Bunt Planet and Viralgen take this year's DonostiaINN Innovative Business Awards

(From left to right: Imanol Lasa, Head of Economic Promotion, Tourism and the Rural Environment, Javier García, Chief Executive Officer of Viralgen, Eneko Goia, Mayor of San Sebastián, Pedro Miguel Etxenike, President of the DIPC Foundation, Marisol Garmendia, Economic Promotion Councillor, and Ainhoa Lete, Manager of Bunt Planet)

The 5th DonostiaINN Awards by the Department of Economic Promotion as part of Innovation Week were taken this year by Bunt Planet in the consolidated companies category, and also Viralgen in the young companies category, in acknowledgement of innovation, a global approach, and links to the city. The prizes were awarded today, Friday 30 October, as part of Donostia WeekINN, during an event organised by Fomento de San Sebastián at Hotel María Cristina.

Economic Promotion councillor Marisol Garmendia claimed “these awards come in appreciation and acknowledgement of innovative businesses in Donostia. In addition to a clear focus on innovation and technology in its software engineering service, one key aspect of Bunt Planet is its role as facilitator of innovation. Its competences facilitate training and specific capacitation for the companies to which it offers its services, particularly in industrial spheres in relation to sustainability and water management. This is a clear example of capacity for management and a permanent focus on innovation, which certainly reflects the reality of our city. Viralgen, meanwhile, has demonstrated within a very short space of time that it is an obvious example of a project with great potential and impact on Donostia and Gipuzkoa. The biotechnology or bioscience sector is evidently an area of opportunity for our city, producing young companies which we are convinced we have to support, as we do by means of a number of instruments and programmes set up by Fomento San Sebastián. The fact that it has been chosen by Harvard in relation to manufacture of the COVID vaccine and the recent acquisition by German multinational Bayer simply boost the potential and the possibility of growth in the short term, with all this entails for our city”.

As part of Innovation Week, the Department of Economic Promotion, through Fomento de San Sebastián, which undertakes policies, strategies and projects for the economic development of the city alongside the concept of innovation, is particularly keen to acknowledge innovative Donostia businesses, and has created the DonostiaINN Enterprise Innovation Awards, with two categories:

  • Consolidated Innovative Business Award.Companies, with an obvious focus on innovative businesses with an international outlook, but with clear local roots and connections, that have consolidated their activities and have become a benchmark not only in their own sector, but also for the city as an example of sound management.
  • Young Innovative Business Award.Young newly incorporated companies, successfully carrying on their activity in our city in emerging sectors, with a comprehensive global projection and representing the future business model, with a strong need for talent and a technology base.

The criteria for the awards were as follows:

  • Focus on innovation: businesses concentrating on innovation in a bid to continue to create jobs and wealth in the city, on the basis of continuous invention of their own business models.
  • Impact: any expanding innovative business must have a positive impact on its income statement and on its surroundings, creating high-quality employment and retaining and attracting talent.
  • Employment: job creation, at local level in the city, and also at regional, national or international level, is positively appraised. Innovation and R+D are considered growth catalysts.
  • Global approach: profitable businesses with excellent innovation move towards global models to offer their products and services.
  • Links to the city: links to the city and companies’ collaboration with Fomento de San Sebastián and San Sebastián Town Hall are particularly appreciated, helping to configure and promote the city as an innovation and talent hub.

DONOSTIAINN CONSOLIDATED COMPANY BUSINESS INNOVATION AWARD

BUNT PLANET

Bunt Planet, based in San Sebastián and incorporated 20 years ago, specialises in software development to prevent water losses. In addition to the development of software engineering, it offers businesses software development team capacitation through the selection of optimum architecture and technology for corporate projects. Since its beginnings it has pioneered digital technologies for industrial applications in the Basque Country. Its business has expanded, particularly in terms of operation of the patents and innovative schemes it generates.

Some examples of its work in R+D+i are a portfolio of patents structuring and developing its business activity, and the innovation awards it has won.

