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European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA)
News article9 June 2021European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency2 min read

Supporting SMEs in attracting top-notch human capital: The example of ELLOGON.AI

The INNOSUP programme provides funding for the salary of an “innovation associate” for a period of 1 year for an SME to have access to skills knowledge. The EU funded a total of 151 innovation associates between 2018-2021. Presenting project AI-Path.

ELLOGON.AI is one of the SMEs receiving the help of an innovation associate. ELLOGON.AI is working on personalising immunotherapy with the power of big and rich data as well as cutting-edge algorithms. The algorithms can produce diagnostic and prognostic reports on pathology and genomic data, suitable for medical researchers and professionals that want to identify response to treatment.

ELLOGON.AI grew out of the shared belief of Prof. Evangelos Kanoulas and Assoc. Prof. Efstratios Gavves, both active at the University of Amsterdam, that artificial intelligence can have real benefits for society. The company started in 2019 and the INNOSUP funding gave ELLOGON.AI the possibility to hire its first employee, Dr. Arun Mukundan, in February 2021. This sped up the development of their technology and drew in additional grants, further growing the team to a total of 7 people.

It was not an easy road: necessary skills are hard to find and competition with larger companies is fierce. Prof. Kanoulas: “We almost did not find Arun, our Innovation Associate. Open calls were not successful and it was only thanks to my co-founder, who knew Arun’s PhD supervisor that we got into contact with him.” This shows again the importance of personal connections and ecosystem interconnections.

Dr. Mukundan obtained a PhD in computer vision from the University of Prague and was convinced to join ELLOGON.AI because of the advanced technology, great societal potential, and pleasant working atmosphere. Dr. Mukundan stated: “Working in a start-up has many advantages, because it is a small team, you are less boxed in and see a broad range of things. Also, being in a business allows you to advance faster and learn more about the economics of innovation, compared to academia.”

The INNOSUP initiative provides a tailor made training programme in general innovation management for the innovation associates and project supervisors. ELLOGON.AI also foresees in on the job training, allowing Dr. Mukundan to specialise further in computer vision and cancer detection.

The Covid-19 pandemic posed challenges for the team, which has not been able to meet in person since Dr. Mukundan started. Team building was difficult but open communication and a positive attitude have made it possible to on board the new employees and continue to grow effectively.

Prof. Kanoulas, co-founder, cited the INNOSUP grant as the crucial step stone to enable the growth of ELLOGON.AI. Thanks to the recent developments, the company is planning to go to the market by summer 2022. This will allow the company to make the employee growth more durable, and retain the expertise they developed in-house.