The 2017 edition of the IMAGINE IF! accelerator program attracted enthusiastic response from global innovation and R&D networks during the application period held over June–September. Applications from over 200 companies have been evaluated.
Local finalists across Innovation Forum branches worldwide were selected in August on the basis of their business plans and the potential of their novel technologies to create significant impact on improving global health and wellbeing. The local finalists were invited into an intensive mentorship program with leaders of different technology sectors and professional service companies.
The Global Top 20 announced below have been selected across all applications as a result of extensive evaluation by highly qualified judges on the technological validity and business potential of these companies.
All 20 teams will attend the Innovation Forum Leaders Conference as invited delegates, and are now preparing to pitch before our international panel of investors and experts in research and commercialisation. The global winner will secure at least $10,000 USD non-dilutive cash prize, $10,000 USD worth of professional services and other benefits from the Innovation Forum network to enable rapid acceleration of their business.
Congratulations to our IMAGINE IF! 2017 Global Top 20! The profile of each company is highlighted below:
|Àvida Biotech, S.L.||Barcelona|
|CamMat: Graphene Sensor Platforms||Cambridge|
|Neo-Innovation UK Ltd||London|
|SunRegen Healthcare AG||Lausanne|
|Zunosaki Limited||Hong Kong|
AlgoSurg – ALGOrithms for SURgical applications. At AlgoSurg, we are developing world’s first cloud based software platform for orthopaedic surgeons for ‘3D surgery planning and patient specific instrument (PSI) design’, solely based on one or two 2D X-ray image. The 3D planning will help surgeon to make accurate clinical decisions in very less time, from anywhere-anytime. The PSI will help to accurately execute the surgery at low cost and in less time.
Advanced Retention Therapeutics (ART) and Research Ltd was formed by a young entrepreneur and his supervisor at the University College London in 2016. ART Research focuses on development of non-invasive technologies for controlled release of drugs in the body. With their Dosing On Time technology (DotTech) they can control the intervals and the amount of a drug released in the circulation of a patient and thereby improve drug efficacy and reduce side effects. DotTech is the first technology in the world to manage drug dosing over a period of a week. ART Research aims to improve patient health and quality of life by accurately controlling the concentration of a medicine in the circulation with a minimally invasive technology. In addition, their technology will improve drug compliance, especially in patients who suffer from brain disorders that render them unable to remember when to take their pills. IMAGINE IF! helps them expose their product, attract partners, advisors and investors to further optimise and advance their technology.
There are many infectious diseases for which there are no treatments or vaccines. About half of the world’s population is at risk of diseases such as Dengue and Zika, and their impact is devastating in low- and middle-income countries. The only available Dengue vaccine is not very effective or safe, and it is too expensive for most of the people who need it. We are developing a broad-spectrum antiviral. It can be used on its own or as a scaffold to make live attenuated virus vaccines. It will allow us to develop oral non-refrigerated products. These will be affordable new drugs. This is a disruptive proposition in global health. We have several routes to market, some of them as short as two years, because our product branches out into several applications. It can be used to inactivate clinical samples in the clinic; as a food supplement to reduce the risk of infection; and to develop human and veterinary vaccines and drugs. Our team includes an experienced entrepreneur as well as key opinion leaders in global health, drug discovery and chemistry of natural products. We are in the early stages of development. We seek 1.5 M€ to complete a preclinical package.
BioMe Oxford Ltd is an Oxford-based start-up company seeking to catalyse a transformation in gut health by developing a cost-effective solution for targeted gastrointestinal sampling. An ever increasing number of studies have linked human diseases to variations within the immense population of bacteria inhabiting our gut, referred to as the gut microbiome. Available methods for sampling the microbiome have limited sampling capabilities, and represent a trade-off between accuracy and cost. To address this unmet need, we are developing BioCapture®, an ingestible device for low-cost and non-invasive sampling of the human gut microbiome. BioCapture® will facilitate large-scale diagnostic and medical research uses in a wide range of diseases.
