What is the VCC?

The Venture Catalyst Challenge (VCC) is a 6-week deep science and technology pre-accelerator which helps engineers and scientists make an impact in the world of entrepreneurship, via their amazing innovations and ideas. The finalists were selected from over 300 outstanding teams and put through an intensive process to test their markets and commercial viability. The aim of VCC is to ensure that all participants gain a strong foundation in building a venture, in order to take their world-changing innovations to the next level. Over six weeks, the teams have gone through workshops and masterclasses on a range of topics (including lean principles, pitching, commercialisation, funding, and legals) coupled with one-to-one business coaching, expert advisor & intellectual property sessions and office hours.

Below you can view the final 7 teams and their ventures, as well as the 13 semi-finalists who are equally amazing with huge impact potential.

Couldn’t attend the VCC Final in person? Watch it right here!

For ventures at this stage, connections and networks are vital – we encourage you to engage with the teams with any questions, ideas, or contacts you may have.

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VCC 2017 Finalists

Accunea

Revolutionising kidney care worldwide

Got questions/ideas/contacts for Accunea?

Across the world today, one fifth of all patients in hospital will suffer kidney injury and one quarter of these cases will be fatal. In the UK alone, 40,000 people die each year from kidney injury. This can be prevented. In addition, management of this condition costs the UK and US healthcare systems $11 billion with current methods of care.

Accunea has developed a bedside kidney monitoring device that is able to detect kidney injury earlier than existing technologies, allowing doctors to intervene with timely and personalised treatment. Our monitor is connected to the patient’s blood and is the first device to continuously test for markers of kidney function. By improving kidney care in hospital, our technology will save thousands of lives and cut hundreds of millions of pounds in healthcare costs.

Robert is qualified medical doctor with a PhD in biosensor technology. Jez Marston is a biochemist from Yale and is a master’s candidate in medical device design at Imperial. Accunea has an established advisory board of renal medicine and transplant specialists, biosensor experts, and experienced biotech entrepreneurs.

Accunea is looking for regulatory and reimbursement specialists and industrial engineers to bring our product to market.

BLINK

Redefining the communication between pedestrians and autonomous vehicles

Got questions/ideas/contacts for BLINK?

Currently, the primary method of communication between vehicles and pedestrians is fundamentally one between humans: through movement, subtle body language, and eye contact. Since autonomous vehicles lack a driver, how can we replicate these interactions to enhance trust and safety?

BLINK is a communications device that helps pedestrians communicate with driverless cars in the way they might with a driver behind the wheel. It uses machine learning to interpret the hand gestures of people on the road, signalling for them to either drive or move on (at a crossing, for instance). A OLED display embedded into the car windshield indicates to the pedestrian that the car is aware of their presence, so the person knows when is safe to cross.

BLINK consists of an interdisciplinary team of Innovation Design Engineers. Our backgrounds are in Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, industrial design and Architecture. Our diverse profile gives us the right skillset to develop a multi faceted product that redefines the interaction between pedestrians and vehicles.

BLINK consists of an interdisciplinary team of Innovation Design Engineers. Our backgrounds are in Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, industrial design and Architecture. Our diverse profile gives us the right skillset to develop a multi faceted product that redefines the interaction between pedestrians and vehicles.

Microsonix

Miniaturised ultrasound imaging device for diagnosis/monitoring

Got questions/ideas/contacts for Microsonix?

Ultrasound imaging is an indispensable tool for looking into the body to diagnose/monitor problems like heart disease or ectopic pregnancies. However, two thirds of the world’s population (particularly in developing areas) don’t have access to medical imaging as it is too costly, bulky or complex to use without extensive training.

Microsonix is developing a miniature, low-cost ultrasound imaging device using microchip technology developed and patented at Imperial College. The device will have a simple user interface and connect to a smartphone/tablet, enabling life saving medical imaging to be brought to a much larger population in developing areas.

Graham Peyton and Hamid Soleimani are PhD students on scholarships at Imperial, specialising in medical chip design. Dr Robert Learney is a qualified medical doctor with a PhD in Bioengineering from Imperial. De Clercq Wentzel has over 12 years of experience in finance, business and entrepreneurship, and is a current MBA student at Berkeley Haas.  

Microsonix is looking for early stage funding to develop their working prototype into a version two “pen scanner”, and ultimately into a version three swallowable ultrasound capsule. The team is also looking for industry partners and collaborators.

Nanogap

Simplifying RFID tags manufacturing via printing technologies

Got questions/ideas/contacts for Nanogap?

Radio frequency identification (RFID) applications are numerous (e.g. anti-theft, contactless payment, electronic toll collection, key fobs, asset management) as they enable unique “object” identification, tracking, sorting and save time and cost to businesses. Nowadays, there is a push to develop RFID tags, which can be put on even the cheapest consumer item. To enable this, a fabrication cost reduction that will render the single tag price below $0.01 USD must be generated. However, this cannot be reached with the incumbent manufacturing technology.

