Speakers and the members of the jury of the 2021 edition of the SpinUOC (photo: UOC)
RubÚn Permuy Iglesias
You can now register to attend the final of SpinUOC, one of the University's entrepreneurship and knowledge transfer promotion programmes
The areas covered by the projects are education (e-learning, podcasts for students and how to use gamification to learn about technology), digital skills (understanding banking contracts, and video calls for people with dependencies), health (genomic precision therapy, and supporting people with autism in their daily lives) and industrial techniques (micro soldering)
According to the Spanish Tech Ecosystem report, Spain has over 10,000 start-ups; its entrepreneurial ecosystem has increased in value fivefold since 2015 and is now worth over €46 billion. In this context, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) is driving entrepreneurship forward as a way of bringing the knowledge generated at the University closer to society and increasing employability. One of the UOC's initiatives is the SpinUOC programme for the promotion of entrepreneurial projects and the transfer of knowledge, for which the annual final event will take place in June. Over the ten times it has run, SpinUOC has promoted over 80 projects.
Under the slogan "10 years making an impact", the SpinUOC final, showcasing eight innovation projects conceived by the UOC community, will take place in Barcelona's Old Estrella Damm Factory on 30 June. The projects will be presented as pitches lasting no more than five minutes, and three prizes will be awarded. After the presentations, there will be time for participants to network. The event, which will start at 7 p.m., is open to the public. All you have to do if you wish to attend is register in advance. It will also be available via video streaming.
Entrepreneurship to break down the digital, gender and geographic divides
According to └ngels Fitˇ, UOC Vice President for Competitiveness and Employability, the university’s entrepreneurial community is showing an interest in programmes such as SpinUOC because "people need a professional life that is open to new opportunities, and these can take the form of entrepreneurial initiatives". Fitˇ added that, because the UOC "provides lifelong learning to meet the changing needs of people, businesses and organizations", the University community's interest in undertaking innovative projects "appeals to us as an institution in order to provide them with the best possible support, such as through Hubbik and SpinUOC".
In the Vice President's opinion, the tenth edition of the UOC's programme for the promotion of entrepreneurship is also testament to "the University community's wish to help meet the global challenge of reducing gaps such as the digital, gender and geographic divides". For └ngels Fitˇ, this year's edition of SpinUOC stands out due to the "profile of the entrepreneurs involved and their proposals, with women forming a majority of its participants, diverse geographical origins, and a digital but mainly social focus". This can be seen in the eight finalist projects to be presented at the event, which are described below.
Turning training courses into effective e-learning experiences
Mexican student Adriana Caballero, who is taking the University Master's Degree in Education and ICT in the UOC's Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, is a co-founder and the CEO of Yeira, a platform that facilitates and speeds up the creation, distribution and analysis of e-learning. With Yeira, you can create training courses in a matter of minutes, using an automated model that democratizes access to technology.
"Our technology incorporates an authoring tool that is both powerful and flexible, in that it facilitates and speeds up the creation of the three types of learning resources – expository, analytical and social – in a single place, with the possibility of combining them," said Caballero. Furthermore, Yeira enables teaching staff to moderate live and view learning analytics in real time.
Podcasts created by students to improve learning
Peerpod is an application for creating and listening to school podcasts, in which students and teaching staff members at various stages of education can create and share content, establishing a space for communication and collaboration in the education community. "Furthermore, these podcasts can also be enjoyed by families in their free time as a kind of screen-free educational entertainment option," said Aina Maria Serra, one of the driving forces behind the initiative and a student on the Joint Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology and Human Evolution offered by the UOC's Faculty of Arts and Humanities with Universitat Rovira i Virgili.
As its creators explained, the application makes it easy to use podcasts as a learning resource, overcoming the need to find a digital space where children can safely use their own voices and opinions to become active agents in society. Furthermore, Peerpod facilitates and enhances the development of competencies, because students arrange their own content at the same time as working on their creativity, critical thinking, public speaking skills, and debating and listening skills. "The app is also an inexpensive learning reinforcement tool that can be easily accessed from anywhere to create content or listen to podcasts created by classmates or by other schools," said Serra.
Kit for learning about technology through gamification
"Technology is often taught in a boring way with little real-world application, which results in many young people with an initial interest in this area going on to drop it," explained AdriÓ Roig and Nil SolÓ, students on the University Master's Degree in Telecommunications Engineering, run by the UOC's Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications.
Roig and SolÓ are the creators of SensIT, a technological platform that focuses on gamification, i.e. learning by playing. SensIT provides an interactive circuit board with sensors, screens, LEDs, buttons and switches for users to learn through lessons. The experience is supplemented by an interactive learning platform where you can discover all the kit's features through play.
"By providing a learning platform that is more focused on playing than on studying and a physical kit for trying, touching and playing, users are given a much more entertaining, immersive and real experience than that provided by the traditional educational model," explained the UOC students.
Technology for understanding banking contracts
According to ADICAE, the Spanish Association of Bank, Savings Bank and Insurance Users, over 80% of people in Spain struggle to understand banking contracts, and only one in every three is able to compare the information contained in them. In order to address this issue, the start-up Maddi has launched Easydoc, a platform that uses digital signature technology to both explain and sign legal documents or contracts of any kind.
