Entrepreneurship and innovation projects take roots from Porto

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Sharifa Sayed Mohsen, Akhil Pallamreddy and Fracisco Maria Calisto are three of the young people who participated this year in the European Innovation Academy (EIA), amounting to a total of 600 students from 44 universities from all corners of the world, accompanied by 75 mentors (from the fields of design, marketing, tech, business, pitching, life coaches, IP, and investors). Porto is once again hosting this initiative, for the second year in a row, and the event is expected by the organisation to take place in Porto in the next years.

Throughout the last three weeks, more than 600 students, divided in 100 startup teams, have put into practice all their creativity and innovation to create a different and impactful project. They had the chance to display it at the Startup Expo, which took place in the Faculty of Economics (FEP) of the University of Porto. This Friday, the 10 winners of the EIA 2023 will be known during the official closing ceremony of the event, which will happen in Palácio da Bolsa.

Sharifa Sayed Mohsen represents the Social Science University of Singapore. Her team put forward a project (ScreenSift) which hopes to recover and salvage videos through image processing. “We want to make video editing easier and easier, with simpler software, thus saving time and energy”, she stated, assuring it is her first time in Europe, travelling alone.

The experience at EIA has been remarkable. “People here are very welcoming. Porto is cool, quite different from where I come from. It has been a funny and exciting experience and getting to know all the mentors has been very beneficial”, she adds, revealing that she already contacted her father and that he challenged her: “why not move there [to Porto]?”. She claims after all that “the world of business is strong here".

“Porto will remain in my heart”

Akhil Pallamreddy comes from the Neatherlands (from Twente University). His team presented “Ecolet”, a project that hopes to make people aware to make them chose a more sustainable lifestyle. “We propose an application which helps users, keeping track of their life habits. For example, it points out the levels of carbon dioxide in a certain level and gives recommendations based on eating or transport habits. By doing so, we reward the user”, the student underlines.

About his experience at EIA, Akhil Pallamreddy recognises that the experience is “incredible”. “We learned how to establish a startup in just three weeks. They [the mentors] give us intense and important information”, he says, adding his presence in the city: “Porto will definitely remain in my heart. It’s beautiful. It has good weather, good food and amazing people. I would love to come back one day and, who knows, live here as well”.

As for Francisco Maria Calisto, he comes from closer. He only needed to travel from the Instituto Superior Técnico, in Lisbon, to present the project “BreastScreening-AI” at the European Innovation Academy. “We want to introduce artificial intelligence in the diagnosis of breast cancer. From an image multimodality strategy, that is, by bringing a mammography, an ecography or a MRI, we want to train artificial intelligence methods that will communicate by means of an intelligent agent with the radiologists”, he describes.

Fracisco Calisto is also new to EIA. The outcome couldn’t have been more positive. “The greatest thing this initiative brought to my project was the market component. That is, the understanding of its size in terms of artificial intelligence with medical applications, specialized in breast cancer. I have a greater understanding of the enormous potential of this project”, he confesses.

“At EIA it is possible to establish contacts of great importance to the national entrepreneurship, thus allowing us to reach outside, from Portugal into Europe and from Europe into the world”, he adds.

Three more years of EIA in the city

The 2023 edition of EIA has, once again, the support of the University of Porto and of Porto City Hall, hosts of the event, and has Santander Universidades, Beta-i, Galp, Organization for the Security and Cooperation of Europe (OSCE) as its partners. “This event aims to promote innovation. Here, ideas and projects focused on different problems of our society are developed”, the vice-president and Councillor for Innovation and Digital Transition highlights.

“Here are some of the most gifted minds, from the best universities of the world, working in partnership. They are experiencing life in the city, getting to know better our innovation ecosystem and, who knows, some of them might come back to Porto to create their companies and products”, Filipe Araújo enforces, assuring this “is a project to maintain” in the city.

“The event has grown since the last edition”, the CEO of EIA recognises. Gerda Noormägi reveals that the initiative will remain in Porto for some time. “We will hold three more editions here and we expect a great future for this event”, she claims.

“They have the opportunity to create their startup and establish theirs business here, in Porto. It is a unique opportunity, for students as well as the city”, the CEO adds. It is important to add a quaint curiosity: from the more than 500 students present at this year’s EIA edition, 30 come from the University of Porto and other 30 come from the Balkans, supported by the Organization for the Security and Cooperation of Europe.