At the end of 48 hours of presentations and pitches, the winners of the 21st edition of the PNI - Premio Nazionale per l'Innovazione (National Innovation Award), Italy's most important and widespread business plan competition, were announced on December 1st, 2023: the absolute winner of this year was announced to be Focoos AI, a young innovative start-up and spin-off of Politecnico di Torino which is incubated in I3P and part of the ESA BIC Turin community.
PNI is a national competition for the best innovative business projects, selected from the 16 regional competitions (Start Cups) involving 55 universities, incubators and research organisations in 17 regions of Italy. The winners were chosen from the 71 finalist start-ups by a Jury composed of representatives from the worlds of business, research and venture capital on the basis of criteria such as the value of the technological or knowledge content, technical feasibility and development potential, adequacy of the team's skills, and attractiveness to the market.
The initiative is promoted by PNICube, the Italian Association of Universities, Academic Incubators and regional Start Cups. The awards ceremony was organised this year in collaboration with the Lombardy Region and the Universities of Milan-Bicocca, Politecnico di Milano, Bocconi University and Milan State University, coordinated by the public-private ecosystem "MUSA" (Multilayered Urban Sustainability Action), with the support of PoliHub and the main partnership of the Iren Group, Nobento-iVision, Gilead and AlmavivA.
Winning the ICT Award - with its €25,000 cheque - and the overall victory in the National Innovation Award 2023 was the startup Focoos AI, incubated in I3P and part of the ESA BIC Turin programme, providing advanced software that automates the process of creating and training artificial vision networks optimised for any device. The innovative young company, coming at the national finals from the Start Cup Piemonte Valle d'Aosta, had come fourth ex-aequo in the regional competition at the awards ceremony held on November 9th in Turin and had thus gained access to the competition in the PNI.
The use of AI for machine vision applications on low-power devices such as satellites or drones poses considerable challenges for aerospace companies. Traditional AI models are often oversized, which means they require considerable computational resources and energy. Focoos AI provides state-of-the-art software that automatically designs and trains custom-optimised neural networks following customers' requirements for end-application, hardware and data specifications, avoiding reliance on expensive hardware, eliminating time-consuming manual tasks and minimising human error. "The technology significantly reduces power consumption," added CEO Antonio Tavera, "improves operational efficiency and enables real-time data processing on the devices themselves."
At the end of PNI 2023, Focoos AI also won:
an Invitalia Special Award for the best competing start-up in the ICT category;
the SearchOn "We Make Future" Special Award, which guarantees an exhibition space at the coming WMF 2024 fair, in its Startup District, and participation in the B2B meeting area with investors from 49 countries;
the SearchOn "AI For Future" Special Award, for the best start-up that applied AI for quality of life, which provides an exhibition space at the AI Festival to be held in Milan in February 2024.
Giuseppe Scellato, President of I3P and Coordinator of ESA BIC Turin, commented: "We are very proud of the great success achieved by Focoos AI and the other Piedmontese companies that have won important awards. These results testify to our ability to develop highly innovative solutions, products and services. We congratulate all the entrepreneurs and thank all our institutional and private partners who work together to promote and develop the ecosystem of innovative entrepreneurship, especially the Piedmont Region."
Michele Svidercoschi, Director of Communications and Institutional Relations of Almaviva, who presented the award: "The recognition for the ICT category, among the many proposals of interest, rewards a project initiative that shows entrepreneurial vision, significant technological content, concreteness of objectives, attention to sustainability, and the positive impact of the solution. A project that expresses the characteristics of an innovative business culture, a vocation in which is reflected the essence of the mission of Almaviva, an Italian digital group, which supports the contribution of scientific research, and its transfer into the production fabric, as a valuable asset to fuel growth and the challenge on innovation in our country."