By Deborah Evanson
Imperial College London will bring together the best from its extensive community of innovators for a programme of events on 19-23 March.
“These bright minds and creative thinkers have never been so important.”
– Professor Nick Jennings, Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise)
Imperial’s Enterprise Week 2018 will include exhibits, public events and dragons-den style competitions to shine a light on game changing inventions, vibrant student and research-led start-ups, and transformative new technologies developed by Imperial entrepreneurs.
The week is organised by Imperial’s Enterprise Lab, which works to support enterprising activity across the College by providing access to state of the art facilities, training, mentoring and a range of programmes to help Imperial innovators, develop new business ideas, hone their pitching skills, and raise their entrepreneurial aspirations.
Imperial – ranked the UK’s most innovative university by Reuters – has a rich and rapidly expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem. The number of new startup companies founded by Imperial students and researchers has more than doubled in the past five years.
The College now boasts more than 136 active startups founded by members of the Imperial community, a record high for the College. These companies support more than 1,300 jobs, and have collectively generated close to £900m of investment since 2012.
In dramatic highlights of the week, Imperial’s student entrepreneurs will have the chance to pitch for tens of thousands of pounds to develop their idea in front of expert panels and public audiences as the College’s flagship competitions come to a close.
WE Innovate, the College’s pioneering initiative for women entrepreneurs, will see five outstanding female students pitch their innovative ideas to a panel of academic and industry experts on Tuesday 20 March in the hope of winning a £15k top prize. The WE Innovate Programme is supported by Santander Universities and The Swarovski Foundation.
This year’s WE Innovate projects include AI software to improve diagnosis of thyroid cancer, at-home hormone tracking for women, and a blockchain solution to drugs counterfeiting.
The Venture Catalyst Challenge (VCC), which is powered by digital venture builder Blenheim Chalcot, supports deep science and early-stage tech startups founded by Imperial students. At the final, held on Thursday 22 March, seven of the most exciting technology and science ventures from Imperial Enterprise Lab will battle it out for funding of up to £40k.
The VCC has already led to scores of successful businesses. These include BLOCKS – which has developed the world’s first modular smartwatch following a $1.6million crowdfunding campaign, Sonalytic – an audio detection start-up that was recently bought by Spotify, and virtual reality start-up Surreal Vision, which was acquired by Facebook for Oculus in 2015.
Exploring cutting-edge tech
The public will have the opportunity to explore 150 years of Imperial Inventions at Imperial Fringe: Invention Dimension on Wednesday 21 March, where visitors can see artifacts including Alexander Fleming’s microscope, get hands-on with the latest inventions, and meet the next generation of student entrepreneurs showcasing their prototypes.
Imperial College Advanced Hackspace (ICAH) – the College’s network of makers, hackers, inventors and entrepreneurs – will be hosting an exhibition of inspiring projects from Tuesday 20 to Thursday 22 March. This 2,500-strong community is working to rapidly convert research ideas into breakthrough prototype products using advanced technology.
On Friday 23 March, Imperial’s Dyson School of Design Engineering will give visitors the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge tech, revolutionary design, and the brilliant minds behind it, as students and researchers from the School showcase their work.
Tackling global challenges
The College’s first Review of Enterprising Activity, published earlier this year, points to a boost in support for enterprise and innovation at the College, as well as the expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem at Imperial’s White City Campus.
Professor Nick Jennings, Vice Provost (Research and Enterprise) said: “Our students, staff and researchers are developing life-saving medical devices, solutions to water scarcity, next-generation materials and new AI applications – inventions that are tackling global challenges.
“These bright minds and creative thinkers have never been so important. That’s why Imperial supports innovation and entrepreneurship wherever we can, building the infrastructure for our staff and students to get ideas off the ground and turn them into start-up companies. These impactful activities help ensure our research has enduring benefit for society”.
Dr Simon Hepworth, Director of Enterprise at Imperial, said: “At Imperial, we have created an environment that encourages innovative thinking and maximises the exchange of ideas. The impact of this is clear. Our thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem includes a community of start-ups that is disrupting traditional industries, creating jobs, and making an impact on a global scale.”