THE END OF “MAY CONTAIN NUTS”! We have developed a technology that enables sensitive and fast sensors, capable of measuring trace amounts of impurities in food processing lines. Such sensors will allow to reduce production line cleaning times and enable to remove the “may contain nut” label from packaging. After successfully entering the food processing market in 2020, our platform technology will find wider use in areas such as: Photonic sensors (infrared and THz imaging), hand held allergen sensors for personal use, and further applications in process line contamination detection as required in the pharmaceutical industry. We are already working already in close collaboration with our industrial partners and key customers Unilever and Prognomics.
The key technology that our company CamMat provides is a high quality layer of graphene on a silicon wafer substrate. The atomically thin graphene layer is the ideal material for ultrasensitive sensing due to its extremely low surface area to volume ratio and high conductivity. In contrast to our competitors, we have developed a process which satisfies semiconductor process (CMOS) compatibility which is a key advantage. CMOS compatibility is required if such sensors are to be manufactured at large volume and low cost.
CortiCare was formed by a team of young scientists from Imperial College London in 2016. CortiCare aims to bring the power of a diagnostic lab at home and make real-time health monitoring easily accessible to everyone, anywhere, anytime. This innovative technology company is developing a smart portable device for affordable, quick and accurate hormonal testing. CortiCare transforms the current hormone testing procedures by significantly reducing the cost, turnaround and ease of use of these tests by using novel biomimetic materials developed at Imperial College London. In addition, their technology is minimally invasive since it uses saliva as the starting medium of analysis. The greater impact of CortiCare’s technology is to allow anyone to frequently monitor their health and adjust their lifestyle based on the easily comprehensible results that their platform provides. In this way people can unlock deep information about their bodies and transition to a proactive approach to their health rather than a reactive one. To date, they have received financial support from Angel Investors, have expanded their team to 5 full-time employees and IMAGINE IF! will help them reach the next inflexion points.
HyperC is a technology start-up that can quickly and efficiently produce 13C-labelled compounds for the emerging technology in Hyperpolarised Magnetic Resonance Imaging enabling the study of complex structures and processes previously not visible. The company has already established their first customers with pioneers in hyperpolarized imaging at University of Oxford and at University of California San Francisco with Professor Tyler and Professor Vigneron. The company will significantly advance academic and industrial diagnostics and clinical research specifically for this emerging technology as the first European company to provide the labelled compounds cheaper and faster in contrast to the existing American based companies that mostly have taken up this technology as a secondary pipeline, and are therefore not devoted to the technology.
Separating, storing, and transporting gas using traditional technologies is costly and uses a great deal of energy. At Immaterial we develop porous nanomaterials that adsorb and separate gases at the molecular level: they draw in gas, much like a sponge soaks up water. Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) have existed for over two decades and they gathered a great deal of interest when they were discovered. So far, however, they have failed to be applied on an industrial scale as they are unusable in their natural, powdered state, and very difficult to form into larger pellets.
We have discovered a cheap, simple tweak to the manufacturing process that overcomes this, making it possible to grow MOFs as much larger crystals which we call monoliths. Hundreds of these materials are already extensively researched and well understood; in a single stroke, Immaterial’s discovery makes it possible for them to be commercialised. Together, they have industrial applications ranging from natural gas transportation to carbon capture, hydrogen storage, and cheap, reusable catalysts.
Clean energy/New Materials/Energy/Syn. Bio
We create high quality and high performance electric actuators and rotary motors for the aerospace industry. Our company mission is to provide the aerospace industry with innovative solutions and products in order to reduce aircraft weight, costs, and reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. We are developing breakthrough technologies for More Electric, Green and Safe Aircrafts as well as for UAVs and Electric Aircraft. We develop lightweight electric equipment to replace hydraulic and pneumatic technologies. We develop for UAVs and Electric Aircrafts lightweight and more efficient electric motors and power management system.
Milkkit is a biotechnology start-up company that is developing a novel medical device to support infant health by improving breastfeeding rates. Globally only 35% of mothers breastfeed exclusively, despite numerous health benefits, including improved growth and wellbeing, higher IQ and increased immune defence. Breastfed babies also show a reduced likelihood of developing many chronic diseases (notably cancer, diabetes, asthma, schizophrenia and obesity) throughout life. It has been estimated that if every mother breastfed 800,000 children’s lives could be saved each year.
