BioBullets was the cluster's sole representative in the final of the competition, offering it the opportunity to pitch live at the event for one of four packages of £100k. While its tilt at the top prize was ultimately unsuccessful, the £25k it scooped as a finalist will have provided some consolation.
Very little can and should be read into Cambridge's relatively poor showing this year. The TSB's investment decisions are often as informed by its own strategic 'sweet spots' as any judgement on the inherent market potential of the proposition. And you couldn't blame the TSB judging panel if they felt they could safely overlook pitches from Cambridge firms on the basis that they would in all likelihood find funding from within the relatively deep pool of capital available to them locally.
A case in point is sound classification start-up Audio Analytic, which recently closed a Series A funding round led by Cambridge Angels, just a matter of days after failing to make the final of the TSB competition. The IdeaSpace -based company has developed software that analyses sound signatures to potentially help CCTV systems detect aggression before it becomes violence – among a number of applications. Audio Analytic said it would use the funds to “invest in product development and delivery, expand its sales channel, and invest in marketing to drive market share .”
Audio Analytic was by no means the only member of the Cambridge contingent that – judging by the video pitches - will view their lack of success at Innovate 10 as part of the learning experience rather than any meaningful judgement on their long-terms prospects of success.
We have complied a list of ten of the stand-out pitches.
N.B – Audio Analytic did not make the list on the grounds that having just wrapped up a Series A round, funding is probably no longer at the top of the firm's list of priorities.
BIOBULLETS - Sustainability
Microencapsulated toxins to control the mussels and barnacles that clog a power plant's heat exchangers may sound a little niche, but if you consider that it can cost £1m a day in lost generation revenues you can see why BioBullets considers it to be a problem worth solving, especially as its technology is a great deal greener and more effective than the current solution – chlorine.
Founded as long ago as 2000, this Cambridge University-spin-out has been something of a slow burner. But it has begun to build serious momentum over the past two years or so - particularly in the water treatment industry - following successful trials with Anglian Water and the award of a £500k grant from the TSB, match-funded by various industry players. The firm is now in the process of creating a pilot-scale manufacturing facility in Bristol.
In order to make the move into the £510m power generation market, the company says it is going to have to develop new formulations of its BioBullets, capable of working in much larger volumes of water as well as in salt water. The £25k it won as a finalist of the Innovate 10 competition will allow it to start this process, but it will now have to find other sources of funding if it is to convert on its plan to launch a full-scale trial in power plants across Europe and the Middle East.
CAMBRIDGE CARBON CAPTURE - Energy
Although it is still less than a year old, 'potential Cambridge University spin-out' Cambridge Carbon Capture has already proven the initial technical feasibility of its elegant method of carbon capture and storage in the lab but now wants to prove it at industrial scale.
The brain-child of Michael Priestnall - formerly a cleantech specialist at local tech consultancy, Sagentia and founder of CMR Fuel Cells - the new process involves reacting CO2 with silicate rocks in a fuel cell to generate clean electricity, producing solid limestone as a by-product. Priestnall says the process could be profitable as the limestone it produces can be sold into the construction sector and the value of that product is greater than the costs of the carbon capture.
The company, also based at IdeaSpace, is seeking funding to seek out “the right industrial and commercial partners,” and build a business around the technology.
CARBON MISSIONS - Sustainability
Dawson King, founder of Carbon Missions believes his early-stage venture can cut carbon emissions by 1 million tonnes by 2012 if it secures the investment needed to drive the adoption and commercialisation of its 'social carbon trading platform.' Having created and then sold five ventures, including the world's first one gigabyte email service, King will be quietly confident of his chances of success.
The company's free application – which rewards carbon reducing behaviour through discounts and special offers at participating retailers - will work on all GPS enabled smartphones and anonymously tracks all of an individual's journeys on different transport routes. An intelligent algorithm is able to identify the start and end point of the journey, the mode of transport used, as well as the transport provider.
Not only does the user earn discounts at local retailers by using green optimised routes, but also benefits from real-time location based travel information. One of the aims of the venture is to make carbon a currency that people can relate to by putting a price tag on it.
EMOTION AI - Digital
We reported earlier in the summer that Emotion AI was seeking investment of £400k to accelerate the full market release of its first product, a software plug-in for Autodesk’s popular 3D animation suite. However, Emotion AI used the Innovate 10 pitch as a platform to push its technology in the digital advertising industry – a market currently worth $4bn dollars and growing at 10 per cent a year, according to the company.
Software that is able to endow digital characters with emotions at the touch of a button is already being applied in the production of games and animation, but could equally be applied in making digital outdoor advertising significantly more effective by making digital characters on advertising interact with passers-by in real time, the company believes.
The firm wants to channel investment into the development of a proof of concept prototype to put in front of creative agencies working in the space.
MEDEDIS - Healthcare
Not all fat is bad, according to medtech start-up Mededis and it wants to apply its expertise in the use of thermal cameras in diagnostics to develop technology capable of imaging brown fat – a key potential weapon in the war against obesity. Brown fat is “fantastically metabolically active” according to the company, with just 10g of this thermogenic organ capable of burning 3kg of obesity-causing white fat in one year.
The only way of imaging this material at the moment is with the use of a particle accelerator and a positron detector, making it expensive, time-consuming – and because of the levels of radiation involved – dangerous to the patient.
