Start-up fund Prototron was established on August 14 with the aim of supporting innovative ideas in making the first finished product or prototype. The fund was established by the Tallinn University of Technology, Swedbank and Tallinn Science Park Tehnopol.
Swedbank supports the fund with 120,000 euros during the first three years. President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who took part in the opening of the Prototron fund, acknowledged the cooperation between the private sector, university and Tehnopol’s business environment. “Cooperation between scientists and companies advances production. Teamwork makes it possible for small producers to make bigger things and thus we can be greater. The market we are aiming at is the whole world. I hope we will always devise new products that could change the world. The close relationship between the university and incubator for start-up companies enables a synergy, which makes this possible,” Ilves said.
The fund was created based on the real need of inventors and companies, who want to create innovative products. This became clear from the survey conducted by Swedbank, which gave three reasons, why innovative ideas are never realised. First, many interesting ideas come to a halt, because there is no working prototype to prove the idea. Prototypes are important in building a real product, because without it, companies cannot get the necessary investments to move on. The second disadvantage that became evident was that the circles of enterprising people are too similar in Estonia and there is no cooperation between different fields. Third point the survey emphasised was the inability of companies getting their product to the international markets. “We quickly realised that these are the problem areas that need to be addressed and decided that helping young inventors is what Swedbank wants to do first,” Robert Kitt, Head of Corporate Banking in Swedbank, explained the reasons behind establishing the fund.
Pirko Konsa, board member of the Tallinn Science Park Tehnopol, deems the fund as a means to fill the gap on the way to new Skypes. “In Tehnopol we constantly come across ideas that get to nowhere, because there is no product to prove the idea. But the idea looks good on paper. We get to find out now with the Prototron Fund, whether there is an actual product that could change the world behind the exciting idea,” Konsa said. “We need a new fund to support realising the enterprising ideas young talents have in the university,” said professor Andres Keevallik, rector of the Technical University of Tallinn. “This is a great accelerator of innovation for Estonia, in order for the university to become a solid breeding ground for global start-up companies. An international interdisciplinary innovation centre MEKTORY operates at the Tallinn University of Technology. MEKTORY and the newly established Prototron Fund make up a single ecosystem, which is an important part of the innovation support scheme of the country,” Keevallik added.
Both private persons and start-up companies, who want to make their new idea, which has great potential for growth, come true, are welcome to apply for funding from the newly established fund. The funded fields include electronics, mechatronics, and information and communications technology. Applications can be submitted on the website www.prototron.ee, where you have to describe your idea and team. Applications will be reviewed four times a year by known innovators Priit Alamäe (Webmedia), Pirko Konsa (Tehnopol), Robert Kitt (Swedbank), Yrjö Ojasaar (Publification), Andrus Oks (Estonian Development Fund), Jaanus Tamm (Defendec) and Siemon Smid (Tallinn University of Technology).
Four or five ideas will be realised this year, but twice as much would be realised next year with the help of the fund. Swedbank will make the first contribution to the fund in the amount of 40,000 euros. “We welcome other companies to join the initiative, if they believe in new ideas and the profitability of prototypes”, Robert Kitt added. The first call for proposals is open and applications are accepted until September 15.