Nanogap has the technology to manufacture high quality electronics at a low cost. The way to obtain this is by using printing manufacturing technologies, in a similar way to printing newspapers, avoiding costly processes and bulky equipment. An RFID tag consists of three distinct components. If all these three components could be printed directly onto the substrate, this would reduce the production process steps from three to one. Currently industry can print two components. Nanogap can successfully deliver the missing component to fit the bill.

Nanogap comprises of an electrical engineer with remarkable science communication abilities (Gwen), a materials engineer with significant experience in project management (Dimitra), and a physicist with excellent presentation skills (James).

As a reasonable step forward, our team now seek partnerships and collaborations within the industrial sector to help fully exploit the commercial potential of our innovative technology. At this stage we also ask for business advisors and mentors to help us formulate a concise business model and accelerate our business launching by exploring all available funding opportunities.

Opensense

Smartphone pollution sensor

Got questions/ideas/contacts for Opensense?

As a reasonable step forward, our team now seek partnerships and collaborations within the industrial sector to help fully exploit the commercial potential of our innovative technology. At this stage we also ask for business advisors and mentors to help us formulate a concise business model and accelerate our business launching by exploring all available funding opportunities.

Opensense make pollution sensors on paper, which stick on the back of your smartphone and measure the air. They are powered wirelessly by the smartphone, which sends the data to the cloud. By enabling pollution measurements in any location, for just a few pounds, we can create understanding to tackle one of the biggest global challenges.

The Opensense team are world leaders in sensors and electronics on paper. Michael is a chemistry PhD who advises the GSK Bioscience incubator, Giandrin is a physicist doing a PhD on paper gas sensing and Max’s PhD is on paper electronics and he has previously founded and exited tech start-ups.

Opensense would like to connect with organisations interested in cheap in-situ environmental monitoring, for example air and water quality measurements.

Sonodot

User-friendly, accurate and low-cost indoor positioning

Got questions/ideas/contacts for Sonodot?

Reliable positioning and navigation have been critical for all of human history. The GPS has revolutionized our ability to navigate outdoors but is generally unreliable indoors, where we spend most of our lives. Applications such as AR/VR crucially depend on high performance headset and controller tracking indoors for immersive and multi-user experiences. Yet, existing technologies suffer from poor resolution, setup and maintenance issues or high costs which seriously constrain their mass adoption.

We have developed Sonodot, our cm accurate, low-power and user-friendly indoor positioning system. It is 10 times more accurate and 5 times cheaper than the best competing technology and can be installed in under a minute. This gives VR/AR user’s headset/controller tracking capability in 3D over large indoor spaces without wires, painful calibrations nor loss in ergonomy. It is compatible with smartphones and existing VR/AR hardware thereby reducing adoption costs. Sonodot can also benefit mobile robotics (eg indoor drones) and factory automation.  

Our team combines world-class expertise in computational physics, mechatronics and signal processing with a proven track-record in running tech start-ups. The team is composed of Dr Niccolo’ Corsini ( Physics), Andrei Hirjanu (Aeronautics), Rohan Prasad (Physics) and Amir Fattahi (Finance). We are supported by top-notch advisors.

Sonodot is seeking seed/angel investment to bring our working prototype to mass production and commercialisation. We also seek industrial partners and collaborators.

ThinAir

Membrane to collect water from thin air

Got questions/ideas/contacts for ThinAir?

Climate change is causing increasing levels of drought, and when water shortage occurs, agriculture is one of the first industries to suffer. Crops quickly die without adequate water, causing long-term economic problems in developed countries such as the USA and Australia. These problems are even more severe in undeveloped countries, where people rely on agriculture to feed their families and cattle. Illness can rapidly occur and in the worst case, widespread famine results. Therefore, there is significant demand for a sustainable source of clean water for agriculture.

To address these impacts of climate change, ThinAir has designed a highly efficient biomembrane that collects water from the air around us. It combines principles already used in nature, with material science to create a surface on which water rapidly condenses. The membrane is flexible and can therefore be utilised in a variety of different formats; for instance, on a large scale, it can be applied to billboards to provide clean drinking water. Other solutions involve integration into dehumidifiers and greenhouses.

ThinAir is the only undergraduate team in the competition. We have a solid scientific background spanning Biotechnology and Materials science, and significant experience in start-ups (e.g. CustoMem) and other entrepreneurship competitions.

We plan to license our technology for applications in the agriculture industry. As such, we are keen to make links with greenhouse manufacturers, dehumidifier companies, as well as companies that aid us with manufacture of our membranes.