Mededis is seeking investment to fund a collaboration with the University of Cambridge to develop a thermal camera to measure brown fat activity, enabling the screening of potential treatments of obesity that work by 'switching on' brown fat.
OMNISENSE - Healthcare
The firm is seeking investment to adapt its Series 400 wireless sensor system to the needs of domiciliary healthcare market, particularly the care of people with dementia. Omnisense points to research that shows that dementia sufferers – of which there are an estimated 700,000 in the UK alone - are happier and live longer if they are cared for in their own homes rather than a hospital or residential care home. It believes its sparse wideband wireless sensor network could provide real time information on the service user's state of well-being, through key parameters such as level of mobility.
Based in Elsworth near Cambridge, Omnisense says investment is needed to adapt its hardware and stage representative trials in a healthcare setting. Investment of £100k would allow it to make substantial progress in the certification and commercialisation process, it says.
PNEUMACARE - Healthcare
Cambridge University spin-out Pneumacare has already attracted around £348k in grant funding - on top of undisclosed angel finance from investors including the University of Cambridge Discovery Fund and Cambridge Capital Group. This, in addition to R&D contracts with the MoD, for example, and partnerships with the NHS, has allowed the firm to demonstrate its non-contact vital signs monitoring technology in adults.
Now the company is seeking investment to explore neonatal incubator and homecare applications for its Pneumascan technology and will use the funding to develop prototypes and conduct clinical testing. Described as non-contact intelligent monitoring of vital signs, Pneumascan uses 3D motion capture technology more commonly found in the movie and games industries to build up a dynamic image of the movement of the patient's chest in 3D, allowing lung function to be assessed.
SMART ACOUSTICS - Healthcare
Smart Acoustics is aiming to make medical ultrasound imaging “as cheap and ubiquitous as the stethoscope,” according to founder Henry Gomersall. The venture is focused on applying the signal processing techniques developed by Gomersall as part of his PhD at the University of Cambridge's Department of Engineering to acoustical imaging.
Smart Acoustics says that by applying a set of novel algorithms, expensive special purpose hardware can be replaced with very low cost and portable ultrasound imaging equipment, potentially expanding the use of ultrasound within the clinical setting, but also opening up “entirely new markets.” Importantly, the firm says it can bring down the cost of ultrasound, but still produce high quality images rivalling even the most expensive equipment currently on the market.
The venture's pitch says that gaining funding will allow it to accelerate its development programme, bringing the technology to market in a much shorter timescale.
WRIGHT SOLAR - Sustainability
St John’s Innovation Centre based WrightSolar says it can make solar thermal heating systems attractive to the mass market - without subsidy - by bringing the price down as low as £1,000 fully installed.
Armed with “simple science,” inexpensive components and the small matter of 30 years experience in hydraulics and fluid processes, founder Alan Wright’s innovation comprises a very low cost recycled plastic solar panel and an efficient heat management system. The technology can be retrofitted to existing fossil fuel central heating systems and uses ‘heat loops’ to increase efficiency, the company says. An unpublished comprehensive patent (funded by Renewables East) protects IP.
WrightSolar says investment will be used to fund a feasibility development project to “independently verify efficiencies and demonstrate wider application.” This it says, will allow it to attract the further, more significant investment it requires to bring the product to market.
ZINWAVE - Digital
In-building wireless specialist, Zinwave was founded as long ago as 2002 and has raised a total of £12.6m in venture capital, according to its CrunchBase profile (although this doesn't seem to include the £2.5m it raised in February of this year) . It has also worked on a total of 50 international projects.
Traditional in-building wireless coverage solutions are disruptive and costly to install, according to Zinwave, while the launch of a new wireless service (of which there have been eight over the past 12 years) means that new hardware has to be grafted on to the installation. Zinwave’s technology means that any wireless service can use one system and it plans to develop a simple rules-based system that eliminates the need for wireless expertise in the planning and installation of the systems.
The firm was pitching for TSB cash to modify its existing wideband wireless coverage technology so that it can be easily integrated into the structured cabling components that are already used in the wiring of all new buildings - something it says that could lead to wireless services being viewed as the 5th utility in new public venue and larger commercial buildings.
The other Cambridge based companies to submit a pitch to this year's Innovation 10 competition - the majority of which were not included in the list on the basis that they do not fall into the category of 'start-up' - are listed below, along with the title of their project and a link to their video pitch:
- Power Transfer without Losses - AERI Ltd
- Information Deluge for Security Video Operators - Audio Analytic
- Reusable System for the Temporary Built Environment - Bell Stone Associates Ltd
- Portable detection device for Ultra-rapid pathogen detection/screening - BioGene
- SuitPak - Cambridge Design Partnership
- Improved hand washing process - Cambridge Design Partnership LLP
- Business Voice - Cambridge Open Systems
- DuoFertility for the NHS - Cambridge Temperature Concepts Ltd
- Dimmable LED Lights for MRI Scanners - European EMC Products Limited
- Computer Graphics through a Parallel Language - Geomerics
- Laser Fusion Prototyping and Licensing - Laser Fusion Technology
- Printed digital user interface - Novalia
- Agent based simulations - Ososim Limited
- Drum Tuning iPhone Application - RT Sixty Ltd
- Patient Centered Pre Operative Assessment - Safer Sleep Ltd
- Surgical Instruments inspection - Synoptics Ltd [Syngene Division]
- The multiplexed detection of respiratory pathogens in sputum - Universal Sensors Ltd
- Voyage Manager - Voyage Manager