Portrait of Shimrit Perkol Finkel, ECOncrete CEO and GreenPitch winner.
Shimrit Perkol Finkel, ECOncrete CEO and GreenPitch winner, heads the course toward Barcelona, where the next Switchmed Connect gathering will take place.
It is customary to deal with environmental issues by underpinning its words with forecasts. You all see the withdrawn and solemn face of the 8 o’clock news presenter, grabbing the viewers with these kind of scaremongering forecasts: « Sea level rise could reach two meters at the end of the century, which could de facto put an end to the conflict in Crimea ». The fundamental problem of forecasts is they refer to a far-off and intangible future, relegating environmental issues to the bottom of our priorities list, below employment, economy and security, as if all these problems were isolated from each other. They will hardly ever prevent somebody from sleeping or having some more pudding (if you are used to watching news at lunchtime).
Still isolated from each other, many innovative solutions manage to emerge from the data and forecasts circus. One of them is called ECOncrete. Its CEO, Shimrit Perkol Finkel, had turned the degradation of coastal environnement into a wide market opportunity. Her start up provides bio-friendly alternatives for standard concrete based coastal infrastructures that currently harm the marine environment. They are designed to enhance rich and diverse marine life and reduce the ecological footprint of structures like seawalls, breakwaters, and piers, while improving their structural performance and support their competition with invasive and nuisance species.
« We've developed ECOncrete to cope with the problems of coastal hardening and massive habitat loss in the marine environment. And now, as a company, we can offer robust science based solutions to a massive, growing demand for resilient and cost effective coastal protection measures. »
The essence of ECOncrete brand is patented bio-enhancing concrete additives and complex 3D designs conceived to create a natural features copycat. One of ECOncrete’s flagship products is for instance the Ecological Armoring Unit. If you live in a seafront’s city, you may have crossed paths with this unaesthetic and imposing building blocks, whose goal is to provide coastal defense against hydrodynamic forces and sea waves. ECOncrete modified the composition, the texture and the design of standard armoring units, in order to make them performant on the environmental front as well. Here is the strength of the startup: it proposes a robust applied solution, by conserving the initial functionality of the infrastructure and adding an ecological value. It is a soft revolution: you don’t change all the coast use planing process, you just realize a discreet adjustment. But the outcome is a huge step forward.
During the final pitch, Shimrit stood out for her perfect controlled pitch. Doctor in Marine biology and ecology, she managed to pinpoint the big issues of coastal and marine infrastructure’s ecological footprint. Her startup swept with flying colors the first prize. The Green Pitch adventure began for her with a three days long intensive coaching program in the Gvahim center.
« I found the program very effective and to the point. The input on our company one pager and pitch presentation was very useful, and the experts and mentors have also provided valuable information and some new ideas and concepts for me to develop. The experts and the program as a whole, have given me some good links to potential investors, and of course the Green Pitch event was very interesting. I anticipate that the visit to Barcelona will enable us to expose our vision of rich and diverse waterfronts and marine infrastructure in the Mediterranean, and would give us an opportunity to make new connections in the Blue-Green European community and hopefully advance potential collaborations and strategic partnerships. (…) I'm happy to say we have been approached by some potential investors and we'll follow up and hope to advance this issue successfully. This was one of our major goals from the program »
Now the next step for Shimrit will occur in Barcelona. As the Green Pitch winner, she will take part to the next SwitchMed connect gathering, which convene annually Mediterranean actors of the ecological and social innovation. For a startup which already crossed the Atlantic (ECOncrete exported its technology to the eastern coastline of the US), the conquest of the Mediterranean’ shore looks highly promising.
ECOncrete Technology at Brookline Bridge Park.
Game changers look toward the sea horizon.
« Those commands on the sea commands everywhere » said the athenian strategist and statesman Themistocles. The Mediterranean area is peopled by sailors civilizations, and the mastery of the sea has been an endless challenge over power. A new round is currently going on. As said Shimrit « the mediterranean sea is no stranger to Climate Change impacts, especially sea level rise ». This is even more true in Israel: after all, the country is nothing more than a narrow 80 kilometers width land strip, where demographic growth is still significantly higher than in other developed countries (around 2%), fed by a sustained fertility rate and the successive immigration waves. Though local optimism lies in the belief that tricky situations are the innovation birthplace, as Shimrit voices it:
« Certainly, environmental concerns and fundamental problems in any ecosystem calls for innovation and out-of-the-box thinking to bring real solutions. Look at the water shortage issue in Israel, which has led to game changing technologies starting from drip systems and up to water purification systems ».
In an area where each meter of land is holy and contested, Israeli authorities had to open a new front against sea level rise. According to Shimrit, « Israel is taking its first steps towards real planning of ocean resources and tackle climate change issues under the national marine spatial planning program which is now being developed. »
As in the past, mediterranean sea is both the battleground and one of the belligerent. As in the past, entrepreneurs like Shimrit intend to tame it through the technology. Consider both worrying forecasts and promising solutions offered by entrepreneurship. It seems that games are opened.
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