VCC 2017 Semi-Finalists

Panacea

Revolutionary access devices for safer keyhole surgery

Got questions/ideas/contacts for Panacea?

The first step of keyhole surgery involves the use of a sharp-tip device known as a trocar that is used to pierce the skin tissue and enter the body cavity. The FDA reports that the puncture process is the most dangerous step; for laparoscopic surgery: (i) 50% of major complications are due to trocar insertion, a statistic that has not changed for 25 years; and (ii) 57% of surgeons have experienced unintentional over-puncture leading major bowel or vascular injuries; this severely affects patient recovery time, causing up to an additional £30,000 per complication for the NHS.

Panacea is developing a novel medical device that aims to improve patient safety for the first step of keyhole surgery. We propose a low-cost technology to improve the sharp-tip trocar by applying basic physical principles to eliminate the risk of puncturing non-target tissue or organs. Our guiding philosophy is to help the medical industry improve patient recovery time and thereby reduce costs associated with keyhole surgery complications.  

Founding Members: (i) Mitesh Patel: PhD Mechanical Engineering; (ii) Ryan Lee: PhD student in Particle Engineering; and (iii) Melis Eda Ekinci: PhD student in Chemical Biology.

Panacea is seeking to expand our advisory board to include medical industry experts and foster partnerships with medical device developers, manufacturers and distributors. We are looking for early stage funding to bring our product to market.

NIMO-PD

Predicting pregnancy complications to improve health outcomes

Got questions/ideas/contacts for NIMO-PD?

Prenatal complications have a huge impact on the health of both the mother and the child, with even minor complications potentially having serious consequences to their long-term health condition. Although several effective and affordable treatment options exist, conventional tests are only equipped to diagnose conditions (such as Preeclampsia & Preterm Birth) retrospectively, i.e, after the complications arise. At this point, the impact of drugs is minimized, thereby requiring the patient to have invasive surgical procedures which further add to the risk of complications.

NIMO-PD provides an affordable blood test that can predict the onset of complications that arise during a pregnancy. The developed platform technology- NIMO utilizes novel chemistries to detect genetic biomarkers that have been identified at Hammersmith hospital to accurately indicate the risk of certain complications, during the early stages of pregnancy. A ‘lab on chip’ system enables smartphone detection of these biomarkers and reduces the cost of production of one test to £5 or less.

Suraj PG, an Inlaks Scholar with experience in clinical research & medical device design, Mohammed Khwaja, pursuing a Master’s degree in electrical & electronics engineering, and distinguished finance students– Lyra Li and Vincent Blum.

NIMO-PD is looking for partnerships with companies/ research institutes involved in molecular biosensors and PCR technologies. Further, the team is seeking experts in the field of Medical Device Regulation to aid in obtaining the necessary approvals in UK and USA.

CheeseCake Energy

Low-cost large-scale energy storage

Got questions/ideas/contacts for CheeseCake Energy?

Renewable generation has made incredible progress in recent years, but that development will come to a grinding halt if problems of intermittency are not addressed. Developers need to find ways to store energy cheaply at large scale, and battery technologies simply aren’t cost-effective when it comes to managing an entire wind farm or solar array.

CheeseCake Energy is developing a large scale storage technology at 30% lower cost than the cheapest batteries. Storing energy in the form of compressed air and heat, the CheeseCake system can be deployed anywhere to turn intermittent renewables into reliable, on-demand power. The system is projected to cost £30-40 per megawatt-hour of energy output, depending on scale.

The CheeseCake Energy team includes Prof Garvey, a leading academic in compressed air energy storage, Bruno, a postdoc in thermal energy storage, and Bharath, Mike and James, postgraduate students in energy storage and conversion. Business insight and connections are provided by Paul, our sixth founder and an energy consultant in Chile, home to perhaps the best renewable resource in the world and a mining industry that needs energy around the clock.

CheeseCake Energy would like to connect with major energy companies and industrials, with a view to potential collaborations in future.

Moth

Your sleep companion, adapt to your changes

Got questions/ideas/contacts for Moth?

1 in 3 of us have some form of sleep disorder. In our globalised 24/7 world, we plan our days but we never think of planning our sleep. Our lives are full of change, and that leads to our sleep changing as an afterthought. The market is packed with wearables or mattress monitors that give you inaccurate data, that you have no control of. What can you do, if your smartwatch tells you ‘you need more REM sleep’?

Moth is a standalone device that sits on your wall or on your bedside table. Giving you real accurate information on your sleep patterns. But we don’t just stop at monitoring, but giving you the unique ability to be an active participant with your sleep, by providing sustainable transitions from your real to your desired sleep. Combining a learning algorithm as well as a non-invasive input, paves the way for a truly intuitive system. From waking up in the middle night, and having the light in your bathroom warm and dim, to naturally waking you up. We envisage Moth to be the next natural step to make your home not just smart but alive.

