I'm going to do something on my own, it has to be now," she recalls thinking to herself.

So she contacted a university friend, Pol Guiu, and they started throwing venture ideas around. They finally hit on one that chimed with them both: designing the perfect 21st century house. What's that? In their view, it's a sustainable, mobile home. "You evolve as a person, but your home doesn't evolve with you," Vilarasau said, explaining how they wanted to free the home from the land and allow it to adapt to its owners' new job in a new city or a new addition to the family. "Technology allows this solution to be possible," said Vilarasau, who with Guiu founded the company Think CO2 in December 2009. Read the interview... or read Think CO2: Just the facts

Park your car – and get a solar charge

ParkGreen's founders David Garcia and Christian Knapp believe that the future of mobility lies in the electric car. That's why they have developed a product that promotes this concept: a carport that generates electricity from solar panels and then uses that energy to recharge electric vehicles.

"We are joining the solar energy generation with sustainable mobility; our objective is to move electric cars with solar energy," the entrepreneurs said in a statement. Read the interview... or read ParkGreen: Just the facts

Heliocaminus wants to see a solar collector on every roof

Erik Hindrikes and Viktor Ölén met each other on their first day at university in Sweden. At the time there was little to suggest they might one day be business partners. But in the summer of 2010, during a university reunion weekend, Hindrikes recalls his friend saying to him: "I want to start a business. How about it?" Ölén's idea was to design a solar thermal system that eliminated the drawbacks of existing systems and maximised the advantages.

By the end of that year, he came back to Hindrikes with a product design and a business plan. "In all the time I'd known him, I didn't know he was the inventor he is," Hindrikes says of Ölén, who had gained an MSc in electrical engineering before going on to work as a systems engineer at OrbiTec and then a site manager for defence and security company SAAB Security. Read the interview... or read HelioCaminus: Just the facts