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7 November, 2018 - 15:26 By Tony Quested

LED pioneer tops parade of nextgen Cambridge tech entrepreneurs

Poro Technologies, which is developing next-generation LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology, won the £20,000 first prize in the 2018 Cambridge Enterprise and Entrepreneurial Postdocs of Cambridge (EPOC) Postdoc Business Plan Competition.

Poro Technologies is pushing ahead with commercialising its proposition, as CEO Tongtong Zhu revealed after winning a hotly contested head to head.

“This competition is truly a great experience thanks to Cambridge Enterprise and EPoC. I am thrilled to be selected for the first prize and very grateful for both the recognition from the judges and the opportunity to have my business plan critiqued. 

“The mentoring and coaching has really helped me improve the plan and my pitching skills. Now, winning the prize and the investment from Cambridge Enterprise will allow Poro Technologies to take a further step towards the commercialisation of its scientific findings.”

The embryonic business is mining a rich heritage seam in LED innovation stemming from Cambridge University.

The trail was first famously blazed in the UK cluster by Cambridge Display Technology, which was the first company spun out of the University of Cambridge ever to go public. It was subsequently acquired by Sumitomo Chemical for around $285 million in 2007.

CDT was founded in 1992 to commercialise technologies made possible by the discovery of a new form of electroluminescence made in 1989 by Cavendish Laboratory researchers Richard Friend, Donal Bradley, and Jeremy Burroughes and Department of Chemistry researchers Chloe Jennings and Andrew Holmes.

In 2002, the company was awarded the MacRobert Award by the Royal Academy of Engineering for organic LED displays. Poro Technologies would settle for some of the same.

The second prize of £10,000 in the Cambridge competition went to NeutroCheck, which is developing a new medical device designed to deliver more efficient healthcare for cancer patients worldwide. 

The third prize of £5,000, was awarded to Semarion Discovery, which is pioneering a novel in-depth protein fingerprint insight into a patient’s state of health that should triple the success rate of clinical trials. Cambridge Enterprise sponsored the first and second prizes and Cambridge Innovation Capital the third.

The calibre of entries was particularly high and the Grand Finale at Peterhouse Theatre attracted a record number of nearly 200 postdocs, researchers, senior members of the university, corporates, mentors and investors.

There were presentations from six finalists that also included Nu Quantum, which is pioneering in the field of encrypted communication; PlantCaps, which has developed an entirely new class of bio-material; and Textile Two Dimensional, which is innovating the materials and technology to create fully functional wearable electronics.

The presenters were put through their paces with tough questions from the judging panel comprising Anne Dobrée, head of Seed Funds at Cambridge Enterprise; Michael Anstey, investment director at CIC, specialising in healthcare investment; Srishti Gupta, president of Entrepreneurial Postdocs of Cambridge (EPoC); and Charles Cotton, member of the Cambridge Enterprise investment committee and founder and chairman of Cambridge Phenomenon International Ltd.

Professor Andy Neely, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations at the University, gave a short address in which he extolled the virtues of the competition. 

He said it was a strong example of the Cambridge ecosystem at work, with researchers focused on how they can develop their research to create a positive impact on society. He also applauded the high level of passion and potential demonstrated by the contenders.

The competition was sponsored by Holben Holt, a private capital investment company specialising in technological business ideas at the embryonic stage. ideaSpace provided the six finalists with membership, including tailored support and office space, for one year.

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