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06 April 2023

Iren Startup Award: awarded innovative companies Antifermo (IT), Ambri (USA) and InSensus Projec (ITA)

More than 100 innovative start-ups and SMEs took part in the third edition of the Iren Startup Award, the contest organized by the Iren Group dedicated to innovation for the promotion of a circular and sustainable economy model, which took place today in Turin at the National Museum of the Risorgimento.

The award was assigned to Antifemo, an Italian startup that has developed an advanced rapid composting process for the transformation of sludge and organic waste into fertilizers or secondary solid fuel, and the American Ambri, which presented innovative liquid metal batteries for energy storage.

The two winning projects will receive 15 thousand euros  and the opportunity to start a collaboration with the Iren Group on experimental, industrial or commercial level of the concept.

The award follows the creation of a Call4Circular, promoted by Iren with the Circular Economy Lab, a partnership between Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center and Cariplo Factory: the call, whose scouting lasted about two months, focused in particular on identifying those projects that could improve and optimize the recycling mechanism of material flows, contributing to the development of new supply chains (such as rare earths, WEEE, precious metals), or enhance waste water and sewage sludge management systems. Hydrogen and storage technologies are two other issues at the heart of many participating ideas and projects.

The contest has already reached at its third edition an international scope: only 55% of the participating start-ups and SMEs is Italian. In fact have participated at the contest entities from all over Europe (Great Britain, Germany, Luxembourg, Holland and Sweden) and also from the rest of the world. 5% of the projects come from Israeli realities, 10% from Asia and Oceania.

During today, was also awarded the Call4Ideas Award prize , an initiative launched by Iren Innovation Lab to promote innovative solutions and proposals by the same Iren’s team. Among more than 150 projects, only four innovative ideas have been awarded, ranging from solutions for monitoring the impact of soiling on the performance of photovoltaic systems, to the project of an exoskeleton to reduce the effort related to the repeated activity of manual handling of loads, from advanced sensors for the recognition of humidity and flooding in district heating substations, to the "Micro Turbine Zero Head" project, aimed at safeguarding the water resource in the reference territories of the Group. 

As regards the Call4Ideas contest, this is a real training experience, in fact the 20 participants who passed the first selection, have been involved in a coaching and mentoring path dedicated to the development and empowerment of the ideas. 

"The main challenges of the circular economy are related to the development of rare earths, to the optimization of water management and to the exploitation and transformation of waste into energy. The Iren Group is active in all three areas through investments and projects that will help to strengthen the primacy of our country in the circular economy area" - declares Luca Dal Fabbro, President of the IREN Group - "Similarly, we are convinced that, to make a difference in this game, we need to get out of the net and, strengthen the link with start-ups, with universities and innovative SMEs,  promote new ideas and accompany the excellence of the Group in a continuous upgrading path. With the Iren Startup Award we look with curiosity at the future of energy and at the new innovative challenges that await us and, in an interconnected way, be able to anticipate trends and strength of new technologies”.


Finalists projects of the IREN Start Up Awards


Hydro X

Hydro X born in 2016 as a spin-off of Yissum, the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The startup has developed a hydrogen storage technology, which allows the storage and transport of hydrogen in a green, non-toxic, non-flammable, non-explosive, economical and efficient vector, from an energy point of view.

The patented technology uses the formate-bicarbonate cycle to store and release hydrogen in an ecological liquid organic vector, obtained through a catalytic circular reaction that is based on both the catalyst and the process.



Ambri was founded in 2010 as a spin-off of MIT by Prof. Donald Sadoway and David Bradwell. Ambri has developed liquid metal batteries for large-scale stationary energy storage whose chemical composition includes a molten calcium alloy anode, a solid antimony alloy cathode, and a molten salt calcium chloride electrolyte. Ambri has filed patents about the chemical structure, design and implementation of technology.


EnerVenue is a scaleup founded in 2010 with headquarters in California and specialized in the production of energy storage solutions. EnerVenue develops and produces nickel-hydrogen battery (Energy Storage Vessels) modules for stationary storage on grid-scales. Nickel-hydrogen batteries have been designed for applications that can be integrated into renewable plants. They have been tested under extreme conditions (e.g aerospace applications) for their long last, but the high cost of catalyst materials has hindered their commercial adoption. EnerVenue has modified the materials used technology of metal-hydrogen batteries to reduce the use of expensive catalysts and simplify production design.



C-Green is a Swedish startup founded in 2015 that has developed the innovative process of treatment OxypowerHTC sludge, given by the combination of hydrothermal combustion and wet oxidation. This technology allows to transform the sewage sludge, of different nature, in Hydrochar, usable as fertilizer or biocarbon.

Phosphorus and ammonia can also be recovered from the process waste. Process is very energy efficient, since it uses the residual heat of wet oxidation for hydrothermal carbonization.


Antifemo is an innovative Italian startup founded in 2018, and offers an advanced rapid composting process (REC) adaptable to sludge and organic waste for treatment and transformation into fertilizers or secondary solid fuel. This system does not require pre-treatments and uses a self-regenerative catalyst, adsorbed on an inert support. The accelerated aerobic fermentation process, which generates heat, makes it thermally self-sufficient.

InSensus Project

InSensus Project is an Italian startup founded in 2015 that offers a set of sensors for many applications, including SuperMicron is a patented sensor to analyze in real time shocks, deformations, anomalies and pressure variations in pipes. The sensor is crashproof, waterproof, made of composite materials and adapts to all sizes and materials of the pipes.

The technology is wireless, with a battery life of 30 years and a frequency of sending data 20 minutes. Data can also be shared through LTE and proprietary software allows to analyze and view specific KPIs based on customer needs.

IGL Innovation Foundry

IGL Innovation Foundry is an Italian startup founded in 2022 that has patented at European and Italian level an innovative technological process for the denaturation of asbestos with the aim of enhancing materials containing asbestos in secondary raw materials with applications on several sectors. The technology consists in modifying the crystalline structure of asbestos using in input acid recovered from agro-industrial waste and recovering in output the carbon dioxide and hydrogen emitted. The startup has also developed a study and business plan for a mobile prototype that allows you to transport the plant directly to the sites of interest. The main chemical elements recovered and exploitable in other sectors are Mg, Ca, Ni, Al, Co2.


Polysecure is a German SME founded in 2009, which has developed a plastic waste sorter ''SORT4CIRCLE', which combines multiple plastic sorting and labeling technologies based on infrared-to-visible-light fluorescent markers (NIR, fluorescent markers) and customized macromolecules. SORT4CIRCLE detector selects waste plastic in a single step, combining together: Machine Vision, artificial intelligence (AI), Near infrared (NIR), markers, digital watermarks and color for separate collection. Polysecure is also developing two tracking technologies with specific markers for the packaging and automotive industries with currently underway pilot projects.