  • It has won European Commission Seals of Excellence, and also took the IBM Smart City Beacon Award in 2014 and the DV 2014 Award in the Apps category. It holds patents such as “Mixed pumping unit and energy generation and storage method”.
  • The company’s participation in the European SME Instrument Phase 1 and Phase 2 project not only guarantees globalisation of its activities, but also serves as an acknowledgement that they serve common needs all over Europe. Its market is therefore European, and globalisation clearly forms part of the company’s DNA and its business.

It has maintained steady staffing levels in recent years, bringing in specific profiles for its innovation activity as part of a work format that has enabled it to undertake complex projects. At the present time the group’s headcount oscillates (depending on its projects) between 20 and 100, and it has an extensive network of international distributors.

DONOSTIAINN YOUNG COMPANY BUSINESS INNOVATION AWARD

VIRALGEN

Viralgen started out as a joint venture between Askbio and Columbus Venture Partners, combining decades of technology and drug development experience in multiple platforms to support best-in-class service offerings to the gene therapy market. It was created in 2017 in response to the unmet need for manufacture of gene therapies, in a bid to help broaden access to these life-saving therapeutics and contribute to the advancement of health and human welfare around the world.

The selection of Viralgen as one of the three manufacturers of viral vectors (the only European business, alongside two US companies) for one of the most promising vaccines being considered for COVID-19, at Harvard University, entails global recognition, not only of the company’s scientific and technological excellence, but also of its production capacity, expected to be millions of vaccines, which was one of the main reasons it was chosen.

Expectations of high growth for Viralgen in the medium term, or in the short term if the Harvard vaccine materialises, may have a considerable knock-on effect on development in San Sebastián and on the territory of a powerful sector of businesses developing technologies. Also, the impact on sectoral development at regional level may be boosted by the recent acquisition of the company by pharmaceutical multinational Bayer, thereby covering the need for a company to drive demand for products developed by bio start-ups.

In addition to the DonostiaINN Awards, Innovation Week gave the Donostia International Physics Center the annual award for people or organisations making significant contributions to the field of research or innovation in our city, alongside activities with an impact on Donostia’s economy.

The DIPC has made an extraordinary contribution to the city’s international image in terms of culture and knowledge. It has created professional and personal links with a substantial impact on the city, and its scientific quality and know-how have furnished an extensive network of ambassadors to make the good name of Donostia known worldwide. It has also homed in on local people, making them eager participants in its passion for knowledge.

The prizes were awarded today, Friday 30 October, as part of Innovation Week, at Hotel María Cristina in San Sebastián, at a ceremony attended by the Mayor of San Sebastián, Eneko Goia, Economic Promotion Councillor Marisol Garmendia and the Head of Economic Promotion, Imanol Lasa.

REPORT ON WEEKINN 2020

The DonostiaINN Awards ceremony was the last event in the 7th Innovation Week, which since 24 October has offered the people of Donostia a space for reflection and debate on the challenges facing us as a result of the ‘superchanges’ we are undergoing. This year, with the assistance of the Gipuzkoa Provincial Council, Donostia WeekINN offered online activities, events with a smaller audience and street exhibitions, and also featured personalities such as Román Arjona, Chief Economist of the DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission, and artificial intelligence expert Nuria Oliver. Streamings were relayed via WeekINN TV from a set at the Talent House, and debates were organised around various themes such as the future of events and the design of cities.

Economic Promotion Councillor Marisol Garmendia noted “in these conditions and against such a complicated backdrop, it is most satisfying that we were able to hold the Innovation Week, and adapt both the contents and the actual format. In due consideration of the challenges our city faces, we felt it was important to provide a space for reflection, knowledge and connection, to make a contribution to the task of devising and developing new bases for our model of life and work, putting people first at all times. And we did so, implementing new digital formats to disseminate and produce experiences and encounters to share ideas in order to address the superchange now upon us. It proved possible to carry out 100% of the activities, with even tighter security and health protocols following the recent declaration of a state of alarm. We noted a very high level of participation and satisfaction of all those involved. This WeekINN has definitely helped us make a start on clearing a path, with formats that will help us move closer to people, businesses and all agents, to learn and be capable of carrying out projects towards the future, in a change of paradigm such as that we are experiencing at the present time, stepping up the pace of trends that were already upon us, such as gradual digitalisation, the main feature of this WeekINN”.