Some mothers, especially in China, choose formula milk over breastmilk because they believe it provides better nutrition that formula milk. However, this is untrue and we propose to develop the first home testing kit for nutrient content in breast milk to assure mother of breast milk quality and promote increased breastfeeding. We are looking to launch the market initially in China, which has over 18m new mothers each year and there is a growing concern over quality of domestic formula milk. Furthermore, Chinese government support for schemes encouraging breastfeeding, due to low breastfeeding rates of 20% across China and only 2.3% in Hong Kong.
Overall, this device can provide huge profit margins along with clear societal benefits.
MJN is a project for a complete real-time monitoring system for epileptic people, consisting of a personal device for data collection and an external system for helping the person, keeping records, reporting and detecting possible emergencies. The main goal is the ability to generate an early warning of the seizure. This system is expected to help the people and the families who suffer from epilepsy, especially those who are not controlled by medication and who have high probability of seizure. In the future, it may also be applied to mental, schizophrenic, bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s, among others. The final goal is secured the patient, release their stress before the seizure occurs. Thus, it will prevent personal injuries or accidents from seizures. Consequently, this will lead to an improvement in the life quality and the occupational integration of people with epilepsy. We have a double goal: on the one hand, we want to develop a system able to warn the patient beforehand and, on the other hand, we want to use this system to collect data (e.g. number of seizures, their intensity and duration or other parameters), which will be subsequently shared with and monitored by doctors, including information about the patient’s medication or possible changes in his or her condition.
Neo innovations is a start-up formed in 2013 by Neomi Bennett, a nursing graduate from Kingston University and a registered nurse. Neo-slip is a low friction device, which aids the application of medical stockings, which are very tight fitting and difficult to apply. It is made from a material that acts as a barrier between the skin of patients’ feet and legs and the material of tight medical stockings. By forming a barrier, Neo-slip makes their application much easier for patients and their carers. While training as a nurse, Neomi noticed that people were struggling to apply their medical stockings. Through research she discovered that 25,000 people die of deep vein thrombosis each year and stockings help to prevent this. Medical stockings will only deliver benefits to patients if they are worn regularly as directed by health professionals. However, the difficulty of applying these stockings, means patients often stop wearing them. Over the past two years, Neo-slip has gained approval for listing on both the NHS Formulary (the catalogue of products approved for dispensing via prescription) and NHS Supplies, which is the main procurement portal for NHS trusts and hospitals. Neo-innovation is also working on new products, which will be taken to the market alongside Neo-slip. IMAGINE IF! will help Neomi’s plans as she hoping to access the wide network across the innovation forum platform and the potential to secure non-dilutive capital and advice from their leading professional services.
NeuroDynamics is a biotechnology start-up based in the University of Manchester. We are dedicated to the development of innovative solutions for peripheral nerve regeneration.
Peripheral nerve damage is most commonly caused by traumatic injury, rendering an individual with debilitating long term functional loss. Annually, 700,000 peripheral nerve surgeries are carried out worldwide (Brattain, 2013). People of all ages are susceptible and potentially at risk. Many patients with nerve damage are under 55 years old leading to lifelong problems such as loss of mobility dramatically reducing quality of life and work capability.
Especially large peripheral nerve injuries have poor clinical outcomes and we aim to address this with our innovative peripheral nerve guidance conduit.
Sixfold is a biotech start-up developing drug delivery nanotools for cancer.
Cancers are complex diseases driven by multiple genetic pathways but the currently available therapeutics target only individual pathways. This leads to ineffective treatments and build up of resistance. Meanwhile, combining therapeutics results in excessive toxicities and serious side effects. Therefore, there is a large unmet clinical need of delivering multimodal therapeutics specifically and effectively to cancer cells while minimizing toxicities.
Sixfold’s RNA nanoring provides several distinct advantages, including specific cancer cell targeting and simultaneous delivery of up to six different therapeutics that can address the drug delivery challenge even to the most inaccessible regions in the body such as the brain.
