Food Scanner

Develop an affordable and non-invasive mobile solution to successfully assess nutrition facts and detect potentially harmful ingredients in food.

The winner is announced

This €1 million prize has been split into three awards: € 800 000 went to the winner, Spectral Engines, and € 100 000 each to the two runners-up, SCiOscan and Tellspec.

Given the increase in food-related health problems, the challenge set for this €1 million prize was to develop an affordable and non-invasive mobile solution that enables users to measure and analyse their food intake.

Food Scanner

Why this Prize?

Food-related health problems such as food allergies, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease have grown to epidemic proportions and are taking a heavy toll on our society and our health systems.

Some figures:

  • According to the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology about 17 million Europeans suffer from food allergies, with 3.5 million of them less than 25 years of age
  • Globally about 35 % of adults are overweight, with half a billion of them obese. Obesity is affecting people at ever younger ages: today 43 million preschool children or nearly 7 % of all under-fives are overweight
  • The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimated that in Europe 35 million adults had diabetes (both type 1 and type 2) in 2011. This is projected to increase by 23%, to 43 million in 2030
  • According to the WHO, cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes more than half of all deaths across the European Region; CVD causes 46 times the number of deaths and 11 times the disease burden caused by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined in Europe; 80% of premature heart disease and stroke is preventable and diabetes is a major risk factor and trigger for cardiovascular disease. Healthier food intake could reduce these numbers


The Horizon Prize for a food scanner awarded a mobile solution that analyses precisely, quickly and efficiently food composition, nutrition facts and potentially harmful ingredients such as allergens. The challenge was also be able to provide feedback to users regarding their health and lifestyle.

Rules & Guidance

Who can join the contest?

The contest is open to any single person and legal entity or groups of legal entities established in EU Member States or in countries associated to Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation programme.

How will your application be evaluated?

Once the contest is closed, a high level jury will evaluate all eligible entries against the following general award criteria:

  • The solution is developed by the contestant
  • As a minimum, the solution is able to analyse: energetic value, ingredients, nutrients, substances or products causing allergies or intolerances, and chemicals (in particular pesticides) in food
  • Completeness, correctness, sensitivity and accuracy of information demonstrated by the solution to enable the user to make informed choices
  • User experience, (including user interface, response time, portability and intelligence) demonstrated by the solution
  • Safety of the solution for human use
  • Openness and ability of the solution to integrate the food intake data with other available lifestyle data
  • Evidence of commercial readiness and accessibility to a wide range of users

The prize will be awarded to the entry that demonstrates the best solution (which is at least a system prototype demonstrated in an operational environment) to the challenge whilst meeting the award criteria. The solution should be both developed by the contestant and be novel.

Read the detailed rules of the contest


Winner: Spectral Engines

Spectral Engines is a Finnish start-up founded in 2014. It has a core competence in miniaturized spectrometers, turning them into plug-and-play industrial grade smart sensors. The start-up operates in several locations like Helsinki (HQ and manufacturing), Oulu (sales), US and Germany (sales reps). As a start-up, it has already demonstrated European industrial excellence in the photonics field by winning the Photonics West 2016 Prism Award in the 'Detectors and Sensors' category.

Spectral Engines was able to develop in a very short time-frame a food scanner prototype based on Near Infrared Spectroscopy, along with a Bluetooth connection to a mobile device and data connection to a Cloud server. Its food scanner prototype is compact and provides real-time results at a comparatively low price.

According to the jury, Spectral Engines provides a major step forward towards better food-sensor devices and may play a significant role in the emerging field of the 'Internet of Food' and smart personal nutrition. Unlike the other contestants the Finnish start-up had developed both food scanning hardware and software. The SME receives 800k€ in prize money.

Spectral Engines website

Runner up: SciOscan

SCiOscan is an Israeli data company that offers food analysis. Its solution is essentially a miniaturized, inexpensive version of technology that lab scientists have been using for years to determine the physical composition of various materials. SCiO's handheld widget comes with apps that can report the physical composition of food and pharmaceuticals.

SciOscan website

Runner up: TellSpec

Tellspec is a London-based branch of a Canadian company, which developed a spectroscopic sensor. Their solution combines spectral sensors, bio-informatics techniques and learning algorithms. The handheld Tellspec food sensor is portable, costs a fraction of large lab equipment, and provides real-time, non-destructive food analysis.

TellSpec website


For more information or any questions you might have please Contact us

Communication kit