Bethan Wolfenden

Bethan Wolfenden's innovative Bento Lab weighs about as much as a cat and fits on a sheet of A4. It lets you do genetic experiments from the comfort of your own home or on the move with your own DNA lab in a bag.

What Bethan did last summer

In her second year at University College London, Bethan was part of a team entering a competition aimed at uncovering student entrepreneurs with potential bioscience start-ups. They developed the concept for Bento Lab over the summer and won a small amount of funding to build a prototype.

Immersing themselves in the DIY-bio community, Bethan’s team built their idea around a growing trend for mobile laboratory equipment. Such equipment is more affordable, accessible and user-friendly than traditional lab equipment, and they soon realised there was potential for this type of biology toolkit beyond the DIY-bio community.

Taking the plunge

They went on to successfully enter further competitions and were staggered by the level of interest in the product. When they realised the extent of its potential, they decided to fully establish the business. “One of the challenges we all face is thinking that there’s a perfect time to start your own business. The harsh reality is that this mythical moment never arrives. There will always be challenges and excuses to delay making that decision, but at some point you need to get past those mental roadblocks and take the plunge."

Don't hold yourself back

As part of the ERA Foundation Entrepreneurs Award, Bethan was invited to join the Enterprise Hub, where she is receiving training to help her develop the skills needed to run a successful business. She’s also been assigned a mentor from the Academy’s Fellowship to provide additional support and advice. “Having people believe in the vision that you’re pitching is incredibly motivating and the association with a prestigious organisation helps provide evidence of our credibility.

“When I first started out, I would often hold back on applying for opportunities because I felt under-qualified. It took me a long time to realise that other people weren’t handicapping themselves in the same way. I wish I’d been given this advice two years ago, but I now know you have to give yourself a chance and believe in your own ability to succeed if you expect anybody else to take you seriously.”

The killer bio-gadget for the citizen science revolution?

"With the Bento Lab we aim to lower barriers to biology as a technology, for innovators outside of academy and industry, from kids to octogenarians. We hope that everyone can build meaningful or beautiful biology projects, contributing to science, or even examining their own burgers for traces of horsemeat!" 

Bethan is already taking orders for the Bento Lab,  which is great news for horses and the rest of us.


Bethan Wolfenden, ERA Foundation Entrepreneurs Award 2015 runner-up

Bethan Wolfenden became a member of the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub in 2015, having been named as a runner-up for the RAEng-ERA Foundation Entrepreneurs Award with her business partner, Phillip Boeing.

The Award seeks to identify, encourage and reward entrepreneurial engineering researchers working in UK universities, in a field involving electro-technology. 

Bento Bioworks

“When I first started out, I would often hold back on applying for opportunities because I felt under-qualified. It took me a long time to realise that other people weren’t handicapping themselves in the same way. I wish I’d been given this advice two years ago, but I now know you have to give yourself a chance and believe in your own ability to succeed if you expect anybody else to take you seriously.”

Bethan Wolfenden

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Bethan Wolfenden

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