On occasion of World Maritime day on 28 September, the September’s Entrepreneur of the Month will highlight two startups linked to maritime and blue economy: the winners of the Blue Invest 2018, a matchmaking event in blue economy organised by the European Commission – DG MARE and supported by EBN and EBN Members, that took place on 17 May in Brussels.
Let’s start with FuVeX, a startup based in Spain, which aims to bring drones into their next industrial stage: long range drones. To do so, they are replacing manned helicopters by drones in emergency operations and maritime services as both applications are critical to society. Due to its major potential in preventing maritime disasters including overfishing, the startup was one of the two winners of Blue Invest 2018.
In a world often stricken by fires, floods and earthquakes, the speed and efficiency of emergency aid can be determining for the lives of people in danger. In the state of disaster and emergency, every second counts, that’s why the aid provided needs to arrive as fast as possible and be delivered in the most efficient way.
FuVeX’s idea was born 5 years ago. Carlos Matilla (on the left), FuVeX’s CEO and co-founder, an aerospace engineer with a background in naval architecture, has always had a passion for unmanned technology having a strong belief it leads to a safer and more efficient society less prone to man-made mistakes.
This passion led him to found and manage Autonomous Underwater Vehicle “Isaac Peral y Caballero” and Unmanned Gyrocopter “Juan de la Cierva”, taking part with both vehicles in international competitions organised by the US Navy. During these competitions, he met Carlos Castellano, an engineer with a mutual passion for unmanned technologies. As one of the major problems in marine industry was overfishing, the duo started thinking about alternatives to helicopters commonly used for this purpose due to their high price and difficulties to land. This is how FuVeX was born.
The maritime industry faces various challenges mainly due to the overfishing and marine pollution which have a major impact on marine flora and fauna. Current systems in place to monitor and control these activities cannot be carried out because of the capabilities and cost of the current technology. FuVeX team saw this gap in the market and the potential of using unmanned technology to combat the challenges the industry faces while saving 78% costs compared to current solutions.
UAV/drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) technology is an emerging technology with several applications and is not being used in the fishing and maritime monitoring sectors because no efficient solutions have yet been found.
By designing lightweight aerial vehicles able to easily land on any flat surface without the need of additional infrastructure, FuVeX offers cost-efficient and more effective alternative to helicopters in preventing overfishing and delivering emergency aid. The technology is scalable in weight and is in patent process at an international level. Moreover, the vehicles have twice the autonomy of helicopters with similar characteristics, making the aircrafts optimised for safe operation.
From challenging beginnings to awards-winning startup
FuVeX’s flight to success was not so smooth - FuVeX team worked for a full year at the premises of Public University of Navarra, using their own savings to develop the drones. An additional challenge was investors’ mindset - as they predominantly invest in software and digital apps, it was difficult to find those willing to invest in hardware such as drones. However, after a year, it started going well for FuVex - they applied and got accepted for Orizont, an acceleration programme hosted by former EBN Member CEEI de Navarra -CEIN, a business support organisation based in Navarra, Spain. During the programme’s 6-months intense coaching and mentoring, the startup polished the technology and the business model, gaining first investors and funding. They received a grant by the European Regional Development Fund through the 2014-2020 ERDF Operational Programme of Navarra, the European Commission's initiative to boost economic development of the region, and funding and support under phase 1 of SME Instrument. Since its foundation in 2015, the team grew from 2 to 9 employees, while becoming widely recognised in Spain, by participating and winning numerous pitching competitions, including as a finalist at South Summit, the leading European startup conference taking place in Madrid, Spain.
The startup is negotiating conclusion of two Memorandums of understanding with two maritime companies and it is exploring international markets.
Blue Invest 2018 and EBN Congress – successful pitching with support of EBN and Lazio Innova
One of FuVeX’s latest successes was winning the first place together with Marlinks at Blue Invest 2018, a matchmaking event organised for the first time by the European Commission – DG Mare and supported by EBN and EBN Members, with the idea of boosting the economic potential of the ocean while protecting its marine resources.
A day before the event taking place on 17 May 2018 in Brussels, FuVeX, along with other 19 startups participating, had a one-day training at EBN premises. EBN CEO Javier Echarri and EBN Members active in the sector, among them WestBIC, Nantes Atlanpole, Lazio Innova, and TVT, coached the startups helping them polish their pitches before the final pitching in front of investors at Blue Invest 2018. The winning startups had the opportunity to attend and pitch at EBN Congress the following month.
Carlos Mantilla was pleased with the event and coaching services he received, that helped FuVeX win the award:
“The training and the event was an amazing experience, it was a unique opportunity to participate in an event so narrowly focused on the maritime industry. Moreover, the mentoring and feedback I received from EBN (Javier Echarri) and EBN Member Lazio Innova (Ilaria Corsi), helped me for both pitching at Blue Invest 2018 and EBN Congress the following month.”
Blue Invest 2018 - from left to right: EBN CEO Javier Echarri and the two Blue Invest winners Carlos Mantilla (FuVeX) and Roel Vanthillo (Marlinks)
Video from the event including Carlos’ pitching is available here.
FuVeX is in process of expanding its customer base, one of it being Spanish National Post Correos, for which they are currently developing drones to provide logistic services in rural environments and emergencies.
FuVeX team with the drone they developed for Correos, Spanish National Post
In addition, FuVeX is preparing a pilot project with the Spanish Institute of Oceanography to use FuVeX’ technology to better understand our oceans.
FuVeX’ drone at the Spanish Oceanographic Institute´s ship.
After successfully winning funding under SME Instrument 1, the startup is currently preparing application for SME Instrument phase 2, we wish them good luck!
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