UCL Engineering


Conception X: opening the door to the next generation of venture scientists

The Conception X programme is transforming scientific PhD researchers into the founders of their own companies.

The reflection of a woman with a laptop by servers.

5 November 2021

The specially developed venture programme was launched within UCL's Faculty of Engineering in 2018 and is now an independent non-profit. It supports PhD students to launch deep tech startups, alongside their PhD studies, based on their research.  

Students join a cohort where they receive enterprise and entrepreneurship training as well as mentoring and guidance from subject matter experts. These include leaders from industry, exited entrepreneurs and alumni of the programme.  

“In our model, the university is the incubator,” Conception X CEO Riam Kanso says. “The programme enables PhD candidates to explore entrepreneurship as a career choice alongside their degree.   

“Our process and resources have been designed to fit the intensive research timelines of PhD students. Open to PhDs from all universities, we’ve made it our mission to help some of the brightest people in the world become venture scientists.” 

The programme has already supported more than 200 students from 160 PhD teams at over 30 universities. Between them, the cohorts have raised £13m in funding for their ventures.

“In a short time, Conception X has scaled up across the UK and across different sectors,” says Jane Butler, UCL Engineering Vice-Dean (Enterprise), who was part of the UCL team who set up the programme. “It is truly stunning to see young companies incorporate, raise significant funds, create jobs and opportunities to shape the future whilst on the programme.”    

Some of the many successful businesses to launch through Conception X include: 

  • Quantum machine learning company Rahko, who secured £1.3 million in funding to develop technologies that significantly speed up drug development;
  • TurinTech, who raised £1 million for their business that helps industry harness Al in a faster, more environmentally friendly way;
  • Enteromics, who’ve been awarded £150k to develop their gut health ‘smart pill’.

To find out more about Conception X/joining the programme, the Conception X programme website has all the information. 



  • Credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash.

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