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11 February, 2021 - 11:37 By Tony Quested

Cambridge University’s Impulse programme mines millionaire tech elite

A Cambridge University programme has mined a glittering cohort of world beating companies run by alumni that have together attracted over £53 million of backing over the last four years for nextgen technology innovation.

Since 2017, the innovative Impulse Programme – which accelerates new technologies within the fields of Biotechnology, MedTech, AI, Quantum Technologies and Water Technology – has created over 250 jobs and seen over £45.5 million invested by business angels and venture capitalists into alumni projects, with a further £8 million secured from grant funding (mostly from Innovate UK).

The success of the Impulse Programme relies heavily on the calibre of its mentors and experienced entrepreneurs who are all exceptional role models from within the celebrated Cambridge ecosystem, and include such luminaries as Dr Hermann Hauser, Dr David Cleevely, Jamie Urquhart, Professor Sir Mark Welland, Dr Julie Barnes, Richard Green, Dr Deborah Harland, Professor Chris Lowe and Dr Phil O’Donovan.

In a recent poll of alumni from the last four years, 80 per cent of those who took part said that the mentors were the most useful connections and relationships they had made during the programme – with 70 per cent revealing that they have remained in touch with their mentor since leaving the programme.

Riverlane recently secured a further £15M of Series A funding at the start of this year. Founder & CEO, Dr Steve Brierley said he benefited greatly from having someone of the stature of Jamie Urquhart – co-founder of superchip architect, Arm – as his Impulse Programme mentor.

Dr Brierley said: “Having Jamie Urquhart as a mentor in the early stages of Riverlane had a huge impact. I knew a lot about the technology (quantum computing) and wanted to work out how to build a great business to exploit that. I spent many hours meeting with Jamie testing ideas, talking through business models, funding options and then figuring out how best to communicate the opportunity. 

“As a result, Riverlane got off to a great start, raising a seed round from two great VC funds. Jamie is very generous with his time and, since the Impulse programme, we’ve kept in touch and he’s still one of the first people I’ll test a new idea on.

“My advice to anyone thinking about joining Impulse is simple: If you get the chance to work on your company idea with someone like Jamie who has a vast amount of experience rolling their sleeves up and making it happen, take it!” 

Professor Sir Mark Welland – the former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government Ministry of Defence – is Director of Cambridge University’s Maxwell Centre, where the Impulse Programme is run. 

He says: “The Impulse Programme at the Maxwell Centre provides researchers and scientists with the ideal environment for those all-important chance encounters, sparking and inspiring fresh generations of science and technology entrepreneurs as has clearly been evidenced.

“It is here that the cross-pollination of ideas, technologies and industry knowledge of like-minded individuals, from both entrepreneur and business worlds, enables the participants to reach their full potential and, importantly, transform their research into a viable business.”

Notable alumni completing the programme have included:-

  • Dr Steve Brierley, Founder/CEO of technology sensation, Riverlane – which is making landmark developments maximising the power and reach of Quantum Computing. 
  • Dr Carmen Palacios Berraquero, national award-winning physicist and Co-inventor of Nu Quantum technology, which is making ground-breaking single-photon components to enable the next generation of commercially-viable photonic quantum technologies – creating a new era of communications, simulation, computing, sensing and metrology. 
  • Dr Richard Taylor, CTO of Vector Photonics, which has made the first breakthrough in laser technology for 30 years and is set to revolutionise the autonomous vehicle industry.
  • Dr Gita Khalili Moghaddam, pioneering medtech entrepreneur and Founder/Director of GlycoVue, which combines glucose-responsive smart polymers with advanced holography and AI-enabled smartphone technology for diabetes self-management. 
  • Dr Mario De Miguel Ramos, CEO & Co-Founder of Sorex Sensors, whose novel sensor technology to accurately monitor indoor air quality is tipped for global domination of a market expected to swell to $323bn by 2024.
  • Dr Shakiba Kaveh & Dr Cristiana Banila, co-founders of Mitra Bio Ltd, a skin longevity company from London, building a non-invasive skin multi-omics platform to unravel skin health and delay ageing.  
  • Dr Rob Simpson, CTO, and Christian Saville, COO, of trailblazing medtech firm, Celsius Health, a spinout from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), which is focused on the development of high accuracy thermal imaging technology in medical diagnostic applications – transforming the health and quality of life of diabetic patients.  

To join the Impulse programme visit: https://www.maxwell.cam.ac.uk/programmes/impulse or email impulse [at] maxwell.cam.ac.uk

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