Santiago de Chile PRESS RELEASE. 25 November 2020
Following a four-month acceleration process, eight shortlisted teams presented their projects via Zoom at the online prototypes fair in what was the final of BRAIN Chile 2020, a programme that aims to move STEM entrepreneurship out of labs and classrooms and into industry.
Biomateriales Nativos de Chile, an initiative that seeks to develop new, highly versatile materials from native elements found in the Chilean Patagonia to benefit the fashion and packaging industries, was selected as the most enterprising initiative of the year and received a grand prize of 19 million pesos.
“We are ecstatic because we were not expecting to win this prize. The other teams were boasting some very advanced tech and well-developed business models, while ours was more of an intuitive venture. What really set us apart was that we embraced change and accepted that during the acceleration process we needed to cast off any prejudice if we were going to grow”, remarked Alejandro Weiss, the founder of Biomateriales Nativos.
In second place was Dragon BioMed, an entrepreneurial initiative from Ecuador to develop a new therapy based on mitochondria for the treatment of wounds and diseases for veterinary use. This project also won the public prize. The Ecuadorian team walked away with 11 million pesos.
And in third place was the Naturannova project set up in Chile to develop a new ingredient for the food industry: a natural sweetener to replace sugar that is more popular than existing sweeteners among consumers.
The importance of innovation and entrepreneurship
Ignacio Sánchez, rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, had the following words to say at the start of the event: “These are unprecedented times, with science and technology now more connected than ever to society. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that no matter the field, innovation goes hand in hand with our well-being and prosperity. Innovation is a constant feature of all human activity and to truly unlock its value we need more laboratories, workshops, companies and, above all else, more classrooms to provide more entrepreneurs”.
Claudio Melandri, executive chairman of Banco Santander in Chile, explained that “the ongoing development of scientific and technological entrepreneurship within the country undoubtedly has a key role to play in the economic recovery and helping to bring about a true knowledge economy. We are convinced of the impetus that entrepreneurship provides for Chile and we will continue to open up spaces for solutions that will enable us to thrive in this new world”.
Also in attendance was Carolina Torrealba, undersecretary of the Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation Ministry, who added that "nurturing the role of science and technology in our lives will help ensure that civil society develops and deploys new solutions as we move forward, whether originating from natural sciences, engineering, mathematics or any other other area of knowledge. We are seeking to grow the community of science entrepreneurs as we foster an ecosystem that stimulates the domestic economy".
Out of a total of 338 applications received from Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Costa Rica and Bolivia, 12 teams were shortlisted as Generation 2020 in the sixth edition of BRAIN Chile. Their projects were then accelerated over a four-month period to ramp up their technologies and validate them based on the evidence gathered by operating their business models. They also received 2 million pesos in funding, along with expert advice from the Mentors Network of the Innovation Centre UC.
Of these 12 teams, eight from Chile, Argentina, Ecuador and Peru made it through to the final stage: Braillear, Biomateriales Nativos, Dragon BioMed, Ilico Genetics, Mosy, Naturannova, Palpa and Yaku.