The L’Oréal Innovation Runway is an exciting international deep tech startup contest that is part of the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH). This year, for its second edition, L’Oréal Innovation Runway is looking to partner with early-stage startups and small enterprises in the Asia Pacific Region and beyond to further L’Oréal’s research and innovation in beauty experiences and sustainable innovations.
Innovation and sustainability: Two driving forces at L’Oréal
What does superfood quinoa have to do with beauty? Well, quite a bit, according to the researchers at L’Oréal, who have helped create a new market for quinoa cultivation. They discovered that quinoa husk, an unused material until now, has excellent exfoliating properties. So L’Oréal not only invented an extraction process derived from green chemistry to include quinoa husk in Kiehl’s Night Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate, they also developed a sustainable quinoa husk sourcing project in Bolivia and created a new market for growers.
In December 2017, L’Oréal Professionnel also released its first vegetal, 100-percent plant-based hair dye collection called Botanea. The plant-based dye is inspired from three plants found in India. Today, just like Botanea, more than 59 percent of ingredients used by L’Oréal are renewable. These account for around 1,600 raw materials from nearly 360 plant species sourced from a hundred countries.
While these are just two of the many examples that illustrate L’Oréal’s commitment to sustainability, the cosmetic giant has also been leveraging technology to enhance not just its product portfolio but also product performance and how consumers experience products.
80 years after developing the first sunscreen, L'Oréal innovated an IoT device integrating technology with sun protection. They unveiled the first battery-free wearable electronic UV sensor, at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show. UV Sense is small enough to be worn on the thumbnail and measures real-time data of an individual’s UV exposure. It has a larger memory capacity, of up to three months, as compared to its predecessor My UV Patch. With an accompanying mobile app, available on both iOS and Android, it delivers information detailing the UV exposure trends and encourages sun safety habits like the reapplication of sunscreen.
In March 2018, at Viva Technology, L’Oréal Group unveiled ‘The New Beauty Experience’, a personalised and connected beauty experience powered by Artificial Intelligence, connected objects, and augmented reality. Visitors experienced an immersive journey that explored three aspects of their daily lives. Firstly, in L’Oréal’s beauty salon, a connected mirror programmed with 220,000 facial images to simulate the effect of different makeup products and shades of hair colour, in sync with the user’s head movements. Secondly, in the futuristic retail store, L’Oréal showcased how consumers can try a conversational bot and an intelligent mirror to find the ideal makeup and look. Lastly, in the shower experience, it showcased capsules of Lipikar installed in a bathroom shower.
The Innovation Runway challenge is being hosted by L’Oréal in collaboration with NUS Enterprise – the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore (NUS), Startup SG, a leading startup hub in Singapore and Enterprise SG (formerly International Enterprise Singapore and SPRING Singapore,) – the government agency championing enterprise development.
After a successful maiden edition in 2017, this year the organisers are looking for innovative solutions in three key challenge areas:
- Performance materials and products: This challenge area focuses on developing materials, preferably natural, with novel and enhanced properties to be used in skin or hair products. You could share ideas on formulation bases, biological actives for skin tone management, imperfection and oily skin, but also innovations that can provide new sensory experiences, processes using green chemistry, etc.
- Personalised beauty experiences: Ideas should aim at reinventing beauty routines and experiences using technology. This could include technologies that provide novel point of sale experiences such as diagnosis, personalised products and solutions on beauty products and routines like devices or technologies that can augment product performance and experience (on-the-go solutions, multi benefits) and more.
- Sustainable Innovation: Here the focus is on sustainable solutions that harness technologies, formulations, devices or materials to help L’Oréal achieve long-term positive environmental and social impact. These can be anything from environmental-friendly packaging solutions, biodegradable formulas that can be integrated into cosmetics, to technologies that can help reduce/reuse/recycle the amount of water during consumers’ daily use of beauty products.
Winners to gain multiple benefits
From industry exposure to increasing prospects for co-creation activities, the challenge has three tangible benefits to offer participating startups:
- The opportunity to work with L’Oréal and develop a long-term partnership
The winners stand to win an opportunity to access L’Oréal’s leading R&D expertise in beauty, an opportunity to conduct a pilot study at the L’Oréal Hubs and a chance to develop a long-term strategic partnership.
- Financial award and access to startup platforms
Two winning teams will be awarded a cash prize of S$5,000 and a $50,000 Startup SG grant sponsored by Enterprise SG. In addition, both winners will be fast-tracked to the qualifying round of SLINGSHOT@SWITCH powered by Startup SG.
- Access to mentorship and industry network
The winning teams will get to connect closely with NUS Enterprise and a local network of industry partners, companies, investors and startup mentors. In addition to the winning teams, the semi-finalists will also get to participate in a startup boot-camp/mentorship sessions organised by NUS Enterprise.
L’Oréal Innovation Runway is open to startups in Asia and beyond. If you are a non-startup team, your application will be processed only if you commit to incorporate a company within three months from the end of the competition.
The last day for submission of applications is August 12, 2018. The submissions must include:
- An explanation of the proposed solution addressing the criteria in the respective problem statement
- Rationale of how the criteria can be met
- Material, prototype or Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for testing within 18 months
Shortlisted startups will be announced by the end of August and an exclusive startup bootcamp for the teams that make it to the semi-finals will be organised by NUS Enterprises. The semi-finals will be held in Singapore on September 17, and the final will be held on September 18, following which the winners will be announced at Slingshot@SWITCH.