One of the main features of this year's twelfth edition of the Sikorsky Challenge Festival of Innovative Projects that immediately caught my eye was its working atmosphere. Of course, the grand opening and awarding of the winners took place, and there was a certain enthusiasm in the speeches, but the main thing that brought together specialists of various profiles to KPI in those October days (the festival took place from October 24 to 27) was startup projects.

At the same time, there was no shortage of various events, as there is every year during the festival, and the war did not prevent this. Suffice it to say that, in addition to the main competition for startup projects, the program also included an international forum "International Support for the Innovative Transformation of Ukraine", a bootcamp as part of a grant project by the Swedish Institute RESCUU; a competition for projects for the "S.P. Korolyov Award" dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the enterprise; presentation of the Sikorsky Challenge Immersive virtual exhibition; panel discussions "Innovations in the defense industry in wartime and postwar times", "Solving the problems of development of the Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine Innovation Ecosystem in wartime and postwar times" and "Implementation of modern technologies for prosthetics and rehabilitation of people affected by war in Ukraine, and the transfer of resuscitation vehicles for the Ukrainian Defense Forces, purchased at the expense of the social project Ukraine Mission of the Igor Vitenko and its founder, a well-known surgeon, representative of the International NGO Environmental Safety Council in the Kingdom of Belgium, Igor Vitenko, as well as the Belgian volunteer community. And, of course, during the festival, pitch presentations and poster presentations of projects and communication between jury members, investors, and representatives of enterprises with the authors of the developments were constantly taking place.

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Teams from 16 Ukrainian cities took part in the startup competition. In addition, teams from universities, organizations, and companies from the UK, Spain, Germany, the USA, Portugal, and Japan presented non-competitive projects. It is worth noting that the Sikorsky Challenge 2023 set a record for these festivals: despite the war, 200 applications were submitted! Experts selected 130 of them for the final round. In total, 860 people took part in the festival events - 750 in person and 150 online.

Representatives of 19 countries took part in the festival remotely - as startups, project authors, members of the International Jury, etc: Great Britain, the United States, Japan, Israel, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Georgia, and others. And this is another record for this year's festival!

kpi images - Під час панельної дискусії (модератор Віталій Пасічник)

The analysis of the projects showed that the vast majority of them were devoted to improving our country's defense capabilities, overcoming the problems caused by the war, as well as to the post-war revival of Ukraine and ensuring the structural transformation and modernization of its economy. "This year's Sikorsky Challenge 2023 festival is primarily dedicated to startups and developments aimed at helping the Armed Forces of Ukraine," said Mykhailo Zgurovsky, Rector of Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute and Academician of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, during the opening ceremony. But he also noted that not only these issues are of concern to the participants. "Last year's eleventh Sikorsky Challenge festival was dedicated to the post-war innovative transformation of Ukraine," he recalled, "It was the time when President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy presented the program of the post-war revival of our country, first on May 5 in Poland, then a number of events dedicated to its innovative development took place. In that comprehensive program, which includes political, social and economic components, KPI wants to be responsible for high-tech - it will help transform Ukraine with its low-tech, raw material economy into a high-tech country like Singapore, Israel, the UAE, South Korea, which were once in the same state as we are today, but transformed into developed countries. This automatically ensures the growth of defense potential and protection of the country."
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Over the course of four autumn days, the festival participants presented their developments and startup projects and competed for the attention and support of potential investors and customers in five sections: 1). "Aviation and Space (49 finalist projects); 2). "Infrastructure and Industrial High-Tech (14 finalist projects); 3). "Biomedical Engineering and Human Health (29 finalist projects); 4). "Energy and Environmental Security, Green Energy (17 finalist projects); 5). "Information Technology, Digital Country, Cybersecurity (14 finalist projects). In a separate section "International Grant Projects and Startups of Foreign Universities/Organizations - Partners of the Open Innovation Ecosystem "Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine" created on the basis of the university, projects from the United States, Israel, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Spain, and Portugal were presented. Social action projects were also presented separately.

