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EIT InnoEnergy, the European innovation engine for sustainable energy, has crowned Woola the winner of PowerUp! The start-up has been awarded a €50,000 cash prize and a place on its investment programme – the Highway for its eco-friendly bubble wrap solution made from sheep’s wool.    

Woola was established at the end of 2019 and produces packaging material from sheep's wool residues. The Estonian start-up aims to disrupt the e-commerce market. The product is shockproof, heat-proof, and at-home compostable within six months. Woola makes use of an abundant resource that would otherwise be thrown away.

The annual competition organised by EIT InnoEnergy, attracts start-ups specialising in sustainable energy innovation. At a difficult time for many start-ups, this competition highlights the importance of continuing innovation in the energy sector. Alongside the cash prize, the winner gains access to a network of connections and business services through EIT InnoEnergy’s global energy ecosystem. Key partners such as Amazon Web Services offered credits to their AWS Activate program and business support. Other partners such as Vestbee and the SpeedUp Group also awarded the winner with services and grants.

Whilst the final was held online for the first time due to COVID-19, a record 360 start-ups from 20 countries entered the competition. In a series of regional rounds, innovators battled it out putting forward their business cases for innovations across sustainable energy, cleantech, mobility, cybersecurity, and smart cities.

Anna-Liisa Palatu, Co-Founder of Woola said: "We are thrilled to have taken part in this competition and to have won support from EIT InnoEnergy, that not only provides financial investment, but also supports us with business development through its network “We are very excited to collaborate with EIT InnoEnergy on our solution and bring more eco-friendly packaging to market to protect the environment.”

InnoEnergy Central Europe’s CEO, Jakub Miler, commented, “The economic recession triggered by COVID-19 has presented grave difficulties for small enterprises and start-ups. While many market channels and sources might slow down for small companies, with the backing of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, we are able to continue our support of innovative entrepreneurs financially and with the know-how and valuable partnerships to help take their products and services to the next level.”

The Grand Final was supported by a host of partners from the public and the private sector. This year’s Gold partner is Ukraine’s flagship energy company DTEK, which supports the development of the Ukrainian energy sector through production upgrades, innovative technologies, and by building new capacities and creating new businesses.

“The selection process was highly challenging, as all start-ups pitched a variety of fantastic products and solutions. In 2020, we saw the biggest potential in Woola. We are excited to see the team’s journey in the future”, said Emanuele Volpe, chief innovation officer of DTEK and a member of the jury.