The MAPS Start-Up Workshop is part of a calendar of workshops and networking events organised by the MAPS Enterprise Board, with the objective to nurture a culture of enterprise across the Faculty.
The event, organised by Dr Marina Fuentes and Prof Thanh Nguyen, brought together UCL entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds, who shared their enterprise experiences with other attendees, and answered the burning questions of those wishing to embark on the entrepreneurial journey themselves.
The programme started with talks from Nii Cleland and Darrell Coker, who co-founded Flair Football, a social network for youth football players; followed by Ginie AI’s creator Rafie Faruq, who told us about their AI-powered Supercrafter to generate complex legal contracts. These companies have managed to secure substantial investment and support in a relatively short period of time, and are two of the most successful start-ups based at UCL incubator The Hatchery.
Nii’s, Darrel’s and Rafie’s passion for their business shone through their talks, which became more of a conversation with the audience, and generated a vibrant atmosphere in the room.
Then, Innovation and Enterprise colleague James McGilvray, who has been running small businesses for 18 years, shared key pieces of advice around the start-up lifestyle and actual chances of success. James’ feet-grounding talk provided the audience with a realistic view of the start-up journey that isn’t often heard about.
Following a networking lunch, the afternoon session included talks by UCL Spin-Out founders Dan Brett, Jonathan Tennyson, and Ijeoma Uchejbu; who shared their experience on commercialising scientific IP.
Dan Brett’s presentation focused on the Electrochemical Innovation Lab (EIL) and the Spin-Out company Bramble Energy. The EIL is a UCL cross-faculty mechanism for accelerating impact, innovation, enterprise and research in electrochemical science and engineering. The EIL Incubator has led to the spin-out of a number of companies using different models, including spin-in/spin-out and multi-institution initiatives. Bramble Energy is one such company, which Dan co-founded in 2016 to develop next generation fuel cells, and that has recently completed a Round A investment.
Next, Prof Jonathan Tennyson told the audience about the use of quantum mechanical to solve a variety of problems involving the physics of molecules. Prof Tennyson is leader of the UK Molecular R-martix (UKRMol) project, which maintains and develops a program suite to study electron molecule collisions. In 2004, Prof Tennyson and Dr Daniel Brown founded Quantemol in order to provide an expert system for the UKRMol code as well as similar expert systems for plasma modelling codes. Quantemol’s goal is to serve others in industry and academia, by developing unique software tools that bring accessibility to highly sophisticated research codes and unique data.
Subsequently, Prof Ijeoma Uchegbu presented on her research group’s approach to the design and synthesis of polymers which self-assemble into tailored nanoparticles, with predictable morphology and drug transport properties. This research allowed her group to develop pharmaceutical nanosystems able to deliver genes and siRNA to tumours, and peptides to the brain, via nasal, oral and intravenous routes. This work is being commercialised via a UCL spin out company, Nanomerics Ltd, which won the first prize in RSC competition Emerging Technologies Competition (Health) in 2017.
Lastly, James McGilvray and Chris Gibbs from I&E, wrapped up the event by providing an update on the wide range of support available to both students and staff wanting to set-up their own companies or commercialising their scientific research.