From cheap imitations to perfect copies that you cannot tell apart from originals – counterfeit products and materials are a reason for financial and image losses to many companies. Thus, protection against unfair competition becomes the key solution.
It is estimated that last year, counterfeit products in the United States cost original producers approximately USD 600 billion. Counterfeits include not only electronic equipment but also branded clothes, furniture or building materials. As far as elements used in the specialist industries are concerned, it is often the case that, apart from incurring image and financial losses, entrepreneurs are also responsible for the quality of the entire investment, even if only one of the used components was counterfeited.
An innovative method
InnovaLab, a company set up in Kraków by Katarzyna Sawicz-Kryniger, has found a better way of labelling products and materials. The answer to the burning problem of many producers could be a system of chemical markers, which are added in small quantities to the material during the production process. These markers constitute something akin to the producer’s DNA. In that way, the whole plastic material is labelled, not only its elements, which makes the product impossible to counterfeit.
If the markers are added to the material at the production stage, it is possible to verify them with a reader developed by InnovaLab. However, there is a solution that allows protecting other materials by combining them with already marked elements. An example might be covering wood with paint that includes markers. By applying this method, it is possible to identify the end product.
From a university in Kraków to a place over the Atlantic
Katarzyna Sawicz-Kryniger wanted to put into practice her research results, and so, during her PhD studies, she started a cooperation with a company that faced the labelling problem. The developed solutions for this company were just the beginning of works on the markers. Soon, she won the 1st place at the Entrepreneurship Incubator of Małopolska, whereas, last year, she took part in a training course organized by the American Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.
Furthermore, in the Global Innovator Competition, InnovaLab made it to the final 13, and took the fifth place, beating 2000 start-ups from all around the world. Finally in 2012, Katarzyna Sawicz-Kryniger decided to set up her own company. All of this was possible thanks to a partnership with Wrocław Research Centre EIT+, an accelerator and the biggest research and technology organization (RTO) in Poland. In 2016, InnovaLab won the Innovator Małopolski prize in the category of chemistry.
Participation in contests and discussions with businessmen gave Katarzyna Sawicz-Kryniger a powerful boost of knowledge and insight into the needs of producers. The markers used by InnovaLab are also very popular due to their production process and the way they are added to the material, which is cost effective an outstanding when compared to methods used by competitors.
Currently, Innovalab cooperates with, among others, Ergis – a leader in plastics processing from Central and Eastern Europe, LSC Communications Europe – an international printing company, and Sestec Polska, which is a producer of a formaldehyde-free glue used, for example, for the production of furniture boards. Depending on the project, InnovaLab also employs the help of scientists from AGH University of Science and Technology or the Cracow University of Technology.