The Prize for Future Innovations is awarded by Lund University and Sparbanken Skåne. Since the start in 2017 we have seen hundreds of exciting, innovative, and sometimes downright weird ideas. Every year, the prize jury has the pleasant but difficult job of selecting the winners. So here they are, the winners of Lund University and Sparbanken Skåne’s Future Innovations Prize.
Future Innovation Prize – SEK 100,000
Ludwig Schmiderer, Martin Hjort & Jonas Larsson
‘Overcoming the shortage of blood stem cell donations with the help of nanotechnology’
A blood stem cell transplant is the only cure for a range of blood diseases. But it requires a suitable donor – and there are too few. In an interdisciplinary collaboration, the researchers Ludwig Schmiderer, Martin Hjort, and Jonas Larsson (Professor at Division of Molecular Medicine and Gene Therapy) combine cutting-edge nanotechnology with stem cell biology to develop a method to solve the problem
To produce blood stem cells they use umbilical cord blood. Rather than being disposed of as waste, the umbilical cord is used. However, because blood stem cells are sensitive, new technology was needed to extract sufficient useful cells from the umbilical cord. Using nanotechnology, researchers can insert biomolecules into the blood stem cells from the umbilical cord, without damaging the cells. These biomolecules then allow far more blood stem cells to be used from each umbilical cord. The method shows great potential, making life-changing transplants available to far more patients and providing fairer access to transplants.
Future Innovation Prize for Social Change – SEK 70,000
‘More effective system analyses to strengthen patient safety’
Every year in Sweden some 100,000 patients are harmed due to unsafe healthcare. For the patients' recovery times are long and the cost of adverse events is high. By law, all adverse events must be reported, but to prevent them from happening again they must be analysed and measures taken: it is avoidable harm. Jakob Svensson’s idea promises significant socioeconomic savings for relatively little cost.
It is an analytical tool which describes existing data in adverse event data management systems using data visualisation. By using AI and language modeling it can give caregivers an overview of the patient harm that has been reported, which makes it much easier to remedy shortcomings and prevent injuries in the future.
Jakob is a qualified nurse and a former healthcare manager, and he is now studying for a PhD in patient safety.
Special commendation – SEK 50 000
‘Phages: Natural pesticides for sustainable agriculture’
Antibiotic resistance is a major problem and agriculture is the heaviest user of antibiotics – to fight the bacteria that damage crops. Veronica’s idea is to fight these bacteria with phages – the bacteriophages or special viruses which target certain bacteria – and thus contribute to organic farming and reduced antibiotic resistance.
Veronica plans to identify and build a portfolio of phages which can offer farmers tailored solutions.
Special commendation – SEK 50 000
Yang Chen & Magnus Borgström
‘Transparent solar cells: Solar cell windows’
The need for sustainable energy solutions is boundless. We could do much to solve the vast problem of finding alternatives to oil, coal, and gas if there was a better way to capture the sun’s rays.
Yang Chen is working on transparent solar cells that can be used on windows. By attaching semiconductor nanowires to a transparent film, it becomes possible to have solar cells not only on roofs, but also on windows. It is even possible to produce solar cells in different colours, a little like changing curtains.
Yang Chen is a researcher at the interdisciplinary centre NanoLund, which leads the world in exploiting the nanostructures’ properties and producing nanowires cheaply and efficiently.
Future Innovation Prize – SEK 50,000
Aatu Keränen & Peymon Hashimoto
‘New safe headlights for two-wheeled vehicles’
Aatu Keränen and Peymon Hashimoto are developing a new type of headlight for two-wheeled vehicles, which by following the vehicle’s movements will eliminate the darkness the driver experiences when turning. The idea could help cut the number of fatal accidents on the roads and increase road safety. Using the existing headlight, the technology is cost-effective and easy to use for both manufacturers and users who want to upgrade.
Future Innovation Prize for Social Change – SEK 30,000
‘Turning organic waste into affordable and sustainable fertiliser’
Can you add two problems together to make a smart solution? Yes, if you listen Elaine M’Nkubitu. Organic waste is a major problem, especially in developing countries. At the same time, it is often difficult for small-scale farmers in rural areas to obtain fertilizer. Elaine’s plan is for a system that capitalises on solid organic waste from markets in rural Kenya, and transforms it into high-quality fertilizer, which in turn gives greater yields and improves the soil. A circular solution on a local scale which could be the start of something far bigger.
