On June 15-16, non-profit organization Association Noosphere held the fifth grand final of the Vernadsky Challenge engineering startup contest at the International Exhibition Center in Kyiv, Ukraine, as part of the International Aviation and Space Salon “Aviasvit – XXI”.

The Vernadsky Challenge was initiated in January 2015 by Max Polyakov, a philanthropist and follower of the Noosphere philosophy. More than 600 teams from 36 countries have competed in the contest over the last six years. Today, the competition focused on two areas: space technology and bioelectronics. In 2016, Max Polyakov increased the prize fund to 2 million UAH (approx. $73,400). In 2017, the legendary MythBuster Jamie Hyneman joined the jury of the Vernadsky Challenge.

This year, 132 startups sent their pitches to participate in the contest: 43 Ukrainian teams and 89 teams from abroad. Over half the pitches were space projects. 10 startups from Canada, Slovakia, Sweden, Spain, the USA, and Ukraine reached the finals, representing the organizer’s goals of building cross-border networking platforms for engineers around the world – in addition to encouraging hardware startups through grant support.


Space startup BOROSPACE, from Slovakia, won the third place trophy this year, resulting in a grant of approx. $14,000. The BOROSPACE team created an innovative lithium-ion battery design aimed not just at saving power, but also serving as hybrid rocket fuel.

Image: Provizio

Second place in this year’s Vernadsky Challenge and approx. $22,000 in grant funding was awarded to the Ukrainian project Provizio. The Provizio team developed a device for measuring intraocular pressure, which helps to delay vision loss. Provizio software is capable of notifying doctors of changes in blood pressure in real-time as well as suggesting various treatment options.

Image: Medicsen

The first place at the Vernadsky Challenge 2021, carrying a grant award of nearly $37,000, was given to the Medicsen project from Spain. The Medicsen team invented a “smart” patch that opens micropores in human skin for painless, needle-free transdermal drug delivery of large-molecule drugs, such as insulin.

Honorable mentions in the Vernadsky Challenge finals go out to various other innovative creations, including an energy module for an interorbital vehicle, a K300Geo suborbital rocket, a contactless 3D nano profilometer, and PancakeSat, a satellite with a unique undocking system.

The expert jury of the contest was represented by successful businessmen and scientists. Jury members involved in finals judging include: D-orbit CEO and founder Luca Rossettini, Swiss Space Tourism Association President and founder Boris Otter, Thynk CEO and founder Isy Goldwasser, and High-Tech Gründerfonds Management GmbH investment manager Christian Ziach.

Ukrainian luminaries also present at the Challenge, included the Deputy Dean of Kyiv-Mohyla Business School and Head of Presidents’ MBA Eduard Maltsev, inventor and entrepreneur in energy efficiency, smart-homes, IoT, and 3D printing Max Gerbut, Deputy General Director of “Yuzhmash” Sergey Zakharchenko, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor and Head of the Sensory Signaling Department of the Bogomoletz Institute Nana Voitenko, and Adviser to the Chairman of the State Space Agency of Ukraine Andrey Kolesnik. The winner of the Vernadsky Challenge 2019, founder and CEO of Esper Bionics, Dmitry Gazda, also joined the jury. As is tradition, the co-founder and chairman of Association Noosphere, Dr. Michael Ryabokon, Ph.D., chaired the jury.

The grand finale also included a panel discussion by representatives of the scientific and business worlds on the topic: “Prospects for engineering startups in Ukraine and the world”, featuring speeches by past years Vernadsky Challenge finalists, an exhibition of children’s space art gathered by the Noosphere Space Art Challenge, and a pre-premiere screening of the documentary film “Unbreakable. The path to a dream” about famed engineer Sergei Korolev.

You can watch the pitches of the finalists and panel discussion “Prospects for engineering startups in Ukraine and the world” here: https://youtu.be/RjF2w9GVvPk (day 1, panel discussion), https://youtu.be/9OFZyBPo07M (Day 2, pitches).

More about Vernadsky Challenge: https://vernadskychallenge.com/