Way back in August, well before Team Prognosis spent a week on Microsoft campus getting a crash course in business, they had applied for the prestigious Horizon 2020 grant with the European Commission. In November, they received the good news that their proposal had been accepted and they would be getting €4M!
Konstantinos Mavrodis, Vicky Bikia, Despina Efthymiadou and Dimitris Iakovakis created Prognosis, a Windows Phone app designed for early detection and intervention of Parkinson’s disease. The app collects user data from sensors embedded in a mobile phone and, optionally, via the Microsoft Band, which runs in the background so data is collected unobtrusively.
In mid-November, they got an email from their mentor, Leontios Hadjileontiadis, with the exciting and life-changing news that their grant proposal was one of five accepted out of 165 applicants. They were scattered throughout the world at that time of the news, but they quickly jumped on a Skype call to celebrate.
“We had just come back from Seattle and got this news – it was such a blessing and just perfect timing,” said Despina.
Over the next five years, they will build Prognosis into a thriving business.
Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation program, with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years (2014 to 2020). By coupling research and innovation, Horizon 2020 works to help achieve economic growth with its emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges. The goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.
Team Prognosis worked with the lab staff and their mentor at Aristotle University to write the grueling and extremely detailed 70-page proposal, which was no small feat considering they were simultaneously working on their Imagine Cup project at the time and pushing hard to finish their undergraduate degrees.
They submitted the proposal in August and began the long wait. Their proposal would go through three rounds of review and finally emerge as one of the six winners.
So what’s next? The team will get together with their 11 partners (which include Microsoft and Kings College, London) for an all-hands-on-deck planning meeting in February. Until then, they all plan to study for finals and relax over the holiday break.
But not all is on hold for Prognosis until February. “My thesis correlates with Prognosis – so I am working on it all the time,” said Dimitris. In fact, each team member is looking for ways to coordinate their academic studies with Prognosis.
Konstantinos told us that he can’t wait to get started. “I am most excited to begin research and development for the sleep intervention for patients. Sleep is such an important part and will serve a key role in the patient’s life.”
Vicky said that she just feels blessed at the prospect of a meaningful career. “We are very lucky to have something to work on that is of great interest to us and has an impact on other people. Not everyone gets that in life.”
Though they are beyond excited to receive the grant, the grant money doesn’t come without it’s pressures. Because it’s a medical app, they have to get it right. It’s not just a game people will play. Vicky emphasized, “It has to be safe.”
Dimitris said that the entire last year (Imagine Cup, Ability Bootcamp, and now the Horizon 2020 grant money) has really boosted their confidence. “We know our dreams have made it this far. We are excited!”
“It’s true!” Vicky exclaimed. “We feel like more than students now. We feel responsible for something really, really big. It’s really training us. Now we know there is a place for young people to contribute in this world to dream, hope, and create.”
Despina agreed. “We are looking forward to the impact all this may have on peoples’ everyday lives. Awards, grants are exciting things, but they are not the most important. The most important for us is helping people, and we want to see what we can achieve through this project.”
We are continually inspired by Konstantinos, Despina, Vicky and Dimitris! If you are too, consider starting where they did – by registering for Imagine Cup.