Special commendation – SEK 25 000
Alvaro Itarte, Nicole Rydz, David Antonio Atías Martínez & Andres Rivera Salazar
The team behind Sighter wants to increase accessibility for people with impaired vision. The idea is to make public indoor settings safer and more accessible by using Bluetooth tags and an app with an integrated voice assistant. Many signs are simply not accessible to everyone – ‘Risk of slipping’, ‘Out of order’, ‘No entrance’. With Sighter, someone with impaired vision in an indoor public setting can read any sign using their mobile phone.
Special commendation – SEK 25 000
‘Sustainable food storage’
Butter goes rancid; fruit rots. Preserving and packaging food is an ongoing struggle between people and nature, and the quantities of food waste are enormous. One standard industrial solution to improve the shelf life of potato crisps or salad, for example, is to use plastic bags as modified atmosphere packing. Nils’s idea is a storage system for restaurants and consumers which improves the shelf life of our food by using a protective atmosphere. It is an idea that can cut food waste, save money, and reduce climate impact.
First prize – SEK 100,000
‘A new anti-inflammatory treatment to reduce the consequences of myocardial infarction’
Cardiovascular disease is the single most common cause of death in the world. Alexandru Schiopu’s project is developing a revolutionary treatment for patients who are having a heart attack. By reducing inflammation in the heart, the patient’s heart function can be improved and the risk of heart failure reduced, which significantly improves the patient’s prognosis and quality of life.
The project has identified a special pro-inflammatory protein secreted in large quantities after a heart attack. The protein kills heart cells immediately, increases inflammation in the heart, and reduces heart function. However, there is a small-molecule inhibitor which can stop the pro-inflammatory protein. The potential socioeconomic benefit of an effective treatment to reduce the effects of a heart attack could be large, and the plan is to move on to clinical testing.
Special commendation – SEK 50 000
Enrique Barrigon, Magnus Heurlin & Pilar Espinet
‘Nanowire solar cells for space applications’
Every day we use a variety of services that are available because of satellites in space. These satellites orbit the Earth and are powered by solar cells which convert sunlight into electricity. To survive the harsh environment in space, solar cells must be light, efficient, reliable, and above all able to withstand high levels of radiation. This project could revolutionise the use of solar cells in space. Nanowire solar cells can withstand high levels of radiation and so extend the life of satellite systems. It also makes it possible to have satellites in new orbits currently impossible because the radiation levels are too high.
The prospect of nanowire solar cells in space promises a new era of satellite development, and potentially a huge impact on future telecommunications, positioning and navigation systems, meteorological services, climate change monitoring, global security, space-based solar power, and space data generation.
Special commendation – SEK 50 000
Filipe Pereira, Cristiana Pires & Fábio Rosa
‘TrojanDC – Turning tumours into immune cells: A revolutionary gene therapy to treat cancer’
Cancer is still a huge health challenge. The therapeutic manipulation of the immune system – immunotherapy – has already made major inroads. Unfortunately, however, the immunotherapies available today are only effective for a few patients and are still extremely expensive.
TrojanDC is an innovative gene therapy based on proprietary cell-reprogramming technology. The reprogramming technique forces cancer cells to become antigen-presenting cells, allowing the immune system’s killer T cells to find and eliminate the cancer cells. TrojanDC will provide patients with an off-the-shelf solution unique to their specific tumour. A simple production process means it is also cost-effective. It is a paradigm shift in gene therapy with the potential to be applied to many forms of cancer.
First prize – SEK 50,000
Wenjing Yang & Hanna Geschewski
‘Solar4Schools (Mbegu Solar)’
Solar4Schools is developing a standalone solar energy system for schools in developing countries without access to reliable, affordable, clean energy. Today, over 2.8 million schools in developing countries do not have reliable access to electricity. While he was a student, Wenjing Yang went on a field trip to Kenya, where 57,000 schools rely on kerosene for lighting, affecting the quality of education for over half the country’s students. That was where the idea for Solar4Schools was born.
Solar4Schools has developed a standalone system with fewer components, but which still meets the schools’ basic needs. By offering phone charging services to the local community, using mobile payments and IoT technology, it can be self-financing.