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kpi images - учасники

The festival events were officially opened by Iryna Vereshchuk, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, Minister for Reintegration and Occupied Territories. "The war continues. For more than six hundred days we have been repelling the enemy's aggressive attacks on all fronts. We started with a Molotov cocktail in the hands of our volunteers, and today we already have an "Army of Drones," she addressed the participants. "We have made a big step forward in repelling the enemy. But we can win only in a smart war. When we are high-tech, innovative, we will be able to stay far ahead of our enemy... High-tech is what will make us a developed country, help us rebuild our country in the future, make it powerful. And, of course, it will help to demine our lands, save hundreds of thousands of lives of our women and children, civilians living in contaminated areas." In her welcoming speech, she also said that certain decisions had been made to support the festival's participants even before the official start of the festival: "There is already a certain result of our meeting: we have agreed that after the festival we will hold a special meeting, and representatives of the Ministry of Strategic Industries will take control of the developments that were presented here. After all, some of them have already been tested and are ready for large-scale implementation, and some have proven themselves on the battlefield, saving thousands of lives of our defenders."

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The International Forum "International Support for the Innovative Transformation of Ukraine" was opened by Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation for IT Development Oleksandr Borniakov, who is a KPI graduate and has participated in the festival for several times. He spoke about the need to make asymmetric decisions in the war against such a numerous and resource-rich enemy as Russia, and that such asymmetric decisions lie in the application of modern technologies. Among other things, he said very important words for developers of new technology and startups: "We, as a state, must provide assistance at the stage when everything is just beginning and no one believes in it, but the entrepreneur has an idea and wants to realize it. We see our role as helping them at that stage. That's why we have the Brave1 initiative, where you can come, register and get an initial grant... In the budget for next year, we have allocated more than a billion hryvnias for this, which is about $40 million. Now the grant is equal to the equivalent of 5.25 thousand dollars, but there will be 50 or even 100 thousand. And we are now thinking about announcing competitions for the country's priority developments. For the winners, we may be able to provide half a million or even a million dollars as assistance to create what the country needs most."

Many interesting things were discussed at the forum, which usually go unnoticed by journalists and sometimes remain unnoticed by experts. For example, the audience listened with unrelenting attention to the speech of Oleksandr Grudanov, a representative of the well-known company in the field of supplying electronic circuit design automation (EDA) tools Silvaco Inc. and also a graduate of Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, dedicated to the issues of the "chip war" - a real war for the microchip market that has broken out in the world, and the revival of the microelectronic industry in Ukraine to return it to the community of fourteen countries that produce such products, as well as the role that Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute can play in this. No less important were the experts' thoughts on ways to solve the problem of demining, including humanitarian demining, which is extremely acute in our country, because, as the forum participants noted, today the total area of mined areas in Ukraine has reached 174 thousand square kilometers. The forum also touched upon the problems of the domestic defense industry, in particular, the production of armored vehicles, robotic devices, and helicopters, which are still lacking and are extremely necessary for our country. At the same time, speeches by representatives of foreign universities and partner organizations of the Sikorsky Challenge Ukraine Innovation Ecosystem convincingly demonstrated that we already have reliable allies in today's and tomorrow's work on innovative transformations of our country.

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kpi images - Спілкування біля стендів

We won't dwell on the specifics of most of the defense-related projects presented, but we would like to note that almost all sections were devoted to defense. A striking example is the Ballistic Concrete project, which won in one of the nominations of the Infrastructure and Industrial High Tech section. "We produce concretes with improved characteristics for use in civil defense facilities, in protective structures of energy system facilities, and in the military," said Oleksii Mykhailov, a representative of the company that presented it at the festival. And now we are constantly working to improve the quality of our products and expand the market." We would like to add that certain engineering solutions using this material are offered in the construction of bomb shelters, military defenses, such as the well-known "dragon's teeth," etc. The main customers are concrete plants that make the final products, so it is primarily about scaling the project.

