MERLIN Innovation Awards 2023 - MIA

MERLIN seeks new and widely applicable solutions for restoring or enabling financial benefit for freshwater ecosystems. If your innovative product or solution is market-ready, you are eligible to apply in one of the two categories:

  • Product of the year 2023
  • Service of the year 2023


  • Unique opportunity to pitch your product/service to 17 European freshwater restoration project managers and many other decision makers and stakeholders
  • Chance to be part of the systemic transformative change of our society and economy
  • Recognition within the European freshwater ecosystem community with your product/service
    featured on the widely read Freshwater Blog
  • Automatic inclusion in the MERLIN Marketplace if your application is accepted
    for the MERLIN Innovation Awards 2023

Join us at the MERLIN Innovation Awards ceremony!

February 15, 2023, 10:30h CET
Zoom link:

The MERLIN Innovation Awards (MIA) were launched by the European Union’s flagship project MERLIN. The MIA recognise new and widely applicable solutions for restoring the functions of freshwater ecosystems or enabling their financial benefit.

The best innovative solutions will be selected in two categories: the MIA Product of the year and the MIA Service of the year.



10.30-10.35 Welcome to MIA by Matt C. Smith
10.35-10.45 Introductory speech by Piret Noukas (European Research Executive Agency)
10.45-11.45 Company presentations (3 min pitch + 2 min Q&A)
11.45-12.00 Importance of innovation for nature restoration projects by Sebastian Birk (MERLIN, University Duisburg-Essen)
12.00-12.15 MIA winners announcement
12.15 Wrap up and closing


Sebastian Birk, the MERLIN project co-coordinator, is a Senior Scientist and Lecturer at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. Contributing to the water-related science-policy interface at the European level, his academic interests cover: multiple stressors, environmental condition/human impact assessment, ecosystem services, restoration ecology, environmental policy assessment and implementation.

Piret Noukas is a project adviser in the European Research Executive Agency (REA) monitoring a portfolio of EU-funded research and innovation projects in the field of nature-based solutions, biodiversity and climate adaptation, supporting the dissemination of their results, including feeding the R&I results in EU policy-making and organisation of evaluations of project proposals in these fields.



Master of ceremony

Matt C. Smith is a former venture capitalist and 2x unicorn investor, turned exited-founder and author of the Startup Buzzword Dictionary. Today, he is known for his energetic, entertaining and educational stage performances as an acclaimed public speaker, startup lecturer and master of ceremonies at many of the largest conferences around the world.


For any questions, please check the FAQs and do not hesitate to contact us at


1. Which companies are eligible to participate?

Companies from all around the world with innovative and widely applicable solutions (product or service) for nature sustainability/restoration projects, applicable in freshwater ecosystems such as lakes, rivers and surrounding land.

2. Is there a prerequisite to participate?

Your company is eligible to apply if:

1) you own the intellectual property rights or the rights to sell the innovative product or service;

2) the product/service has been successfully used/tested in a real environment; and

3) the product/service has been in the market for less than 5 years.

3. What are the benefits for participating in MIA 2023?

All companies that are taking part in MIA 2023 and are confirmed as eligible by the secretariat of MIA 2023, will be able to place their product/service free of charge for 2 years in the MERLIN Marketplace (which will be launched during 2023). This will help to promote the product/service to a community of potential buyers.

The finalists of each category (product and service) will be able to pitch online their product/service to a jury of experts and other nature restoration stakeholders on the Demo Day, which will take place in January 2023.  

The winning product and service will be featured on the widely read Freshwater Blog. This will increase recognition with the European freshwater ecosystem community.

4. Is there any financial incentive for the winners?

There is no financial incentive assigned to winners of the MIA 2023.

5. What is the timeline of the MIA?

Applications starting date: 21st October 2022

Applications deadline: 22nd December 2022 (17:00 CET)

Pitch Demo Day (online event): January 2023

Winners announced: February 2023

6. Who will be the members of the jury?

The independent MIA jury will comprise freshwater restoration managers from the MERLIN project and other related stakeholders with backgrounds in business, NGOs, national government and municipalities.

7. How will we know if we have been selected?

Once you submit your application, you will be notified within 4 weeks if your application has been accepted. If your application is accepted, you will be entitled to register free for the MERLIN Marketplace.

If you are selected as one of the finalists of MIA 2023, you will be notified by 13th January 2023.

If you are selected as a finalist, you will receive instructions explaining what is required from the pitch to be delivered during the Demo Day.

The winners of MIA 2023 will be announced during the MERLIN Innovation Awards ceremony to be held in February 2023. All applicants will be able to take part in that ceremony.

8. Is it necessary to indicate a representative of the team who will present our product/service in the application form?

You do not have to indicate which member of your team will pitch the company’s product/service to the jury during the awards. That information will be requested from you after the application process is finished if you are selected as one of the finalists.

9. If our company has both a product and a service suitable for the MIA should we apply to the category “Product of the year” or “Service of the year?”

You are eligible to apply for both awards if your innovative product can work independently of the service that you provide. However, if your product is dependent on the service, then your solution is considered a service and you should apply to the category “Service of the year”.

10. What is the MERLIN Marketplace?

The MERLIN Marketplace is a virtual marketplace that brings together the freshwater ecosystem community of practice to enhance restoration efforts and effectiveness by providing a variety of solutions for them to choose from. Its aim is also to multiply and amplify innovations by connecting the community with partners, investors or service providers. The MERLIN Marketplace additionally offers advertising of innovative restoration products and services all in one place.

More information on the MERLIN Marketplace

11. Why is the MERLIN community organising MIA 2023?

Freshwater ecosystems are one of the most threatened ecosystems in Europe. Ecosystem restoration projects need innovative solutions that will help them to achieve sustainability by reducing costs or increasing ecosystems’ biodiversity. MERLIN will draw on successful freshwater restoration projects across Europe transforming them into beacons of innovation.

By organising MIA 2023, the MERLIN community wants to connect innovative solutions providers with potential buyers of those solutions.