EU awards €50K to three pioneers in social innovation

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The EU has announced the three winners of the European Social Innovation Competition (EUSIC), which seeks to find pioneering solutions to societal challenges.

The 2022 challenge, named “the future of living,” was designed to attract participants who can advance the affordability, sustainability, and re-invention of European housing districts.

“Social innovation is crucial to increase resilience and support the transformation of our economies, while putting people first,” Hubert Gambs, the Commission’s Deputy Director General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship, and SMEs,  said.

“With this competition, which celebrates its tenth edition this year, we support social innovations that will bring social, environmental, and economic value at once. The three winners of the 2022 edition are social innovators greatly contributing through their innovative projects to the future of our living,” Gambs added.

The three winners, who will receive a prize of €50,000, are the following:

ReLearn (Italy)

The Torino-based startup has developed smart sensors that can be installed on existing bins. The sensors monitor daily waste production and sorting in designated bins using AI. They then provide reports and suggest the best waste management practices through a gamification approach that facilitates community engagement.

That way, ReLearn can help companies and municipalities reduce their environmental impact. The company says that its product can achieve a 60% increase in recycling rates. So far, it’s active in three countries and eight different cities.

Sostre Cívic (Spain)

Sostre Cívic is implementing an alternative housing model to address the accessibility and affordability issues of private ownership. It promotes cooperative housing, where collective ownership prevents speculation, as it renders individual profit-making from selling or renting a property impossible.

Members of the collective, who are also the property owners, can reside in the houses either for a very long time, or indefinitely. They are required to make an initial contribution and pay monthly installments that derive from the costs of acquisition, maintenance, and operation of the housing project — but not from the trends of the real estate market.

Sostre Cívic, which originally started as an association, is the first housing cooperative in Catalonia, and so far counts 17 projects and 86 homes in use.

Efficient Energy Technology (Austria)

To help residents use solar energy without the need to install solar panels, Efficient Energy Technology has developed a small solar power plant, designed for installation on balconies.

The so-called SolMate can be plugged into a socket and supply the apartment with renewable energy. Thanks to its proprietary measuring technology, SolMate supplies electricity when needed and stores the rest. This way it can also work as a back-up electricity generator in the event of power failures. The product comes together with an app, and, according to the startup, can cover about 60% of a home’s electricity needs, while saving around 16,000kg of CO2.