Tech Champions 2023: winners and shortlists

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Harrison Newsham NOVEMBER 15 2023

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“There will come a point when no job is needed,” declared Elon Musk earlier this month. “You can have a job if you want for personal satisfaction, but the AI will be able to do everything.”

Tech entrepreneurs have their own agenda, of course, but the fact that Musk delivered his bold prediction to UK prime minister Rishi Sunak during the UK’s AI Safety Summit testifies to artificial intelligence’s emergence as a key global concern.

So this year’s FT’s Tech Champions survey looks at how Europe’s businesses have risen to the challenges and opportunities presented by AI, as well as the other disruptive events and developments of 2022-2023.

A call for entries in July prompted a healthy response from FT readers, who nominated companies that are tackling problems ranging from the energy transition and deforestation to AI bias and health threats.

Sector categories
Banking, payments & ecommerce

Business & professional services

Education & training

Energy

Healthcare

IT & cyber security

Logistics

Manufacturing & construction

Markets & financial services

FT journalists then drew up shortlists of four or five entries in nine sectors, from which a judging panel selected a winner. Both the shortlisted companies and the winners are detailed below, and our accompanying special report provides in-depth company profiles.

This is the third successive year that the FT has celebrated Europe’s Tech Champions. There may come a point where AI can “do everything” — but it has some distance to go before it can match businesses’ ingenuity. 

The top shortlisted companies | FT Tech Champions 2023
Banking, payments and ecommerce
Unbox the Universe
The fintech aims to deliver social benefits through “Ucoins”, which operate within a “closed loop network” and can be spent only in specified ways — for example, by recovering opioid addicts, refugees in camps, or citizens of places that want to give local businesses a boost.

Cleo
Cleo’s AI budgeting app helps people manage finances, with a light-hearted approach that appeals to a younger, more financially diverse set of users.

R3
The distributed ledger technology company’s Corda platform aims to enable a “network of regulated networks” by easing interoperability, and has been used as basis for some central bank digital currencies.

WINNER: WorldRemit
Part of the Zepz Group, which also owns remittance brand SendWave, WorldRemit makes it easier for users to transfer money internationally.

This year’s judges 
Clare Hickie, chief technology officer Emea, Workday 

Amy Lewin, editor at Sifted — FT-backed news hub about European start-ups

Kate McGinn, analyst, Seedcamp — investor in pan-European start-ups 

Matthew Vincent, editor, FT Project Publishing

Business & professional services
SaveMoneyCutCarbon
A one-stop shop for sustainability-related products and services for businesses. Its EcoWise app aims to improve carbon literacy among employees.

Ben
Ben is a software platform that enables businesses to “put [employee] benefits admin on autopilot”, yielding cost and time savings.

ES3G
A mobile app enables workers to tell ES3G how they are being treated; ES3G then passes the data on to multinationals at top of supply chain, who can see whether they are complying with worker protection requirements.

WINNER: Too Good to Go
A mobile app service that reduces food waste by making it easy for retailers to sell discounted produce that would otherwise go to waste to the public at the end of the day. A B Corp, TGTG also campaigns on food labelling to curb waste.

Education & training
IU International University of Applied Sciences
Offering both distance and on-campus learning, the Germany-based university not only encourages students to use AI for research, but has also developed Syntea, a chatbot that gauges students’ level of knowledge to help them learn.

Fab Inc
The international education adviser helps policymakers in developing countries decide how to use technology and how to ensure that schooling can continue in spite of climate change.

WINNER: Imagi
The platform aims to make computer coding fun for children, with a long-term goal of increasing the number of female coders.

Obrizum
The organisational training company’s AI-based approach enables it to update content quickly and tailor it to individual learners.

Energy
PowerMarket
The company’s AI and machine learning-powered platforms use satellite images and weather maps to simplify site selection, building and subsequent monitoring of solar projects.

Polarium
Energy storage developer whose modular battery technology eases energy storage for intermittent renewables.

Newcleo
A nuclear power company that develops small modular reactors that use nuclear waste as fuel.

WINNER: Reactive Technologies
By measuring grid inertia — in effect the reserve of energy production in the event of a power failure — more accurately, the company’s technology enables energy operators to budget their energy more efficiently.

Healthcare
WINNER: Airfinity
The health data analytics group uses machine learning to provide more accurate forecasts of disease spread and likely developments in various health scenarios.

Mediktor
The company’s AI-based medical chatbot helps patients, health services and health insurers, and aims to improve equitable access to care for all.

Isomorphic Labs
The DeepMind sister company aims to use AI to speed drug discovery.

Navenio
Navenio provides indoor location-mapping technology using smartphone sensors. This enables big healthcare facilities to orchestrate care and manage equipment more efficiently, freeing up time for staff to focus on patients.

IT & cyber security
Darktrace
The cyber security firm uses AI to study vulnerabilities in companies’ systems and to “think like an attacker” to ward off the threat from offensive AI.

WINNER: DeepL
DeepL uses proprietary tweaks to neural networks to provide high-quality translations in multiple languages.

TurinTech
The code optimisation start-up maximises the efficiency of AIs, which in turn minimises their energy use.

Lakera
The Zurich-based company’s software checks AI programs for reliability and safety, reducing the risks arising from hallucinations, data-set biases, and malware.

Mindtech
The company’s Dolphin platform creates synthetic data sets on which to train AI vision systems, mitigating the risks — such as bias and privacy breaches — of real-world data sets.

Logistics
Vay
The app-based hire car service provides users with a car that is parked remotely by “teledrivers”; its aim is to cut congestion in cities by maximising vehicle use while minimising parking stress.

WINNER: Windracers
The company’s unmanned aerial vehicles can deliver 100kg up to 1,000km, easing transport — including aid deliveries — to remote places.

GXO Logistics UK
By deploying AI software, the company optimised delivery schedules in Iceland, significantly reducing carbon emissions. Other tech systems streamline inventory and minimise packaging.

Lilium
Electric vertical-take-off-and-landing aircraft promise to provide high-speed air mobility while minimising both noise and carbon pollution.

Manufacturing & construction
CloudNC
The autonomous manufacturing company’s technology enables users to present a machine with a 3D model of a part, after which the machine can determine the tools and techniques needed to produce that part.

Chemify
Spun out last year from Glasgow University, the company’s software designs novel molecules, which its hardware can then manufacture.

WINNER: Kebony
The company’s technology gives fast-growing softwoods the same toughness and durability as tropical hardwoods, potentially addressing both carbon emissions and deforestation.

Treble Technologies
Treble Technologies’ acoustic simulation technology enables architects and car designers to test acoustics without having to build expensive prototypes.

Markets & financial services
WINNER: Sylvera
Combining sophisticated technology and carbon measurement methodologies, Sylvera provides ratings and data assessing climate action investments, including carbon credits.

Opna
The climate fintech helps companies discover, finance and manage pre-assessed carbon reduction and removal projects.

Fable Data
The start-up’s technology aggregates and anonymises consumer and SME transaction data from across Europe and analyses it to provide insights into economic trends ahead of official data releases.

The Data City
Company data plus machine learning, applied via Data City’s “Real Time Industrial Classifications” — a more up-to-date version of the usual Standard Industrial Classification system — provides a snapshot of the UK economy and of emerging sectors or clusters for policymakers and businesses.

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