The entrants came from all areas of our X-Innovation Challenge: the two Startup Accelerator programs in Darmstadt, Germany and Nairobi, Kenya – bringing in 20 Alumni Startups from across the world, as well as our different Hackathons, and furthermore the ESA Space Exploration Masters challenge!
What made this event so special though was we got to select the overall winner out of three Virtual Challenge finalists. If you would like to learn more about how our finalists managed to make it from > 200 applications to one of the fastest moving cities in the world then check out our X Innovation Challenge. KronosDNA tweeted one of the first pictures!
With such an array of incredible innovators in the one room we had to allow for some real time to get to know one another and foster some real exchange between the different teams. We also had the pleasure of a few additional guests. A couple of startups from the MENA ecosystem, a representative from Airbus, and colleagues from the Merck Dubai and Cairo offices. Their input was much appreciated.
While the Virtual Challenge finalist were prepared for their big pitch the following day by joining presentation and storytelling coaching sessions, the other participants had the chance to discuss many Startup related issues in two Breakout Sessions – topics ranging from how to scale up quickly to their biggest F***-ups and how to learn from it.
The first highlight of the day was the pitch session. For the Virtual Challenge finalists, this was the rehearsal before the final pitch in front of the Jury. They each collected over five minutes of valuable feedback from the experienced audience. In addition, the Hackathon winners also presented their ideas: Team TeleMEDry from the Merck & ESA Space2Health Hackathon in Darmstadt and KronosDNA, a Startup from Italy, which won the h-ack Merck for Health Hackathon
in Rome just three weeks prior to the event. It was a fantastic, interactive day building relationships and exchanging knowledge across industries! The second highlight and end of this first day was a sightseeing tour of Dubais downtown, including dinner right next to the tallest building of the world, the Burj Khalifa, at the biggest mall of the world, the Dubai Mall. A city full of superlatives presented a final eye candy for the participants: the world’s largest choreographed fountain system.
As the sun rose on the day of the main event all the teams were relaxed and ready to listen and learn. We were delighted to engage Daniel Ramamoorthy as our MC for the day to keep up with the energy of the day!
The second day we welcomed selected ecosystem players from Dubai, including Dubai Future Foundation, DTEC, MAGNiTT, UnitedHealth Group as well as Dubai Health Authority. Also in attendance was the Head of MEA – Middle East, Africa & Turkey at Merck Biopharma, Paolo Carli, along with Michael Gamber, the Head of the Merck Innovation Center.
As this our launch of this annual event, to embrace a wider audience we promoted it more locally in Dubai via Eventbrite and had about a dozen very energetic local professionals and innovation enthusiasts join us on the day.
The official opening was held by Paulo Carli and Michael Gamber where they went on to introduce Merck and the concrete role of the Innovation Center in Darmstadt. Be sure to check out Herve Kubwimana's tweet of Day 2.
Our Keynote speaker was Nils Müller, CEO/Founder of Trendone speaking about the rapidly changing world and how it will look in 2027. The sound and lighting technicians in the room made the enormously interactive presentation come to life and the audience was actively involved throughout his presentation whilst he used automatic face recognition and even interacted with a robot. We had chance to Periscope the talk which had an encouraging amount of replays! If you missed it, have a look here.
On our first panel of the day we had Michael Gamber: Head of Merck Innovation Center, Andreas Schindler: Director Ideation Innovation Technology Foresight at Merck, Prashanth PK Gulati from Dubai Future Foundation and Abhishek Shah: CEO, of Wellthy Therapeutics on stage.
They were discussing the role of Startups in the overall science & technology innovation process. Really driving home that big companies have to leverage their skills, know-how and agility to be successful.
After a short coffee break and networking, we came back to our second Panel and had Hans Christensen: Director, DTEC, Philip Bahoshy: CEO, Magnitt, Thomas Schrage from Airbus Defense and Space, Saif Al Jaibeji: CEO MEA at United Health Group and finally Dr. Bassam Mahboub: Program Director at Dubai Health Authority talking about “Shaping innovations for the challenges of tomorrow”. This time with a special focus on the Dubai region – how do they deal with Startups and enable them to innovate? Answer: Make it easy for them! It is especially beneficial for young businesses if governments avoid heavy regulations.
It was then time to enjoy some fresh air and networking with a fantastic lunch outside as well as spending some time visiting the Startup marketplace (20 Merck alumni Startups presenting their idea, company and vision).
We then spent the remainder of the afternoon viewing the 3 remaining showcases and ending with the final pitches of the Virtual Challenge finalists!
The first showcase was The future of laboratories – How could startups disrupt the industry? by Labfolder, Cubuslab and Clustermarket
The second Showcase was about the Merck approach to Digital Health – Availability, Affordability, Awareness, Accessibility by VeriPad, MedRX, Totohealth, Maisha Meds
The last showcase was Functional materials and its application fields in future by Inuru and Is-It-Fresh?
We had a fantastic and impassioned few final pitches before we finished the day!
The winner of the pitch on the day was Team Zelij Invent! Their solution of producing flooring products made out of plastic waste convinced the jury at the end. They win €5000 cash and get shortlisted for the next intake of the Merck Accelerator – congratulations!
We finished the day by descending on Al Sahra Resort, a beautiful setting in the middle of the desert and enjoyed classical Arabic dances and music. Roll on #XInnoSummit 2018!