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On 15 March, the EU Delegation to Armenia organised a site visit in Yerevan to get acquainted with the innovative companies and startups which have received technical and financial support in the framework of the European Union's "Support to SME Development in Armenia" (EU-SMEDA) project. The visit was attended by the EU Ambassador to Armenia Piotr Świtalski and group of journalists.
During the visit the EU Ambassador mentioned: "There is a huge potential in startup ecosystem in Armenia as a driver for economic development and knowledge based growth. In particular, this is very interesting filed for younger generation''. "The EU supported cutting-edge start-ups we visited today are a vivid example of the fast-growing competitive tech ecosystem in Armenia", he added
Since 2017 "Support to SME Development in Armenia" (SMEDA) project, which is funded by the European Union under the EU4Business initiative and implemented by GIZ, has been supporting Armenian startups with two types of grant – Innovation Matching Grants (IMG) and Science and Technology Entrepreneurship (STEP) grants, through the Enterprise Incubator Foundation (EIF).
Project results within supply-side-oriented startup support
Both grants specifically target tech-oriented SMEs and projects. In the first cycle companies received 8 IMG and 5 STEP grants (selection in 2017) with up to 50k and 15k Euro funding for 12 months. In the second cycle companies received 6 IMG and 15 STEP grants (selection in 2018) with up to 30k for 9 month and between 4-15k Euro funding for 6 months. The EU-SMEDA supported also the establishment of the Armenia Startup Academy. Within the programme implemented by the Catalyst Foundation startups focus in the 3-month programme on customer validation and investor readiness. The Academy programme comprises three modules: startup diagnostics, market selection and launch strategy, preparation to market validation. In addition, with EU-SMEDA’s support, Catalyst founded the Hero House as an entrepreneurship center which comprehensively contributes to the Armenian technology and startup ecosystem development e.g. through the establishment of different initiatives on blockchain, quantum computing and artificial intelligence. Within the Startup Academy 3 batches are enrolled – and graduated so far, 41 teams graduated, 120+ entrepreneurs were participating, 60+ mentors are involved, and 3 Demo Days are held.
European Union's "Support to SME Development in Armenia" (SMEDA) project
General information. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) play a vital role in any country’s economy. Indeed, they are main drivers of economic growth in many developed and transitional countries. And rightly so given that they are often more flexible and more innovative as compared to larger companies and monopolies, while generating jobs not only in urban areas but likewise throughout the rural countryside. Taken together they contribute substantially to any nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and thus play a decisive role towards a healthy and sustainable economy.
SMEDA is co-funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by GIZ’s Private Sector Development in South Caucasus Programme. SMEDA forms part of the EU4Business and EU4Innovation initiatives of the European Union in the Eastern Partnership Countries.
To enable broad-based growth in Armenia, SMEDA focuses on the main objective to improve the general business and investment climate in Armenia, and to create a supportive entrepreneurial environment which fosters development and creation of small and medium enterprises. Here the project focuses on a multilevel approach: on the macro level SMEDA strengthens SME policy-making processes to improve the overall entrepreneurial environment (RA1). On a meso level business associations (RA2) and economic clusters (RA4) are being targeted to enable these organisations to better advocate and to provide better services to their members. In the same vein, SMEDA focuses on the development of economic clusters in precision engineering and the creative industries; both considered highly promising sectors to foster economic development in Armenia. Moreover, the project aims at stimulating the rate of technology absorption, technology transfer, innovation, and commercialisation of ideas in the private sector, and likewise attempts to encourage active collaboration between the private sector and research institutions (RA3). Furthermore, on a micro level SMEDA supports various technology and innovation-oriented ventures of existing SMEs and start-ups by providing financial and technical assistance to develop new innovative products and services for national as well as international markets (RA5).
Duration 01/01/2016 – 31/12/2019 (48 months)
Total budget € 6.53 million
EU contribution € 6.4 million
Implementing partner German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (GIZ)
Short information on the subgrantees
RendChain is a decentralized peer-to-peer network that aims to let people contribute their computational power (personal computers, laptops, tablets) to a system that would rent them to businesses that need it.
EU Funding: € 14.000
Breedge is an online platform that helps SMEs and Startups hiring in niche and emerging fields to find and invest in the right student talent. The web platform helps companies find the best candidates straight out of college for their junior/internship/entry-level positions. Buses Machine Learning technology to analyze the data from both the students and companies and recommend the best matches.
EU Funding: € 12.500
Embry is an elegant and highly innovative tech solution for weight loss. It is the only activity tracker on a market with a built in smart scale. Embry combines features of activity tracker and smart scale, as well as, features of virtual coach and network of nutritionists and trainers, all in one tiny wearable device. With all that, Embry becomes most affordable all in one tool for weight loss.
EU Funding: € 50.000
Chessify is a chess platform that revolutionizes chess community experience, by applying state-of-the-art Deep Learning solutions. The startup offers services for both professional and amateur players. Chessify’s cloud service dramatically increases professional chess training productivity and saves 30% of overall training time. The main advantages of the product are the following: dedicated cloud Servers; integration with different chess platforms; availability on mobile (Android/iOS).
EU Funding: € 46.000
Pixomatic is state-of-the-art online photo editor with a unique image cutting feature. It's possible to instantly remove a background from any photo, make it transparent, add different colors and filters, or change the background with another photo.
EU Funding: € 46.000
Grovf database server is a first of its kind dedicated, out of the box, FPGA-Accelerated NoSQL Database for storing IIoT sensors generated data. The prototype has already achieved 10x faster transactions and 31x power saving compared with state-of-the-art solutions.
EU Funding: € 46.000
PINOKIT is an affordable and user-friendly educational trainer kit, which helps STEM educational institutions to increase students’ engagement and drive productivity through fascinating hands-on experiments. It is the first add-on module design based on a Raspberry PI platform enabling thematic researches for STEM disciplines. It is based on a simple computer “PI Zero”, which makes PinoKIT an affordable tool for practical learning. The unique combination of hardware and software automation and step-by-step curriculum (all-in-one architecture) make the startup’s kits powerful studying tools for STEM-oriented students.
EU Funding: € 14.000