This July Green Innovation Incubation Centre (GIIC) was launched in Riga.The project is carried out by Riga Technical University (RTU), University of Latvia (LU) and Norwegian industrial development corporation SIVA. 90% of the funds come from Norwegian government and are supervised by Innovation Norway. The remaining 10% are co-financed by Latvian government. With their second admission contest still running till Monday, I have visited the incubator on Pulka street 3 and peeked into the daily life of their first batch.
The place is spacious with an indicative green grass-like carpet covering the floor. When I entered the room two energetic coaches were drilling a bunch of potential founders in idea pitching. All were male and some were more willing to share their stories than the others, however, I found a good mix of backgrounds, hometowns and competences.
In total, 21 ideas were admitted to the first batch this July. The teams are on very different readiness levels but all of them are developing green technology products. Most admitted idea authors have strong technical background. However, for founders lacking certain skills the incubator provides support from University of Latvia and Riga Technical University researchers and engineers on a case-by-case basis.
As is the case with many Latvian business support programmes, Latvian-only webpage does not necessarily indicate a boring place with mediocre ideas. Some of the teams I saw at GIIC are worth a thought.
Ģirts Fiļipovs (Riga): Building a new kind of wind generator NextGenWind. According to Girts comments to NeKrize, the limit of conventional wind generator capacity is 10 MW, while NextGenWind can produce up to 120MW. He mentions that over the last years traditional wind has received a lot of investment and to certain extent reached the limit of possible innovation, while NextGenWind belongs to just a handful of engineers in wind trying out something new.
Martins Zaumanis (Iecava, Boston): Spent 3 years in the US researching ways to recycle asphalt 100% without drop in quality. He has proven the concept and is now on his way to make the first products and test them on the ground. Literally.
Reinis Ziļevs (Tukums): Recharging of used accumulators sold primarily to big warehouses, factories, logistics companies. A green idea reducing industry costs.
Aleksandrs Suzdaļenko (Ķekava): Smart street lighting that is able to automatically dim the street lights based on traffic intensity. An added bonus is its ability to monitor traffic speed, too. So, according to Aleksandrs, his solution would not only allow Riga municipality to cut the current costs of 4 million EUR spent on street lighting yearly, but also allow for additional measures against speeding.
Kristiāns Līcis (Rīga): Bicycle parking facility with built-in security lock. Primarily aimed at large office spaces, shopping centres and municipalities. Their vision is to eventually take away the hassle of carrying your bike chain around.
The programme structure consists of two phases – pre-incubation and incubation. Pre-incubation is free and each idea receives a mentor responsible for identifying team’s needs and fostering its development. LU & RTU experts’ help and other pre-incubation costs are financed by GIIC. After pre-incubation graduates receive a resolution from GIIC team and can apply for 80% intensity incubation support of up to 140,000 EUR from Latvian Investment and Development Agency (LIAA). Additionally, incubator can spend up to 35,000 per incubated team with 100% intensity.
The program aims to bridge the gap between inventions developed in universities and research institutes and their commercialization. It will be running till March 2016, with the last batch taken in around mid 2015. Let’s just hope it will not be one of those well-intended programs that eventually die in bureaucracy and look forward for amazing green startups spinning out from this initiative.
Marija Odineca is passionate about Baltic startup scene, visiting interesting Baltic startups and gathering their stories. She also coordinates the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Latvia.
Businessman drawing on green field image by shutterstock.