Among other features, the tool enables users to view information in audio and video format. "We have successfully increased people's understanding of the information by 53% and their reading speed by 76%. In addition, 81% of users reported being satisfied with the tool," said Antonio Rodas, one of the promoters of the platform and graduate of the University Master's Degree in Legal Practice, run by the UOC's Faculty of Law and Political Science.
Accessible video calls for people with dependencies
"As a healthcare professional working with COVID-19 patients, I witnessed extremely hard situations, including people with high degrees of dependence – such as patients with multiple sclerosis or in advanced stages of dementia – being isolated and completely cut off from their loved ones," explained Marta Izquierdo, a student on the University Master's Degree in User Experience (UX) and Interaction Design, run by the UOC's Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications.
In view of this situation, Izquierdo became one of the drivers of Mirou, a video conferencing application designed to be accessible to isolated people with high degrees of both physical and cognitive dependence, as its use requires neither touching nor verbal commands. The application enables highly dependent users to easily make voice and video calls without having to carry out any kind of physical action.
Genomic precision to counter autoimmune diseases
The mission of the team behind GenomAbs is to analyse how patients with autoimmune diseases are genetically predisposed to the success or failure of certain monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapies. "We target precision immunotherapy for each individual person based on their genetic differences, facilitating therapeutic decisions," explained Irene MartÝnez, a biotechnologist and student of the Joint University Master's Degree in Bioinformatics and Biostatistics offered by the UOC's Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications with the University of Barcelona.
The entrepreneurs behind this start-up explained that monoclonal antibodies are now the new generation of drugs able to treat certain types of cancer and autoimmune diseases. "The success of therapies based on these antibodies lies in their high specificity, as they can recognize very specific molecules," explained its CEO, Cristina Abascal. In order to successfully address each patient's individual characteristics and optimize therapy times and costs, GenomAbs applies bioinformatics software and algorithms that make it easier to analyse each patient's genome.
Helping people with autism to adapt
According to the UN, one in every hundred children in the world has autism. "Social media, going to the shops, a job interview or a visit to the dentist can all pose serious challenges for people with autism," explained Alex EscolÓ, a course instructor of the University Master's Degree in Child and Adolescent Psychology, run by the UOC's Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences.
EscolÓ wanted to address this and is now one of the entrepreneurs behind the application AutisMIND, which aims to stimulate communication and social cognition among children with autism. The app has been downloaded over 35,000 times in more than 30 countries, and the UOC’s course instructors are currently developing an interactive video streaming platform. The aim of AutisMIND Videos is to get users to make their own decisions while playing back the videos, choosing how to continue the story or solve a problem or what the outcome of a situation should be.
Revolutionizing the manufacture of electronic components
"We have created the most advanced micro-soldering and de-soldering technology in the world to change the whole paradigm underlying the manufacture of products in the electronics and semiconductor industry," explained Jia Qiang Ye Zhu, an engineer and CEO of TheKer, one of the finalist start-ups of SpinUOC 2022.
According to Carla Gˇmez, its COO, who is an engineer and student on the University Master's Degree in Taxation, run by the UOC's Faculty of Law and Political Science, "we have realized that these very complex soldering processes – complex from a financial point of view as well as in terms of energy and the environment – need to be transformed in order to make the entire process more sustainable and committed to the circular economy."
TheKer's innovation is the use of artificial intelligence and computer vision to solder any circuit board without interfering with other components, as well as avoiding the need for any additional processes. Furthermore, the status of each solder joint is monitored and optimized at all times. The idea is to focus the implementation of this robot on Industry 5.0, whose aim is the development of artificial intelligence and cognitive computing to combine human and machine abilities for the achievement of maximum efficiency.
The jury and the awards
The eight projects mentioned above have been selected by the following panel: Juan ┴lvarez, founder of Seed&Click and Vice President of the Spanish Association of Business Angels Networks (AEBAN); Joan Arnedo, a member of the UOC's Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications; Eduard Bosch, Deputy General Manager of Finance and Resources at the UOC; Xavier CortÚs, Director of the Ramon Molinas Foundation; Xavier Jaumejoan, Technological Business Development Manager at ACCIË; Joan Haro, representative of UOC Alumni; Maria Mora, Director of the Foment del Treball Nacional business creation office; Noaa Barak, Strategy Manager of 4 Years From Now; Mireia Riera, Director of the UOC's Research and Innovation department; and Enric Serradell, Director of MBA programmes in the UOC's Faculty of Economics and Business.
Three prizes will be awarded at the SpinUOC final on 30 June: a €3,000 prize for best entrepreneurial initiative entered in the competition, and two €2,000 prizes for best presentation and best project with a social impact, sponsored by the Ramon Molinas Foundation.
The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) is helping overcome pressing challenges faced by global societies in the 21st century, by studying interactions between technology and human & social sciences with a specific focus on the network society, e-learning and e-health.
The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and open knowledge serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. More information: research.uoc.edu #UOC25years
Student on the University Master's Degree in Education and ICT
Aina Maria Serra
Student on the Joint Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology and Human Evolution
Student on the University Master's Degree in Telecommunications Engineering
Student on the University Master's Degree in Telecommunications Engineering
Graduate of the University Master's Degree in Legal Practice
Student on the University Master's Degree in User Experience (UX) and Interaction Design
Student of the Joint University Master's Degree in Bioinformatics and Biostatistics
Course instructor on the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences
Student on the University Master's Degree in Taxation
Jia Qiang Ye Zhu