The Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) Technology Business Centre’s prototyping programme PROTOTECH has enabled 30 new business ideas to be developed as of 2022. Each of these technology-intensive projects received a grant of up to EUR 15 000 to develop their idea.
“In the PROTOTECH programme, research and development efforts keep pace with business ideas, creating successful companies. We are proud of the fact that during the implementation of the programme several really promising technology companies with high export potential have developed,” says Andrejs Berdņikovs, Head of LIAA Technology Business Centre.
The PROTOTECH programme is developed in cooperation with 3 leading Latvian universities – the University of Latvia (LU), Riga Technical University (RTU) and Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU), which help to develop prototypes using the research and development resources available to them.
“Successful cooperation has been established with Latvian universities in the implementation of the programme. This gives participants the opportunity to develop a prototype of their product or service in well-equipped laboratories under the guidance of knowledgeable researchers and experienced mentors,” emphasises A. Berdņikovs, stressing that the products developed are applicable in sectors such as smart cities, civil engineering, energy, medicine, sports, cosmetics, etc.
Currently, 8 prototype projects have been completed, while work on the others is still ongoing and will be finalised in March 2024.
Of the completed projects, RTU has completed the development of five projects, improving or creating devices and equipment in the fields of ICT, electronics and smart energy. Two projects in energy efficiency and biotechnology have been carried out in cooperation with the LU, while a prototype project in biomedicine has been developed at RSU.
A specialised electronic board has been developed under the programme, which will improve the innovative device for measuring the load on building structures developed by Adventum Tech SIA, thus optimising production costs and increasing the competitiveness of the company. This measuring device provides qualitative and transparent control of the behaviour of the structure (building) by measuring the load of the load-bearing structures using steel sensors and advanced data collection.
Another device developed under the PROTOTECH programme is the control system for the Stapes SIA tactile sound chair, the main parts of which are made of wood, metal and electronic components and are designed for vibroacoustics and sound signal reproduction. The product allows the spatial sensation of sound through the body, thus fully communicating the sound experience and complementing the virtual reality experience to increase endorphin levels in the body, which in turn reduces anxiety, stress and improves well-being.
Entrepreneur Janis Bregže, with the help of RTU, developed a time and speed recording device for athletes – downhill skiers, which is much more convenient and handy to move and install than existing alternatives. The device records the start and finish times, which are stored in the cloud. RTU designed the electronics circuit boards, assembled them, programmed the electronics, modelled the body of the device, designed the reflector solution and carried out other work.
RTU also helped develop solutions for smart energy and the Internet of Things (IoT). For example, with the support of the PROTOTECH programme, a device manufactured by Energowise SIA was improved, which is a solution for improving the biomass combustion process for households, businesses and heating companies that use biomass combustion as a source of energy. RTU engineers connected the device using IoT technologies (Arduino Cloud system), automated airflow and ozone mixing, assembled the device components into a single transportable body, as well as developed the device’s power supply and operating environment requirements.
Another smart energy and IoT project is a direct current LED (light emitting diode) luminaire developed by RTU and ELGRO Latvia SIA, which will be used in greenhouses. The LED spectrum will be adapted to the needs of the plant, according to the variety and stage of development. The power supply and control unit of the luminaire will be located outside the greenhouse, so the electronic components will not be affected by humidity and temperature in the greenhouse, increasing the lifetime of the electronic components.
Proventus Assurance SIA, in collaboration with the LU, developed a wood chip gasification device that contributes to the availability of sustainable energy. The solution provides for the significantly more efficient use of the heat generated by the gasification (combustion) process in the operation of the device compared to simpler device models. The main advantage of the device is that the combined heat and power plant can be used not only as a permanent source of heat and electricity but also as a backup source of energy in the case of interruptions in the centralised supply.
Vanda Voikiva, an entrepreneur and researcher, developed an interesting biotechnology with the help of the LU – a keratin extraction method based on the principles of green chemistry to meet the requirements of the cosmetics industry. During the project, the method was improved by optimising its parameters, the necessary testing was carried out using hair samples, and both the skin effects and the anti-inflammatory activity of the future product were assessed, allowing the next step to be taken, i.e., testing the product with cosmetic manufacturers. Interestingly, this method of extracting keratin could be used not only in cosmetics but also in space technology. Fluffy, a start-up founded by Vanda Voikiva, signed a contract for keratin research with the European Space Agency (ESA), with a view to using keratin as a raw material for growing food in space.
PROTOTECH also developed biomedical technologies with RSU. Ģirts Ozoliņš, with the help of RSU, tested a unique solution – the first truly ergonomic computer gaming glove Grindclaw, which ensures the correct ergonomic position during the game, as well as helps to reduce the risk of burnout, joint pain and avoid joint injuries.
The development of the prototypes is 100% funded by the Norwegian Financial Mechanism. Although the prototyping programme will end on 30 April 2024, support for entrepreneurs to develop prototypes will continue. LIAA Technology Business Centre will become the LIAA Technology Representative Office, which will implement incubation activities. Thus, support for prototyping will continue to be provided. The call for the LIAA incubation programme is planned to be launched in March this year.