NOBALIS Entrepreneurial and Innovation capacity development (EICD) programme for food, biotechnology and bioresource start-ups


One of the key aspects of NOBALIS is to build up institutional capacity to support the entrepreneurship and innovation activities, while also providing start- and scale-up opportunities to students, academic staff and non-academic staff and taking those lessons for further improvement of practices.

EICD is a joint program for NOBALIS HEIs to enhance mutual learning and synergies. The goal of the program is to support the development of the initial ideas of participants related to new products/services in these fields towards valid business models.

The main goals are to:

  • support the development of the initial ideas of students related to new products/services in the focus fields towards valid business models (student track);
  • increase the capacities of staff (academic and non-academic) related to innovation management with the help of experienced mentors, and facilitate exchange of related best practices (staff track);
  • facilitate student-staff collaboration in innovation activities and provide focused support on student-staff teams (staff members are asked to propose their own ideas/ challenges that students can connect with, so that student-staff teams are formulated);
  • support existing start-ups linked with the participating HEIs’ ecosystems via focused 1:1 mentoring by leading experts (researchers, industry representatives).

The program will run in 3 online editions, each for 3 months. The 1st edition of the program will be implemented in Phase 1 from September to December 2022. It will be followed by an assessment based of feedback and reflections on lessons learned, updating of methodological approach. The improved 2nd and 3rd editions will be implemented in the Phase 2.

The implementation of the programme will build on combining Hackathons, a mentoring programme and development sessions to teams and a Demo Day for idea competition and ecosystem partners.

EICD in the fall of 2022 (1st edition)

Virtual Hackathon on Sept. 26th

The NOBALIS  food and biotech themed virtual Hackathon took place virtually on Sept. 26th. 50 students from 5 NOBALIS partner HEIs registered with 30 original ideas. Students had an opportunity introduce their ideas in a 1-minute pitch and work with mentors and an idea template in separate breakout rooms or look for a team in Matchmaking room. 9 teams proceeded with an update on their original idea. After Hackathon, the teams have an opportunity to submit an updated idea template. The ideas and teams were assessed and selected teams proceeded further to next development session. The program will end with a competition in a Demo Day on December 15th.

Development Session and Mentoring Program on Business Model Development on Oct. 20th

9 teams proceeded into the next stage of NOBALIS EICD program. The teams include 6 student teams, 1 student-staff team, and 2 staff teams. The first intense development session for the teams took place on Oct. 20th. It marked the beginning of the mentoring program for the participants with hands-on workshops and intense 1 on 1 mentoring sessions. Yelena Zhovnikova, Head of Business Development at Fundwise, hosted a workshop on business model development. Professor Gunta Grīnberga-Zālīte from Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies introduced effective marketing and sales strategies.  

Product Development and Impact Management session on Nov. 9th

Second development session focused on sustainable product development and creation of minimum viable product (MVP)and impact management and measurement. Ragmar Saksing from Tehnopol GreenTech Cluster mentored teams on how to create MVP and design products with circular economy principles in mind. Jaan Aps, CEO of Stories for Impact, lead the session on impact management and measurement and work with teams on building a good framework for measuing and managing environmental and social impacts.

Pitching and Financing Workshop on Dec. 6th

The third development session focused on how to fund the ideas and pitch those to the investors. Yelena Zhovnikova covered the topics of different sources of private and public funding. Aleksander Tõnnisson from Cocoon Ventures trained teams on how to effectively pitch their ideas and how to engage the investors and how to best approach and engage them. Teams worked on their 3- minute pitches for the final Demo Day.

Demo Day 2022

The first batch of student and staff teams in NOBALIS Entrepreneurship and Innovation Capacity Development Program (EICD) pitched their ideas to an international jury at Dec. 15th 2022. Demo Day provided an opportunity to demonstrate how teams have progressed, showcase their MVP and pitching skills. Student teams competed for a prize from BIA and awards from each HEI.

The teams in NOBALIS project demonstrated a variety of exciting ideas that included app development, DNA analysis, food waste utilization, and agricultural pest, seaweed, canola-based products.

The first price went to student team UNwasted from Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, who worked on using coffee grounds for growing mushrooms.  Second place went to team KESE from  Estonian University of Life Sciences who developed a protein bar from Canola. Third place went to team PowerFeed from Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technology, who were exploring developing protein from Spanish slug.