UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


Joe & Jordan are Safe & Sound!

22 June 2016

Joseph Newton (left) and Jordan Turnbull recently won at the UCL Advances Idea Accelerator with a project that transports festival goers heavy, low-value items to the festival. They were awarded £7,500 to start up a company that enables the customer to travel light to a festival, so that they are free to take cheaper, low-carbon footprint transport such as the train, making the experience much easier and helping festivals become more sustainable.

We’re very grateful to them both for taking the time to answer some questions.

What are you both working on?

We’re very busy having been working on a business plan for a startup biotech company, this will have been the third business plan we’ve written in as many years. We’re both on the Engineering Doctorate (EngD) programme in the Department of Biochemical Engineering.

How did the Safe and Sound idea come about?

Jordan: I was doing the Brighton marathon and they have a system that collects your kit at the start and takes it to the finish line where you can collect it when you’ve reached the end. I was with a friend taking part and got very excited about doing this on a bigger scale at festivals but got told to stop getting overexcited and focus on the marathon! Later on I approached Joe and we took the idea to UCL Advances (UCL's centre for entrepreneurship and business interaction which helps UCL students who want to learn about, start or grow a business).

Joe: They run an 8 week programme over the summer with workshops and mentoring to help you develop your idea into a business plan. At the end you pitch to a panel of judges of seasoned entrepreneurs.

The Safe & Sound scheme is a service that allows the customer to bring heavy, low-value items (e.g. tent, food, clothing, sleeping bags etc) and pack them in a crate at a drop-off point in London – the crate can take around 70 litres which can take a 2-person tent, food, sleeping bags, beers and clothes for two people. They can then travel by public transport which means that fewer people need to travel by car, which massively lowers the carbon footprint of the festival but also means there’s less need for parking facilities. 

Jordan: The idea we pitched needed £15k but because there were a lot of strong candidates the judges only gave us £7,500 so we’ve had to pare down the scale somewhat. However, it does mean that a number of us get to put our ideas into action. We’ve also managed to cut the costs by quite a bit as we’ve got some strong support from festivals who recognise this is a great way of helping them become more sustainable. For example, we budgeted for storage space at sites, but we’ve only had to hire a gazebo to work from. By focusing on the green angle we’re really gotten some strong support for Safe & Sound.

Which festivals are you going to this year?

We’re doing Latitude and In The Woods this year as we want to do a couple of festivals really well with a smaller number of customers and get it right, get some good feedback and use it as the way to pitch it to more festivals for next year. We’ve had some great feedback from Festival Republic, the company that runs Leeds, V, Latitude and Download festivals as they’re big enough to be able to put resources into a sustainable agenda.

Jordan: We’ve approached some festival organisers who would love to lower their carbon emissions, but because they have a very non-hierarchical structure, and also because they run to a very tight budget, we struggled to get hold of someone who can spare the time or act on the initiative, whereas Festival Republic have enough organisational structure to have a dedicated sustainability officer and we got to pitch to the MD as well.

How does this tie in with your EngD studies?

Joe: One of the great aspects of being on the EngD is that Gary (Lye, Director of the EngD and Head of Department) is very happy to support PhD and EngD students taking MBA business electives at London Business School with a reciprocal system for electives here in the UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering. This is what kick-started my acquisition of knowledge and put me on this path. I think the EngD inherently encourages entrepreneurship as it’s sponsored by industry, you are engaged in academic research but it has real-world applications and you are constantly thinking about commercialisation. 

Jordan: It’s been great working with Puridify (Puridify Limited is a UK-based bioprocessing company formed in 2013 as a spin-out from University College London involving academics from the department of Biochemical Engineering and co-founded by Oliver Hardick and Iwan Roberts, both EngD centre graduates). Because they are new I’ve been able to watch them grow and I can talk to Iwan about the business, and I intend to go along this trajectory in the future – after all, we’re all looking to get a job after we leave university! I closely follow biotechnology advances, not just because it interests me, but also because that’s where I plan to work in the future. Throughout my PhD I’ve kept the bigger picture in mind, but the commercial opportunities are drilled into you throughout your journey and what me and Joe have been able to learn in a safe, supportive environment is incredibly valuable and we will take this experience forward into a biotechnology startup at a future date.

Joe: At a basic level we’ve gained project management skills by doing the EngD, we’ve had a behemoth of tasks to manage all at once and it’s good practise for later life and as well as the technical and scientific skills, we’ve got this extra business dimension that we’ve developed for ourselves and our future.

Jordan: What initially interested me about the EngD was that it was different to the environment I came from in Great Ormond Street where we pioneered new principles but it could be years before it would be put into the real world. When I did my masters it was amazing to see these new therapies, but they were a lifetime away from being commercial products and I wanted to be at the stage where you could actually see something go into the market and Biochemical Engineering is at that point.

Joe: What we do translates into the real-world. Our department is incredibly – in my office there are computer scientists, human biologists, chemists and mathematicians and it’s great because that’s how real problems are solved nowadays. There is also evidence to suggest that teams thrive on the diversity of their people. As we make progress our solutions to problems become more complex and need more varied approaches and that requires an interdisciplinary team.

We wish them both the best of luck and you can find out more about Safe and Sound by going to www.sasfestivalservices.com/


The Safe & Sound project was a success with Joe and Jordan meeting up with Biochemical Engineering colleagues James Lawrence and Brenda Parker who took an algae experiment to the Latitude Festival! "It went well and we have learned some very important lessons for next year," they said. Here is a picture of them in the UCL quad with the van just about to head off.