Cambridge technology from varsity to the veldt
From varsity to the veldt, a range of life science, high technology, CleanTech and social enterprise ventures are being hatched by young Cambridge University entrepreneurs in the UK.
The enterprises will be showcased at the Cambridge University Entrepreneurs (CUE) £5k final on Thursday (May 12). There are cash and other prizes on offer in three segments – Science & Technology, Social Enterprise and Software.
One of the finalists in the Science & Technology stream is a venture called The Chitinator. The aim is to produce high-quality chitin from shell waste for numerous industries.
Chitin is a tough, semitransparent substance that is the main component of the exoskeletons of arthropods, such as the shells of crustaceans and the outer coverings of insects. It is also found in the cell walls of certain fungi and algae. Chemically, it is a nitrogenous polysaccharide (a carbohydrate) and its capabilities across a range of industrial uses are being explored.
EmpathiX is another finalist in in the S & T segment. Its innovative emotional intelligence technology comprehends emotions in human speech to help children with autism conceive emotions more clearly – easing day-to-day social interactions and alleviating distress in later life.
Also in the running is Entomics. Entomics transforms food waste into three sustainable fuels for plants, animals and vehicles, by using an insect called the Black Soldier Fly (BSF) as the conversion catalyst.
Finalist NG:Safe is developing a rapid point-of-care device that aids clinicians in verifying the safe placement of nasogastric feeding tubes in the stomach. This safety check is critical to avoid potentially lethal misplacement in the lung. The new biochemical test addresses unmet clinical need for an intermediate between existing options – the lengthy and expensive ‘gold standard’ X-ray procedure and the convenient but low-confidence pH testing of gastric aspirates.
The other finalist in the S & T category is OneTest, which is developing a novel method of tracking response to therapy for a wide range of cancers. Despite recent advances in cancer therapy, the most widely prescribed treatments are still incredibly toxic.
OneTest monitors tumour DNA in a patient's blood, which allows clinicians to longitudinally monitor treatment response in near real-time, allowing rapid decision making on choice of therapy.
The global cancer profiling market was valued at £9.4bn in 2012 and is growing at a CAGR of 18.5 per cent. OneTest aims to start preclinical testing in Q4 2016 and expects commercial availability in the EU from Q1 2019.
There are three contenders in the Social Enterprise category. Favalley is a startup that aims to benefit from the unmet demands for coding labour forces to help impact the lives of millions of vulnerable youth living in slums and favelas.
Team Vocalens is unlocking the full potential of people with visual impairment through technology for reading aloud.
Waterscope plans to introduce a fast, low cost bacteria test that can be used by anyone, anywhere. Using a small, inexpensive microscope Waterscope can detect single bacteria and produce quantitative results in under two hours – significantly faster than any tests available.
Digital images can be acquired instantly, enabling users to map out water quality in real time. “We want to empower the 'bottom billion' with the ability to secure clean water,” said a spokesperson for the venture.
Competition is red hot in the software section. DeepEye has developed a novel machine learning approach that leverages the power of deep neural networks to identify clinically relevant features in retinal images of patients suffering from diabetes and grade them accordingly.
NewsHub is a blogging platform designed to make it easy for university students to post articles and discover content written by other students at their university through a personalised newsfeed.
Spoorex allows farmers in the South African game industry to value their portfolios and track key market movements so that they never overpay or undersell their stock.
Tenoke has developed a software (SPACE) to automatically and precisely assess plaque vulnerability to predict the risk of stroke for asymptomatic patients.
Verbose wants to make a new kind of smart dictionary. It is developing smart morphological manipulation software, capable of recognising or generating any word form in a variety of languages, and interlinking those forms in larger structures.
The software will allow for broad diversification within the language learning and translation markets, but Verbose has identified and tested a prospective primary market entry opportunity through the submarket of language reference materials.
“We have tested a pilot product and seen substantive growth of user base and high customer retention. We now plan to expand the application of our software,” said a spokesperson for the business.