Support for university entrepreneurship is a focus for Santander Universities, and the Explorer “Young People with Ideas” programme is an excellent example of how we are delivering it.

Explorer is one of the biggest university entrepreneurship support initiatives in Spain. With our support, and the backing of CISE (Santander International Entrepreneurship Centre), the programme promotes young talent, entrepreneurial spirit and the creation of innovative companies.

Each year over 1,000 entrepreneurs from all over Spain – and for the last two years from Portugal and Argentina too – take part in the Explorer programme, and receive five months' training and mentoring in one of the 53 co-working and high-performance centres in universities and other institutions.

The winners in each centre are also sent to visit companies in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and are eligible to compete for the Explorer Awards, with prize money of €30,000, €20,000 and €10,000. We also have the Woman Explorer Awards, sponsored by the EY Foundation, and Indra's Disruptive Technology Explorer Award.

Explorer Program in Burgos, Spain
Explorer Program in Burgos, Spain

Here are some of the best projects from the latest edition:

BactiDec, a startup that prevents postsurgical infection, winner of the Explorer Award 2019. José Rodríguez and Carlos de Frías came up with a device that allows surgeons to find out, in real time, the number of bacteria present in a surgical wound while they are operating. It enables them to make an early diagnosis, improve the speed of the treatment and avoid complications caused by postsurgical infections.

Fibras Naturales Canarias, presented by Néstor Santiago, won second prize to continue to develop his circular economy startup which recovers and transforms – through a patented industrial process – the waste from millions of banana tree trunks to obtain bioplastics.

The third prize went to MyRealFood, presented by Sofía Belenguer and Antonio Mancha. This is a mobile app that shows the nutritional quality of foods and uses an algorithm to classify them into "real food", "good processed food" or "ultra-processed food", so the user can scan the product barcode or search for it in the database to see its score.

BAR-ID, from entrepreneurs Laura San Felipe and Eva Sarachaga, won the prize for the best female-led initiative. This biotech startup uses mass spectrometry technology to accurately diagnose the presence of multidrug-resistant bacteria in under one hour. 

The startup AItenea, presented by Carlos Roca, won the award for the most disruptive technology. It uses deep learning to develop a model that can predict drug properties much faster than current computing techniques, thus accelerating the development and discovery of new medicines.

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