2014 Launchpad competition uncovers UK’s most promising young tech entrepreneurs

24 Feb 2014

A new bone substitute for dental implants, software to improve the accuracy of breast cancer diagnosis, and infrared technology to reduce house fires have been developed by three young entrepreneurs who have now been backed by the Royal Academy of Engineering to help get their businesses off the ground.

Hind Kraytem (22), Dr Niall Kent (25), and James Popper (22) have been invited to join the Academy’s Enterprise Hub following a competitive pitch-style event last night, in front of HRH The Duke of York, KG, who is known for his support of young entrepreneurs through initiatives such as Pitch@Palace and iDEA, and of young engineers through programmes including Young Engineers and Code Club.

The three young entrepreneurs also pitched their ideas in front of inspirational leaders such as angel investor Sherry Coutu CBE, who was keynote speaker at the event, and a judging panel of business and technology experts.

The overall winner was Niall Kent, who received the JC Gammon Award. In addition to membership of the Enterprise Hub, the prize includes £15,000 to catalyse the growth of his start-up company Aerograft, and the chance to pitch to a number of leading UK business angel groups over the next year.

Aerograft is a synthetic material that is more effective than existing bone replacements and can be tailored to specific procedures. Bone substitutes are used by dentists when a patient is missing bone, or when more bone is required for reasons such as facilitating implant placement.

Aerograft could facilitate bone integration in nearly 600,000 dental operations worldwide each year. Very little innovation has been made in this field over the past five decades, so Aerograft presents a significant and overdue improvement to existing bone substitutes.

Through the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub, the three young entrepreneurs will receive mentoring and training, and the opportunity to make a lifetime of invaluable business connections through their networks. This includes more than 100 volunteer mentors such as  Sir Robin Saxby FREng, former Chief Executive and Chairman of ARM, and Ian Shott CBE FREng, serial entrepreneur.

At the event, The Duke commented, “If we are to be a prosperous and successful nation we have to invest in young people and young people’s ideas. One of the best ways to do this is to challenge them to come up with solutions to the problems that most affect them. Today we have a huge range of tools at our disposal to make that possible, most notably in the digital space. We must ensure that young people recognise that having a digital skill is going to be useful to them whatever they decide to do in the future.

“Engineering is one of the widest market spheres, yet one of the least understood. We can change that by encouraging young people to deliver innovative ideas. The key is giving them the support and mentoring that they need, and the Launchpad competition delivers exactly that. The Royal Academy of Engineering does a great deal to encourage entrepreneurial activity in engineering, and I know that all three of the Launchpad finalists joining the Academy’s Enterprise Hub will be successful in their own right.”

“Engineering innovation is at the heart of future economic growth, and it’s vital that we help young, talented entrepreneurs to develop skills in order to take their great ideas to market,” said leading angel investor David Gammon, the primary benefactor of the award. “The range of talent displayed among applicants proves that age is irrelevant to coming up with good business ideas, and we hope to encourage all of the finalists to realise their entrepreneurial potential.”

Finalists joining the Enterprise Hub:

Improving breast cancer diagnosis - Hind Kraytem with Nikolaus Wenzl and Grecia Gonzalez

It is estimated that 10% of women diagnosed with breast cancer receive an unduly aggressive course of treatment, which can have a negative impact on their health as well as using valuable treatment resources unnecessarily.

Hind is CEO of Radial Genomics, which has developed technology to improve the accuracy of breast cancer diagnosis by combining an advanced cloud-based software with existing fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) techniques to analyse changes in cancer patients’ DNA. The new ‘Oncodyne’ system can provide a more definitive diagnosis through improved accuracy, whilst also being cheaper, quicker and minimally invasive compared to existing tests. The technology has the potential to be applied to other diseases in the future.

Infrared flame detection for domestic use – James Popper

In the UK 68% of all domestic fires originate in the kitchen. James Popper’s Sinclair Kitchen Fire Detector uses proprietary infrared flame detection technology to detect fires rapidly with a near-zero false alarm rate. The technology has been validated by independent fire testing and field trails, resulting in reduced overall fire response times, less damage, and fewer lives put at risk.

Conducted in parallel with his university studies, James’ research in this field was motivated by a personal awareness of the risks involved with domestic fires. After an elderly family friend with dementia left a pan unattended on the hob and her kitchen was entirely destroyed by fire, James was inspired to make a difference in this field.

“The Launchpad finalists showcase the range of markets where engineering and entrepreneurship are crucial to innovation,” said Arnoud Jullens, Head of Enterprise at the Royal Academy of Engineering. “It has been gratifying to see the ability of young engineers aged 16-25 to think beyond product development and consider how their innovations might be developed into fully-fledged, vibrant businesses. The future success of the UK’s economy is dependent on investment in innovation today, and developing relevant skills in the next generation of technology entrepreneurs. This is something the Academy is actively supporting through its Engineering for Growth campaign.”

Two entrants were also given ’Highly commended’ status by the judges. Adeel Ali (18) has a prototype of an affordable, easy-to-use home 3D printing kit, and Jennie Morley (25) has set up Moulu, an organisation that allows customers to buy a coffee bean roaster as well as green coffee beans, the proceeds of which are funnelled back to fund development in the original coffee farming communities.

Overall winner of the JC Gammon Award: Improving bone substitutes used in dental surgery - Dr Niall Kent with Dr Alessia D’Onofrio

Niall is currently a post-doctoral researcher at UCL who, working with Dr Alessia D’Onofrio, has produced ‘Aerograft’, a synthetic material that is more effective than existing bone replacements and can be tailored to specific procedures. Bone substitutes are used by dentists when a patient is missing bone, or when more bone is required for reasons such as facilitating implant placement.

Aerograft could facilitate bone integration in nearly 600,000 dental operations worldwide each year. Very little innovation has been made in this field over the past five decades, so Aerograft presents a significant and overdue improvement to bone substitutes.

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