• The first prize of the Social Innovation Tournament of the EIB-Institute goes to the Austrian start-up Dreamwaves for creating the app WaveOut for blind people.
  • The French start-up Rosi wins the first prize in the special category for green innovation with a solution for recycling solar panels.
  • Both awards are endowed with 75.000 Euro.

After an exciting competition with numerous innovative ideas of pioneering start-ups, the winners of this year`s Social Innovation Tournament have been chosen.

The first prize for the best social entrepreneur of the year 2022 in the general category went to the Austrian start-up Dreamwaves for their App WaveOut: It guides blind persons using sounds to find their way independently through crowded cities. The award comes with a prize money of 75.000 Euro.

The special-category prize, focussing on blue and green economy, comes with 75.000 Euro as well. It went to Rosi: The French start-up has developed solutions for recycling solar panels by extracting highly purified raw materials.

The Social Innovation Tournament (SIT) is organized every year by the EIB-Institute that is part of the European Investment Bank Group. The SIT-Award recognizes and supports the best European social entrepreneurs. The final was held on 29 September at the Erste Campus in Vienna with 14 finalists presenting their concepts to the jury and audience. Initially, more than 200 companies had applied.

The second prize in the general category went to Newcy, a French company that offers a turnkey service for reusable cups. In the special category, Algaenergy won the second prize, a Spanish biotech company specialised in the field of microalgae. Both prizes come with 30.000 Euro each. The Audience Choice Award, with 10.000 Euro, went to the Italian start-up Hale that has developed an app that helps woman with chronic pelvic pain.

In their pitches, followed by the jury`s questions & answers, the entrepreneurs presented ideas on, for example:

  • how to get teenage girls interested in programming,
  • how the elderly and their children can follow medication safely
  • effective recycling solutions for fashion and solar panels
  • preventing plastics going down rivers into the oceans
  • apps to make independent orientation for blind people more secure, and on
  • music becoming experiential for deaf people.

The 14 frontrunners represented eight EU countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.

Before the grand finale, the entrepreneurs already participated in a tailor-made training programme to enhance their pitching skills and to help them fine-tune their business plans. The programme fully prepared them for presenting their projects in Vienna before the jury of social innovation specialists from the academic and the business world. ERSTE Stiftung supported the SIT 2022.

EIB Secretary General Marjut Falkstedt says: “The EIB is supporting social innovation and human capital because innovation and technology are crucial to transform the way we live, learn, work and produce. Innovation is much needed, so that we can face the challenges of climate change, ageing population and dwindling resources. The SIT competition is not just about winning - it`s the nurturing ground for social entrepreneurs.”

ERSTE Stiftung CEO Boris Marte adds; “These are highly uncertain times. Solutions of yesterday cannot overcome the grand societal challenges of present day. We need courageous and innovative technological solutions with positive social, ethical and environmental impact. This is what Social Innovation Tournament is all about. Thus it is our pleasure to have hosted this year’s edition at the headquarters of Erste Group.”

The Social Innovation Tournament is not only about financial rewards. Each year’s finalists automatically become members of the SIT Alumni Network, connecting them and other selected social entrepreneurs.  As alumni, they benefit from numerous training opportunities and an innovation grants program.

Launched in 2012 in Luxembourg, the SIT has rewarded dozens of social entrepreneurs from all over Europe, helping them grow their businesses and change the world with their ideas, energy and enthusiasm.

The winners

General Category:

First Prize: WaveOut (Austria) is an app by the Vienna-based Company Dreamwaves that uses spatial audio and Augmented Reality to guide people anywhere, simply by following 3D sounds. It is the only app where there is no need to look at the screen or interpret instructions. By using the right combination of spatial audio, augmented reality and inclusive design the app makes navigation easy for everyone. In this way, WaveOut benefits blind and visually impaired people, cyclists or older people feeling unsafe or lack confidence when moving through public spaces.

Second Prize: Newcy (France) is a start-up company that offers a turnkey service for reusable cups. Based on the principle of the circular economy, Newcy enables companies to have a better social and environmental impact. After use, the cups are collected and washed to be reused. Companies are thereby supported to follow a zero-waste logic, while at the same time creating local jobs for people with disabilities.

Special Category:

First prize: ROSI (France), founded in 2017, provides innovative recycling solutions to recover high-purity raw materials from photovoltaic waste. ROSI's vision is to create a true circular economy for the photovoltaic industry and other key industries. The company's process allows the recovery of high-purity silicon and metals that are lost during the production of photovoltaic cells and at the end of the life of solar modules. The recovered materials can be reintegrated into several key European industries.

Second prize: AlgaEnergy (Spain) is a Madrid-based biotech company specialised in the field of microalgae. It commercialises microalgae-based agrobiological inputs that efficiently combat the effects of climate change while sustainably increasing crop yields and improving their quality, reducing chemical inputs, maximising farmers’ competitiveness and regenerating soil health.

Audience Award: Hale (Italy) is a mobile app providing personalised digital therapy to patients with chronic pelvic pain, a condition from which one in four women suffer. The app is designed to be a “care everywhere” tool, which creates monthly personalised plans using artificial intelligence to help people better manage pain interference. These are based on an online assessment tracking symptoms, goals and routines. Hale’s products are patient-led, meaning they are designed for and with a community, which can contribute to and validate them directly.

Background information

About the Social Innovation Tournament

The Social Innovation Tournament recognises and supports the best European social entrepreneurs. It promotes innovative ideas and rewards initiatives that contribute to creating social, ethical or environmental impact. Typically, it covers projects in the areas of education, healthcare, the environment, the circular economy, inclusion, job creation, ageing and many more. The prizes are awarded by a jury of specialists from the academic and business worlds. The Audience Choice is awarded by the audience, based on their votes.

About the EIB Institute

The EIB Institute was set up within the EIB Group (European Investment Bank and European Investment Fund) to promote and support social, cultural and academic initiatives with European stakeholders and the public at large. It is a key pillar of the EIB Group’s community and citizenship engagement.

About the EIB

The EIB`s activities focus on the following priority areas: climate and environment, development, innovation and skills, small and medium-sized businesses, infrastructure and cohesion. The EIB works closely with other EU institutions to foster European integration, promote the development of the EU and support EU policies in over 140 countries around the world.

About ERSTE Foundation

As the main shareholder of Erste Group, ERSTE Foundation secures the independent future of one of the largest financial service providers in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. As an Austrian private savings bank foundation, the foundation is committed to serve the common good. It invests parts of its dividends in the region in which Erste Group operates. The foundation focuses on four strategic goals: "Empower those who care", "Financial health for all", "Preserve a democratic Europe" and "Protect contemporary culture". ERSTE Foundation initiates and acts as innovative driver, connector, and knowledge disseminator in the societies. It aims to understand and populate the public discourse about the change we really need. https://www.erstestiftung.org/de/