Many extremely relevant developments were presented in the Biomedical Engineering and Human Health section. Ihor Khudetskyi, its ideologist and team leader, Head of the Department of Biosafety and Human Health of the FBMI of Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, spoke about one of the most ambitious: "We are presenting two interrelated projects under the general title 'Reconstructive and Restorative Technologies'. The first one is based on the principle of a "holding", where there are several components, each of which is responsible for a certain stage of the use of surgical technologies. These technologies are aimed primarily at treating wounds with extensive bone damage. One of the technologies involves the Franzevych Institute for Problems of Materials Science of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine: synthetic bone materials are created that, once injected into the body as an endoprosthesis, transform into the patient's bone in about 3-5 months (becoming part of the patient's bone! - author's note). But in general, this project has many other components, each of which is a separate technical solution, such as the use of equipment for surgical interventions, high-frequency welding, processing, sanitation, wound disinfection, and more. It is in such a conglomerate that all this allows us to bring the patient from the moment of injury to his recovery as a healthy person." All this, said Ihor Khudetskyi, requires the introduction of medical technologies, for which the authors are constantly working with surgeons, and the training of specially trained specialists. That is, the overall Reconstructive and Restorative Technologies project also has an educational component. What it will be - courses, a certificate program, or something else - is currently being decided. Not surprisingly, these developments were also recognized by the jury.

The work "Exoskeleton for wrist rehabilitation Carpiece" (headed by Doctor of Technical Sciences M.O. Bezuglyi) was not lost next to such powerful technological innovations. From the name it is clear that this product is intended to restore the lower part of the hand. "Currently, medical institutions do not have small devices for such narrowly targeted injuries. Usually, people with such injuries are rehabilitated with the help of painful exercises using some kind of expander, which patients do not always perform in full. So rehabilitation takes longer. The advantage of this device is that it can be easily adjusted to the wounded's arm: using 3D printing technology, it can be made individually for a specific person," said the author, this year's graduate of the Faculty of Instrumentation of our university Mykhailo Mykolenko. "It has no analogues. The devices that are currently in use cover not only the wrist, but also much larger areas of the body. This one is much simpler and, of course, cheaper: its preliminary calculated cost in equivalent is 99 US dollars."

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kpi images - О. Кривякін та І. Худецький біля свого проєкту
One of the events of the festival, as we mentioned above, was a bootcamp (i.e., an intensive training and competition for students and young scientists on international cooperation in research and innovation). It was organized within the framework of the Swedish Institute's grant project "Resilience of Education: Sustainability and Cooperation for Ukrainian Universities" ("Resilience of Education: Sustainability and Cooperation for Ukrainian Universities (RESCUU). It was organized by the KPI Student Parliament with the assistance and active support of two university departments - the DNVR and the DMS. This was the second bootcamp in KPI, and it was dedicated to the problems of startup development. "We held the bootcamp together with Poznan University of Technology and Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Our teams listened to many lectures, got acquainted with the presentations of the projects submitted to the Sikorsky Challenge 2023 competition," says Yulia Maksymiuk, President of the KPI Student Parliament. There were 3 projects from Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute and 4 projects from other universities. The winner was the project of Bila Tserkva Agrarian National University on environmental issues, dedicated to the organization of the Underground plastic sorting and recycling station. An interesting fact: according to the coordinator of this station, Oleksandr Grechko, it was supposed to open on February 24, 2022, but due to the outbreak of war, it started working only a month later. It operates in Dnipro. Initially, about 100 people a month came to sort, but now more than 2,000 do. The recycled plastic is used to make plates and other items. Today, the project needs to scale up.

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kpi images - Учасники передачі реанімобілів для Сил оборони України
Of course, each of the projects that made it to the finals of this year's startup competition deserves at least a separate paragraph, but for lack of space, we will only name the winners. They were 27 projects, and in each of the sections they were also evaluated in separate nominations.

Aviation and Space section

The winner of the section is the project "Sensitive elements of fiber-optic gyroscopes and an automated station for their manufacture."

