Innovation World Cup® Series: “Transforming Budding Ideas Into Global Giants”

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Navispace AG, the company behind many open innovation programs, hosts the Innovation World Cup Series. We spoke to Managing Partner Sonja Sulzmaier about the competition and tech startups challenging the status quo.

How would you describe Innovation World Cup® in a few words?

The Innovation World Cup® Series (IWC) is the most established open innovation platform in the Internet of Things (IoT) worldwide. We connect the ingenuity of techpreneurs with the potency of leading industry partners to form powerful alliances capable of transforming budding ideas into global giants.

Taking part in the Innovation World Cup is free of charge and techpreneurs benefit from great business connections, cash prizes, free development kits, free speaking and exhibition opportunities, support in crowdfunding campaigns and much more.

For many, the Innovation World Cup® is the reason their innovation is visible to those who make a difference.

What was the idea behind establishing the Innovation World Cup®? How did it all start?

The Innovation World Cup® Series is initiated and organized by Navispace AG, an innovation company established in 2003. The whole Navispace team lives for tech innovation and aims to support techpreneurs in realizing their ideas.

Navispace’s open innovation activities started already in 2004 by setting up the European Satellite Navigation Competition (15th edition this year), the M2M Challenge and further open innovation programs.

The Innovation World Cup was invented in 2008. The Bluetooth SIG with its 17,000 members wanted to create awareness for their new standard BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) amongst developers worldwide. We organized the first IWC with a tech roadshow on 3 continents and many great submissions. Now, the IWC itself is in its 10th year and has helped hundreds of startups become great success stories.

Which industries do you focus on? 

The Innovation World Cup discovers applications and solutions across different industries:

We focus on IoT, wearables and digital marketing solutions. We have some special prizes in this year’s competition like the EBV IoT Hero (the best European startup will win 10.000€), LoRaWAN Challenge, AIQ Smart Clothing, Gemalto Security Award.

The past Innovation World Cup focused on IoT & wearable tech solutions, awarding the 15 top innovators from more than 900 applications. What can you tell us about the winners and their solutions?

The Innovation World Cup judging panel members had a very difficult job to decide on the finalists per category as the quality of submissions was high. In total,  have 15 winners (6 IoT categories, 4 special prizes, 5 wearable categories): Ayata Intelligence, Beexlab, Bernhardt’s Söhne, cardioID Technologies, CM Systems, Digimondo, Joanna Hir and MuArts, Intellinium, Luke Roberts, MyClose, iotech Swiss, Simylife Gamification, StethoMe, Tech4Race, Tracktics.

You can find everything from smart glasses with AI to help the visually impaired, solutions that support pilots in controlling their devices, connected health solutions, to smart water meters, smart lamps, intelligent wine dispensers, and performance tracking solutions for football teams.

All winners of the Innovation World Cup are included in your “Hall of Fame”. Apart from this, what other benefits does winning the competition entail?

The Innovation World Cup provides benefits to all contestants: All contestants get access to free development kits and direct contact with tech partners that support them.

Making it into the finalist round provides startups with professional 1:1 business introductions to big tech corporates that are interested in the solution, a free marketing package (brochure, movie, press release, social media), free exhibition and speaking opportunities in various events.

In addition to all this, the winners receive a number of benefits such as cash prizes (e.g. 10.000€ for the EBV IoT Hero), in-depth coaching from our partners, co-working space, and sure – it’s nice to be included in the Hall of Fame as well.

What does the process of choosing the winners look like? What criteria do you take into consideration?

After the submission phase, a group of experts completes a first filtering process. Then our judging panel members (about 15-20 per Innovation World Cup) start the online evaluation. Every submission is rated based on 6 criteria by each judging panel member: degree of innovation, commercial potential, technological feasibility, marketing approach, time to market, and required investments. To conclude, the judging panel members agree on the finalists per category who are invited to pitch on stage at the award ceremonies.

From your perspective, what do innovative startups have in common?

  1. They have a core team that is ready to overcome all barriers together and is determined to succeed – even over a longer period of time.
  2. They are agile. They have a plan B if something is not running according to expectations.
  3. They continuously learn from their customer segments and experienced partners and adapt.
  4. They have a good product or solution and have understood that marketing is also very important.
  5. With regards to tech startups: they have to find the right partners and channels to create a product that is ready for the mass market – a functional prototype is just the first step.

As you’ve encountered numerous innovative startups and technologies along the way, which are the ones that will have an impact in the near future? How will they challenge the status quo?

Many of the tech startups we are working with will have an impact on their industries and people’s individual lives. Some examples: Health Care Originals changes the way asthma patients can monitor themselves and avoid serious problems, COBI revolutionizes biking by its connected solution, iotech Swiss makes the lives of pilots much safer, and SteamIQ optimizes energy consumption with their LoRaWAN solution.

Only some of the startups have a disruptive business model. One example is our 2013 finalist SIGFOX that has now changed the telecom industry with their low power connectivity solution. However, most of the startups do not have a disruptive business model and this is not required to be successful.

How can a startup become the next IoT Innovator of the Year?

The minimum requirement is an IoT solution. Further, startups need to have a functional prototype and plan their market entry, or they are already on the market and want to scale-up their business. It does not matter where the startups come from as long as they are able to enter their submission in English.

What’s next for the Innovation World Cup? Any details you can share in regards to the upcoming Innovation World Cup?

First, startups can meet our team and become part of the ecosystem. In the next months, startups can meet our team at several startup events around in Europe, the US, Asia, and Australia.

Second, the IoT / Wearable Technology Innovation World Cup is currently running and we are looking forward to some great submissions.


Ed. Note: If you want to make your innovation visible, apply for the Innovation World Cup



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