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Europe focuses on Start-ups from San Sebastian

Myriam Ocaña, Bunt Planet, Alfonso Gurpegui, City Councillor, and Euken Sesé, Director of Fomento de San Sebastián.


Three companies from San Sebastian, Bunt Planet, SL, Smiley Owl Tech and HWS Concrete Towers, SL. have just benefitted from the funds offered by the SME Instrument, Horizon 2020 European programme, aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises which develop projects that offer innovative solutions to the market. Approval of these projects means that there are already 17 companies from San Sebastian, many of which are backed by Fomento de San Sebastián, that have benefitted from the SME Instrument calls since it was launched in 2014, which means that around 5% of Spanish funds have been obtained with a total of over 13 million euros. The companies from San Sebastian represent 70% of the projects in Phase II in the Basque Country. Fomento wishes to strengthen this positioning with the implementation of a specific guidance service for companies that wish to access these subsidies.


The Deputy Mayor, Ernesto Gasco pointed out that “the European SME Instrument programme is the reference for technology based innovative small enterprises or start-ups, and that more than 60% of the funds that come to the Basque Country are for companies from San Sebastian or the surrounding area, which offers great satisfaction. However, we are aware of the need to continue to increase the innovation ecosystem, so we have implemented this pioneering service for the guidance and processing of these subsidies for start-ups that wish to benefit from these funds”.


Fomento San Sebastiánis working so that more companies from San Sebastian are included on this list and it constantly offers support and specialised guidance in the presentation of projects to the SME Instrument, through the organisation of ad-hoc specialised workshops and conferences (during the WeekINN-Innovation Week), individual guidance sessions, etc. as well as the possibility of applying for DonostiaINN subsidies to shoulder the strategic costs. The final step taken by Fomento has been to activate a specific guidance and training session for companies from San Sebastian who wish to access the SME Instrument, with the organisation of workshops showing how a project should be presented.


The development of innovative projects in the city is one of the priorities of Fomento de San Sebastián and for this reason, it accompanies these companies in talent attraction and retention, incorporation of technical know-how through tools such as Technological Awards, DonostiaINN economic subsidies or their dissemination and promotion at an international level.


BuntPlanet has developed the BuntBrain software, which applies Big Data and Artificial Intelligence to the reduction of water losses in the drinking water distribution network. It has two modules: WaterMeters which control commercial water losses (water consumed but not invoiced due to reading errors), and LeakFinder, which detects leaks in the pipes that transport the water to the end user. For its development, BuntPlanet has brought together knowledge from diverse disciplines (Software Engineering, Hydraulics, Metrology and Advanced Mathematics) in the same tool. The SME Instrument subsidy is being used for the international launch of BuntBrain. To do so, BuntPlanet has selected four countries with different characteristics in their water networks, in which to implement its new technology: Germany, Spain, Bolivia, Costa Rica.


With this SME Instrument subsidy, HWS Concrete Towers, set up in 2015, will diversify its activity beyond the construction of concrete towers for wind turbines having embarked on the design and manufacture of the “AirCrane System”, a construction methodology for the wind sector based on special cranes, capable of building wind turbine towers for any height and weight, as well as the length of the blades, which are the latest tendency and demand of the wind power sector. The design and manufacture of the demonstrator of the innovative crane will involve a global investment of 2.12 million euros, of which 70% will be funded by the EC through the H2020 programme’s SME Instrument.


Smiley Owl Tech has a continuous authentication system of the identity of the online student, using an automatic facial recognition algorithm to verify the identity of the user and detect improper behaviour throughout the learning process.


Spain remains the country with the most companies receiving funding, with a total of 645 projects funded with around 250 million euros, unlike other countries, such as the United Kingdom, with 134 million euros or Germany, with 100 million euros. In the Basque Country, there are 46 projects that are benefitting from the SME Instrument, whereby the majority are in Phase I (29 in Phase I compared to 17 in Phase II).


In the case of San Sebastian, there are 17 firms in total, twelve of which are in Phase II and five firms that obtained funding in Phase I. These figures represent 76% of the projects in Gipuzkoa and 68% of the Phase II projects in the Basque Country, which shows the strength of San Sebastian in innovative and avant-garde projects. The SME Instrument, managed by the European Union within the framework of the Horizon Programme 2020, was introduced with the aim of identifying and supporting highly innovative small and medium sized companies that are considered to be the base of the economic future of the EU. Phase I is defined as a study phase aimed at identifying ideas and giving them a business boost, whereby the subsidies can amount to up to 50,000 euros. Phase II involves the implementation and development of the project with subsidies of up to 2.5 million euros.


As Luis Guerra, representative of the CDTI EU Programmes Division, explained in the session organised by Fomento San Sebastián during WeekINN on 23rd October 2017, the call is going to undergo several important changes in 2018, which includes the opening up of the themes to allow access to companies from niche sectors, as well as the incorporation of a defence of the previous project to strengthen candidacies and foster knowledge of the projects by the evaluators.



On Thursday, 22nd March, Fomento de San Sebastián, in collaboration with Zabala Consulting, will organise a new workshop on this call to inform about the European SME Instrument programme and help companies present a project in the forthcoming calls of the programme. This DonostiaINN workshop, which will be held at Talent House, from 9.30am to 11am, is aimed exclusively at SMEs that are interested in growing through this call. It is a reduced format, by invitation only, aimed at those companies that are thinking about applying to the call or which have a project to participate in it.


During the working session, the experts will present the call, how to identify whether the project is ready, as well as the keys to submit a good report. They will also offer a case study, whereby the people involved will introduce themselves and explain how they did it.


In the following days, those companies that attend and whose projects are mature, may have a 2-hour individual session with Zabala Consulting, an expert consultancy firm in innovation, with extensive experience in the presentation of projects to the SME Instrument.


The companies from San Sebastian that have accessed the SME Instrument are:

Phase I

  • Wireless Cities. Smart transport system for the coach and bus sector
  • Iline Microsystems: Design and manufacture of innovative medical devices in the haemostasis field.
  • Instant Sport. Wavegarden project, artificial waves.
  • Zoovel Technologies, S.L. A global supplier of technology for telecommunications companies.
  • Sapa Operaciones, S.L. It has developed new automatic transmission technology for heavy vehicles called "Binary Logic" without a par converter, which bases its operation on clutches and gear trains.


Phase II

  • Arima Software Design. Innovative protection software against cyber attacks
  • Hvid Security. Supplier of security software for self-protected applications in real time.
  • Farsens. Designs and produces revolutionary wireless sensors without a battery.
  • Graphenea. Manufactures and sells high quality graphene wafers and develops techologies based on graphene.
  • Likuid Nanotek, S.L. Breaks the dependence of water on gas and oil with a profitable waste-free nano-membrane technology for the reuse of water.
  • Neos Surgery. Surgical products through the creation, analysis, design, production and marketing of innovative medical devices in the field of cranial and spinal neurosurgery.
  • Nesplora, S.L. Standardised and scientifically validated technological solutions that allow human behaviour to be studied, diagnosed or treated.
  • Countercraft. Pioneering supplier of counterintelligence and cyber net deception products to detect directed attacks.
  • Alerion. Offers solutions for the renewable energy industry, specialised in the development of autonomous precision navigation, artificial vision, and embedded high performance software

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