Special commendation – SEK 25,000
Iris Bjerkén & Elsa Sjödahl
SunFeeds is a new nutritional replacement food designed to help combat famine. Hunger is one of the biggest health problems facing the world today, with 20 million children under the age of five suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM). Every year, 1 million children die with SAM according to UNICEF and the WHO.
SunFeeds nutritional replacement food is made from sunflower seeds, a raw ingredient cheaper than the peanuts which are the basis of the only nutritional replacement food on the market today. SunFeeds nutritional replacement food has other benefits too: sunflowers will grow in extreme latitudes and sunflower seeds are low in allergens and have a mild taste.
Special commendation – SEK 25,000
Victor Isaksson Pirtti & Axel Landström
Millions of tonnes of Sweden’s industrial waste go to landfill or are burnt for energy every year. And despite the availability of resources, we continue to extract primary raw materials from the environment. The Bread Nouveau project is an interdisciplinary collaboration that brings together design, industry, and science to develop biomaterials from waste in Sweden’s three largest natural resource industries (mining, forestry, and agriculture) using gluten as a binder.
Gluten composites have multiple uses, from textiles to construction. They are biodegradable in soil after 60–90 days and when decomposed become fertiliser that provides plant nutrients to the soil. Bread Nouveau challenges industry to consider circularity and Agenda 2030 by using waste and by-products as raw materials, offering new options for local production and eliminating the need for long-distance transport.
Roland Andersson and Daniel Ansari
‘A new serum test for the diagnosis and monitoring of pancreatic cancer’
A method of diagnosing pancreatic cancer at an early stage using a simple blood test. Pancreatic cancer has a high mortality rate and it is crucial to start treatment early.
Karolina Dorozynska and Elias Kristensson
‘Optical skin cancer diagnosis’
A cost-effective and easy method of identifying skin cancers without cutting the skin and which provides immediate answers.
Christian Hulteberg, Anders Arkell, and Lars Stigsson
‘Fuel from lignin’
A technique which makes it possible to use lignin, a by-product of the paper industry, by converting it into renewable vehicle fuel.
A system for simulating forest fires in real time. Fire and rescue services can receive fire spread forecasts direct to their mobile devices.
Kristofer Jansson, Martin Berg, Givi Kokaia, and Martin Olsson
A new cost-effective production process for semiconductor wafers for the electronics industry. Semiconductor wafers are used in manufacturing such things as LED lamps and computer processors.
Environmentally friendly single-use items made from biodegradable alternatives such as potato.
Oscar Kjell, Katarina Lundberg, and Sverker Sikström
WordDiagnostics uses words and AI to increase the reliability of diagnoses of mental illness, and especially depression and anxiety. It is a significant problem, with for example suicide often caused by an underlying depression. Correct early diagnosis can reduce suffering and save the healthcare system millions. Tested against methods WordDiagnostics has shown promising results.
Daniel Ansari and Roland Andersson
‘Prognostic biomarkers of pancreatic cancer’
Cancer of the pancreas has a very high mortality rate because symptoms appear at a late stage. It has a median survival of six months.
Daniel Ansari and Roland Andersson have developed a method for improving early, correct diagnoses and choosing treatments. It could lead to increased survival rates and fewer side effects. The method is patent-pending and validation is ongoing through international collaborations.
‘Total electric desalination without pumps or valves’
Why is water supply a global problem when over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is water? The reason is salt. Niels Boon’s innovative idea for desalination does not need pumps or valves, making it scalable, reliable, and cheap.
Magnetic levitation or maglev is a technology which suspends high-speed trains above the rails using magnetic fields. Because the trains have no pantographs, motors, wheels, or brakes they weigh far less.
PassiveTrack Maglev combines better battery technology, cheaper materials, and smart passive solutions to save energy and materials, while achieving more reliable operation compared to today’s technology. Above all, large savings are expected in infrastructure investments in new railways.
‘GoAPa Good Air Panel’
The majority of the world’s population live in cities and spend 90 percent of their time indoors, so poor air quality is a growing problem. Good Air Panel, or GoAPa, is a decorative and healthy indoor panel that is both an air purifier and produces oxygen. The panel uses microorganisms (algae) to absorb harmful substances from the air and create oxygen by photosynthesis in a natural way. The vivid green colour and bubbles that rise through the panel make for a healthy, de-stressing environment.
