BioHackathon 2021 provided a number of innovative ideas for a healthier future

As a part of sTARTUp Day 2021, the largest business festival in the Baltic countries, the EIT Health and EIT Food supported BioHackathon brought together over 40 participants – startup-minded students and starting and established entrepreneurs in the field of life sciences, food- and health sector.



What was behind the idea of BioHackathon?

BioHackathon was held at the SPARK Demo Center on the 25th of August, supporting participants in finding inspiration, developing a business plan, and making contacts. The event with a competitive element focused on hacking ideas in the following areas: Biotechnology (all the colors of the rainbow); Medicine & Healthcare; Food technology & -sustainability; Veterinary medicine and Life Sciences (more general ideas). 

First part of the day: seminars on health

The day started with a gathering and morning coffee at 10:00. The first welcome and introduction of the day was given by Sven Parkel, General Manager of Tartu Biotechnology Park. This was followed by two presentations focusing on health topics, in the first of which Katrina Laks, the founder and CEO of the Migrevention digital headache clinic, shared the experience of creating a digital health startup and looked back on the last year and a half following the Migrevention team’s BioHackathon 2020 victory. Next, Merike Leego, Innovation Manager at EIT Health Scandinavia introduced EIT Health’s programs for students, researchers, entrepreneurs, start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs to support health industry entrepreneurs. 

Second part of the day: team formation and working on business cases with mentors

After the presentations on health, it was time for the participants to present their ideas and form final teams after which they could start working on these ideas with the mentors. The event’s mentors were experts from different backgrounds who were able to guide the teams both on more sector-specific issues and on broader business-related issues. Mentors Merike Leego (EIT Health Scandinavia), Jan Lätt (Tartu Business Advisory Services), Aivar Pere (Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center of the University of Tartu), Rudolf Saluoks (Fudler), Kadri Haljas (Triumf Health), Relika Williams (Enterprise Estonia ) and Alo Lilles (TalTech – Tallinn University of Technolocy) were available to the teams throughout the day, guiding them out of the comfort zone to ensure that the business idea being improved was innovative, while helping to keep the ideas on the ground to ensure their viability.

Third part of the day: seminars on food

 In the second half of the day, it was time for presentations on food topics. Ranno Nahku, leader of the Microbial bioprocess group in the Center of Food and Fermentation Technologies (TFTAK) introduced the TFTAK’s Microbial bioprocess group and TFTAK’s two main cultivation services. The second speaker was Adam Strzelecki, project manager at EIT Food who introduced EIT Food support opportunities for entrepreneurs. 

Pitching competition was the culmination of the day

The highlight of the day was the pitching competition, where the best teams and the most promising ideas were identified with the help of a five-member panel of judges (Sven Parkel, Relika Williams, Alo Lilles, Kadri Haljas, Adam Strzeleck). Seven teams that pitched at the beginning of the day had been re-grouped into five strong teams during the day to strengthen the ideas and workplans, and all the final teams pitching demonstrated in-depth knowledge of the field, thorough background research and an elegant solution to the problem. In the intense competition, team CogniFlow won the “The most promising health* idea” award with the prize of 500 eur provided by EIT Health with an idea for a decentralized healthcare service for long-term health tracking and improvement. Team Brewtein with an idea to utilis brewer’s spent grain in the food industry won the “The most promising food ** idea” with the prize of 500 eur provided by EIT Food. The winner of the best pitch was team Suspac – with an idea to recycle already recycled products for food packaging. 

* The winning idea has to focus on one of the EIT Health Focus Areas:

  • Reforming Care Pathways 
  • Healthcare Transformation 
  • Harnessing Real-world Data 
  • Bringing Care Home 
  • Health in the Workplace 
  • Fostering Healthier Lives 

** The winning idea has to focus on one of the EIT Food Focus Areas 

  • Targeted nutrition 
  • Digital traceability 
  • Sustainable Agriculture 
  • Sustainable Aquaculture 
  • Alternative Proteins 
  • Circular Food Systems 

The event that took place during the sTARTUp Day 2021 brought together students, researchers, start-ups, mentors and speakers from all over the world. Based on the feedback, the participants were satisfied with the event, more specifically with talent and quality of mentors and advisors, friendly atmosphere of the event and interesting seminar topics. 


Merike Leego/EIT Health Scandinavia „EIT Health supports programs to help your ideas to market“
Timo Uustal/EIT Health Alumni Board – “EIT Health Alumni introduction” 
EIT Health Accelerator Catalogue 2021
Ranno Nahku/TFTAK –“Introduction to TFTAK’s Microbial bioprocess group”
Adam Strzelecki/EIT FoodEIT Food – Support for entrepreneurs“Adam EIT Food Support for entrepreneurs

BioHackathon was supported by: EIT Health, EIT Food, and Smart City Tartu.