Sixfold was founded by three Postdocs and PhDs from Cambridge University and the Francis Crick Institute in London. With already established strategic collaborations at the NIH (USA) and the Addenbrooke’s Hospital, we aim to mount a sixfold attack on cancer to provide better treatments for patients.
Clean energy/New Materials/Energy/Syn. Bio
Only 5% of the total wind energy globally available would be sufficient to power the entire world. The problem is that the most of the wind energy is not available on the ground. As a matter of fact, winds at higher altitudes (as of 400 meters from the ground) are stronger, more consistent and better predictable than the winds we feel on the ground. Conventional wind turbines can’t however capture this potential due to their design (limited height, cumbersome structure, heavy weight). Skypull is an Altitude Wind Energy system, which consists of an autonomous drone connected through a tether to a ground-based generator. The drone transforms the wind power available between 200 and 600 m above ground into traction on the tether. The tether is unrolled from a drum connected to a generator that produces electricity. The proprietary airframe and high-efficiency wing profile as well as the artificial intelligence that controls all the flight phases, provide Skypull with the required performance characteristics – especially in terms of system’s efficiency, reliability and resilience – to produce electric energy from a renewable source with a cost competitive with fossil fuel based system, even in absence of public incentives or feed-in tariffs.
Spherox Phatmaceuticals is a start-up led by an Oxford DPhil student, which aims at using the assay he has developed during his research project to identify compounds that block glioblastoma (GBM)- type of brain cancer- invasion. The core of the project is the world’s first assay that enables the medium-high throughput study of subventricular zone (SVZ) progenitor migration. SVZ has been identified as a source of a large subpopulation of GBM tumors. This assay has already been successfully used for the screening of small molecule compounds. Now the start-up is seeking to expand the preclinical data portfolio to demonstrate that this approach can identify compounds that block GBM invasion.
SunRegen Healthcare AG is a pioneering biopharmaceutical company based in Basel Area of Switzerland. Our mission is to develop novel drugs inspired by traditional medicine to treat neurodegenerative diseases. Our team is composed of passionate, innovative and persistent founders who have track records of senior drug development & clinical research in multinational pharmaceutical company or management experiences in international technology enterprises.
Clean energy/New Materials/Energy/Syn. Bio
ThinAir was formed in 2016 by a team of four young scientists from Imperial College London and aims to solve one of the three biggest problems on the planet, water scarcity. ThinAir has developed a bio-membrane that condenses water from atmospheric air efficiently and energy-free. The team that formed ThinAir were inspired by the potential of biomimicry and they based their idea on the way beetles capture water from the atmospheric air even in the driest habitats in the world. ThinAir aspires to provide a clean source of water anywhere in the world. The technology will facilitate agriculture in dry environments and provide clean water for human consumption in areas where clean water is scarce. To date they acquired their financial support by winning competitive grants from several national and international start-up competitions including the Global Cleantech Challenge (1st place) and McKinsey Venture Academy (1st place). IMAGINE IF! will help them to continue to develop the technology, ready for a pilot project in 2018 and publicise their technology as they look to establish partnerships.
Clean energy/New Materials/Energy/Syn. Bio
Electrical utilities are facing the challenges of energy transition and the operation of power distribution grids is becoming an increasingly complex business that requires improved grid monitoring and automation services. In order to (1) safely integrate renewable energies, (2) be able to guarantee the continuity and quality of the power supply and (3) keep, at the same time, the profitability of their business, utilities are expected to considerably invest in grid modernization and digitization. Zaphiro Technologies is an EPFL spin-off that offers to electrical utilities a real-time monitoring and automation system that helps them to operate their grid more reliably, efficiently and cost effectively during both normal and fault conditions. The combination of high-accuracy clamp-on current sensors with measurement devices integrating both Phasor Measurement Unit (PMU) and Power Quality (PQ) features, provides full grid observability at a relatively low price. A central grid controller that processes the measurement in real-time, represents a complete and scalable solution that integrates monitoring, control, and fault management features in a single platform.
Zunosaki is a Hong Kong based robotic technology company, which develops robotic exoskeletons for stroke rehabilitation. Combining neuro-rehabilitation and robotic technologies, Zunosaki provides effective solutions at an affordable cost.