Maria Sotiriou, Partnerships Manager at the European Young Innovators
Forum, discusses the opportunities to explore, create, and imagine in the
Could you please tell us about yourself?
I was born Greek in Thessaloniki, and see myself as a native European citizen of the world. I have always wanted to become part of an intercultural communication process and this is why I initially studied translation and conference interpreting. After finishing my undergraduate studies and having lived in many countries (Greece, the UK, France, Belgium and Turkey), I pursued an MSc in European Politics at the LSE. I subsequently worked for the Open Innovation Strategy & Policy Group (OISPG) at DG CONNECT, where I acclimatised to the workings of the European Commission and gained a constructive knowledge of innovation and entrepreneurship. I am currently the Partnerships Manager at the EYIF, where I am responsible for the company’s relationships with corporate stakeholders and manage big projects such as the InnoApps Challenge in collaboration with Huawei.
What is the European Young Innovators Forum and what is the idea behind it?
The European Young Innovators Forum (EYIF) has been founded in 2010 by Kumardev Chatterjee, a young entrepreneur at that time, at an event at the European Parliament and from its pre-start, it was supported by the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council. Kumardev joined forces with Nicholas Zylberglajt, a young innovator on the policy side and some other like-minded entrepreneurs in order to give voice to a community of young innovators and experts who did not have a platform to connect with each other.
EYIF has rapidly become the largest network of young innovators in Europe reaching more than 500,000 people across all EU member states. In its mission to grow the European startup ecosystem, it is forming strategic innovation partnerships with major industry players across multiple sectors, in the scope of providing early-stage but also growth-stage startups access to corporate innovation ecosystems, expert mentors, customers, market access and funding. EYIF collaborates regularly with the European Institutions, the US State Department, the World Economic Forum, the Mobile World Congress, the MIT Technology Review and CeBIT as well as big corporate companies such as BNP Paribas, Huawei, Deutsche Bahn and Deloitte.
You are organising an event with Huawei called ‘the InnoApps challenge’. It sounds very exciting and also a bit techie! Can you tell us about it?
The InnoApps Challenge is the only pan-European competition to develop innovative apps for Smart Cities. It is a joint initiative of the European Young Innovators Forum and Huawei that aims to contribute to the development of a more socially inclusive society in Europe by fostering “e-skills,” increasing “e-participation” and promoting entrepreneurship for young generations in Europe today. This third edition is open to young people from 18 to 36 years old and its focus is on how to address challenges regarding safe cities. It is important to highlight that no tech or developing skills are required in order to take part. You just need some time and imagination to apply with an idea that will make a difference. Besides the prize money (35,000 euros in total for the 3 winning teams), there is tech and business mentorship for the finalists and mainly access to experts that can help them transform their idea into a reality. You can find more information on our website also on the jury members and mentors: http://innoapps.eu/. The applications deadline is 1st November, so hurry up!
What is the aim of this event? What do you intend to achieve?
The InnoApps project has been running for three consecutive years. In practice, it exemplifies Huawei’s commitment to Europe with reference to entrepreneurial, creative and collaborative solutions. EYIF is therefore a perfect match for Huawei’s endeavour, helping it to reach the European community of young innovators. Moreover, this initiative supports the new EU Smart Cities Agenda, a concrete result of an ambitious Digital Single Market. In this light, InnoApps Challenge welcomes entries from avid app developers who through their participation could go into a career in the digital sector which will eventually help to spark innovation ultimately translating into more jobs and economic growth. The challenge runs in several phases: the idea phase, ending in October, followed by an online mentoring phase for shortlisted candidates and finally, the apps development phase, for selected ideas that will culminate into a live-pitching final. The final will take place at Autoworld in Brussels on 9th February 2017.
Is there a reason that you focused on app development?
Like most younger Europeans, I have grown up digital. I have always been excited by apps as the fastest way to create something useful and test-drive it with family, friends and the online world. In a nutshell, this contest gives us all the big opportunity to get global profile for an app with our name on it.
How can people get involved in your activities and find out more about your events?
EYIF runs many activities not only in Europe but also in Asia and the US. Just to give you one of this year’s highlights, EYIF selected and sent a delegation of top-tier European tech startups to its own EYIF pavilion at Mobile World Congress in Shanghai (MWCS). BLITAB, a member of EYIF’s delegation of European champions was awarded the 4YFN Award along with the title of the best startup at MWCS. You can learn more about our actions by visiting our website or by sending an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can get involved by subscribing to our newsletter, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn and by liking our FB page. This will allow you to be kept informed of startup competitions and events. There is also the possibility of becoming a volunteer and gaining first-hand experience of the European startup ecosystem.