Winners by nomination:

- Export potential of products - project "Strike Unmanned Aerial Vehicle";
- Prospects, investment attractiveness - project "Sensitive elements of fiber-optic gyroscopes and an automated station for their manufacture";
- Practical readiness for mass production - the project "New high-performance advanced heat exchange surfaces for multipurpose applications";
- Technological readiness of the prototype - project "PolyITAN nanosatellites of the CubeSat standard".

Section "Infrastructure and industrial high-tech"

The winner of the section is the MST bar Ukraine project.

kpi images - Організатори та переможці фестивалю Sikorsky Challenge 2023
Winners by nomination:
- Best project idea - SmartBicycleParking project;
- Best project technology - MST bar Ukraine project;
- Best Solution to a Problem - "ROPER BOATS - Heavy Duty HDPE Flotilla" project;
- Best Business Model - Ballistic Concrete project.
Section "Biomedical engineering and Human Health"
The winner of the section is Versi Bionics.
Winners by nomination:
- Best project idea - EOGVIEW - EOG BASED EYE TRACKER project;
- Best project technology - project "Bioceramic scaffolds for bone tissue engineering";
- Best Problem Solving - Versi Bionics project;
- Best Business Model - project "Reconstructive and Restorative Technologies in Surgery".

Section "Energy and environmental security, green energy"
The winner of the section is the HeatWise project.
Winners by nomination:
- Best Project Idea - Photovoltaic Installation with Energy Storage project;
- Best project technology - HeatWise project;
- Best Problem Solving - FreeBreathing project;
- Best business model - project "Waste disposal from mining and processing plants".
Section "Information Technology, Digital country, cybersecurity"

kpi images - Під час дискусії
The winner of the section is the Innovative Communication Line project.

Winners by nomination:
- Best project idea - Univera project;
- Best project technology - the Innovative Communication Line project;
- Best Problem Solving - YARD delivery project;
- Best Business Model - HeRo Study Space project.

The winner among the non-competitive projects was the Krip-A Computerized Combat Information System project.

In the Blue Economy section, the project "Protection of Critical Infrastructure of the Coastal Seabed" was selected as the winner.

The project "'Obriy' - a platform for reintegration of veterans" won in the section of Social Action projects.

kpi images - Під час церемонії нагородження
Awards from partners and sponsors of the festival

Winner recognized the KTGR Modular Platform project and awarded the team with a prize of UAH 462,000.

OJSC "Meridian" named after S.P. Korolev awarded the following projects:
1st place - "Unmanned Barrage Munition" project - UAH 50,000;
2nd place - project "Short-range terahertz radar" - UAH 30,000;
3rd place - the project "Data-link, a jamming-resistant communication line for UAVs" - UAH 20,000.

Leonid Kuchma's Presidential Foundation "Ukraine" recognized the following projects:

- "Bioceramic scaffolds for bone tissue engineering" - UAH 40,000;
- Versi Bionics - UAH 40,000;
- "Dual-purpose cooling system for electronic modules based on a gravity heat pipe with a threaded evaporator" - UAH 40,000;
- Combined UAV monitoring system - UAH 40,000;
- "Warning technology for the Pobratym protective helmet" - UAH 15,000.

The Kolo Charitable Foundation recognized the following projects:

- "EOGVIEW - EOG-BASED EYE TRACKER";
- Bioceramic scaffolds for bone tissue engineering;
- Versi Bionics and allocated funds to present them at the Sikorsky Challenge Immersive virtual exhibition.

The Sikorsky Challenge Innovation Holding offered acceleration to the projects:

- "Data-link", a noise-resistant communication line for UAVs;
- Armored wheels;
- Up-Cycle;
- "Student+" platform;
- "Waste disposal from mining and processing plants".

kpi images - Виступає Михайло Згуровський
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Summarizing the results of the festival and, in particular, assessing the level of defense-related projects, Yuriy Yekhanurov, Director of the Institute of Advanced Defense Technologies, said: "All the time we communicate with the guys from the front line, and they talk about what is needed right now. But here we have to think about tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. And when we talk about drones today and award the best projects in this area, it's very right. But tomorrow, we will need these drones to receive information from space... So see you at the next festival!"

Dmytro Stefanovych