Henrik Nilsson and Nicklas Nilsson
The lighting industry has almost completely switched to LED lighting and the old mass-produced light fittings will soon be a thing of the past. N’light is a new generation of light fittings which can be made far smaller and can be built-in without the heat problems of today’s technology. Consumers can design and manufacture their own light fittings with the help of additive manufacturing or 3D printing.
Olov Sterner and Sophie Manner
‘Safe and effective treatment of vaginal thrush’
Vaginal fungal infections are a major problem that affects about 75 percent of all women at some point in their lives. Many have recurrent episodes, which not only impact their quality of life but can also add to the accelerating spread of antibiotic resistance. Through interdisciplinary research, four researchers have identified a substance that halts thrush, and which occurs naturally in all organisms and is an approved food additive.
Jakob Löndahl and Per Wollmer
‘AiDA, Airspace Dimension Assessment’
According to the WHO, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is globally the fourth most common cause of death, and its prevalence is increasing. The public cost of COPD in Sweden alone is estimated to be some SEK 10 billion a year. Early correct diagnosis is essential for effective treatment, but today COPD sometimes reaches an advanced stage without being measurable using the standard diagnostic methods. AiDA is a new method which can measure changes in lung tissue from a single breath, and which can even identify early stage lung disease. It is cheaper, faster, and easier than the techniques available today.
Emanuel Smeds, Niklas Ortenlöf, and Magnus Gram
‘Antibiotics 2.0 – Biologically active only in the body’
Resistant bacteria are an increasing problem. Antibiotic residues get into our wastewater and ultimately the environment, which contributes to disease-causing bacteria becoming resistant. MRSA – a type of staphylococcus – is among the worst of the resistant bacteria, causing, for example, a fifth of all severe cases of sepsis, a very dangerous, very costly disease. The Antibiotics 2.0 project is developing a type of antibiotic which attacks the staphylococci in the body, but outside the body, the antibiotic has no effect. There are several potential benefits in the large savings in suffering and expense and the minimal risk of developing resistance.
In 2017 the prize jury decided to award a joint first prize, which Sparbanksstiftelsen Finn was happy to arrange. Thus two first prizes were awarded and one special commendation.
Frida McCabe and Linn Wrangmark
During intravenous treatment, a patient can have a needle or plastic cannula in their arm for up to 24 hours. If the needle shifts it can feel uncomfortable and cause inflammation in the vein, and if it comes out it must be reinserted. To keep tubes in place they are often taped to the patient’s arm, but that is not ideal as it is not safe and can cause allergic reactions. The IV Bracelet is a bracelet which holds the tubes in place so the patient can move more freely. It is suitable for most wrists and treatments without adjustments and only takes a few seconds to put on. A simple solution to a widespread problem in the health service.
‘Vevios for safer life’
Since their introduction in the 1970s, personal alarms have given older people new freedom and security. However, they still have their shortcomings; for example, they only work at home. Vevios is a personal alarm which works everywhere because it uses wireless mobile technology. All the technology needed fits in a simple, stylish bracelet. Using its ‘panic mode’ – designed to reduce the risk of false alarms – the wearer activates the alarm, which transmits their position to the phones of preset recipients. Because the bracelet has an integrated microphone and speaker, the wearer can stay in touch until help arrives. Vevios combines advanced technology with design, ergonomics, and feedback.
‘Tendo – For people, not symptoms’
Just over 5 per cent of the world’s population are living with a hand disability, for example because of rheumatism, stroke, or injury. The gripping aids currently available are often clumsy, expensive, and risk muscle atrophy, making the user even weaker. Tendo is a robotics-controlled gripping tool worn on the hand like a glove. Tendo combines artificial strength with exercise and thus provides the user with both freedom and rehabilitation.Tendo has been created with the user in mind – it is designed for people, not symptoms.
About the Future Innovations Prize
The prize exists to promote and encourage the use of knowledge at the university. The competition is open to all Lund University employees and students and welcomes ideas and projects in all fields.
The prize is funded by Sparbanken Skåne through its owner foundation, Sparbanksstiftelsen Finn.