There’s no single answer to sleep, and that’s why being an interdisciplinary team was important to us. Elena was an architect that has worked in several projects in the luxury market. Mafalda was a product designer that has mass manufactured products from concept to production. Whilst Aaron was a bioengineer, who is proficient in human centred technological developments. We also have a tech consultant in machine learning.

Moth is looking for further key partners in the wellness vacation industry.

GRIPD

Exercise anytime, anywhere, with anybody

Got questions/ideas/contacts for GRIPD?

Many people do not exercise enough despite their will, as an example 67% of health club members dropout after subscription. Surveys indicate that the main reasons for such high dropout rate are insufficient motivation (caused by the lack of efficient tracking tools and not keeping it social), meager flexible guidance and numerous physical constraints, namely time and location. Current tracking tools are either limited to endurance training, or restricts the freedom of user’s exercising choice as they are only capable of exercise recognition.

GRIPD is an exercise tracking wearable complemented with a community platform for remote user engagement. Its hardware is capable of 3D body motion mapping based on extremity sensing. It is also automated, laying the cornerstones for GRIPD’s real-time comparison between two user’s motion trails that could be used for guidance, correction or competition purposes, foreshadowing the functions of remote coaching and remote engagement. Through GRIPD’s platform, users can practice anytime, anywhere, with anybody, any of the exercises currently available to them.

GRIPD is founded by a physicist with experience in business and management, an Electronic & Electrical Master student, and a PhD students in materials science with considerable marketing experience, a star PT is sitting on the advisory board.

GRIPD is looking for initial funding to develop the prototype for its 3D full body motion tracking system. It is also looking to establish an advisory board for business advice from expert in the following fields: sharing economy, data science and physiology.

Boetho

Optimising parking through big data

Got questions/ideas/contacts for Boetho?

45% of the traffic jams in New York are caused by people looking for a parking lot, for the same reason every year in a 15 block district in Los Angeles, 730 tons of CO2 are emitted. Also, parking is one of the most common causes of stress and anger in drivers around the world.

Boetho has developed a machine learning based algorithm that predicts parking occupancies. With this predictive power at their core, many real life applications can be implemented, improving the overall parking experience. For instance, together with our partner company Mentis Services, we are now able to offer to owners of off-street parking a product that will modernise their facilities, optimise their revenues, thanks to a dynamic pricing system based on projected occupancies (this has yield to 10% increase in revenue when tested on real data), as well as introduce new services for their clients and consequently create new revenue streams.  

The Boetho team is formed by Théophile Griveau-Billion and Stefano Novello, two PhD students, respectively in Statistics and Mathematical Finance. Our technical background allowed us to fully develop a working product that we are now taking to market.

At Boetho we are interested in expanding our connections with industry contacts.

Ember

Developing augmented reality glasses (HMDs)

Got questions/ideas/contacts for Ember?

Current AR HMDs are not ready for the consumer markets. They suffer from unstable short term tracking, massive long term drift, disappointing battery lifetimes and extremely limiting thermal constraints. Furthermore, their heavy weight making them uncomfortable to wear for long periods. Most importantly, they do not work outdoors [bye bye PokemonGo], and they are hugely (!) expensive.

We split the complex AR-calculation pipeline into a two-stage challenge, and only solve for the absolute minima on the device itself. The remaining is outsourced to the Cloud, where we can tackle it without the constraints of an embedded system. This allows us to switch to a different technical approach, achieving greater tracking and reconstruction quality, leading to a more immersive experience.

Ember’s team consists of Christian Besenbruch and Arsalan Zafar – two Master students from Imperial College London. Together, our team possess an in depth knowledge of fields such as Mathematics, Engineering, Computer Vision and Business Administration. These expertise, in combination with our network of leading robotics researchers, places us in a unique position to tackle the AR challenge.

Ember is looking to establish an Advisory board with industry contacts.

B-Link

Text mining to process documents to gain new insights & visualise information

Got questions/ideas/contacts for B-Link?

There are more than 60 millions of people around the world are struggling to read piles of documents every day. They desire to grasp contexts and main ideas from textual documents quickly and efficiently. However, there is no such a tool being able to abstract and visualise information from multiple documents as a way of saving time and generating new insights.

B-Link is a tool that can process the documents that users throw in and produce a variety of abstracted graphs, such as network, hierarchy, workflow and other logic relationships. Moreover, users can be inspired when interacting with these graphs by exploring more connections and searching possible paths from one concept to another. It has been demonstrated through our initial prototype that it can save users’ time of obtaining key information from the documents by at least 50% and help generate new insights during interactions.

All the B-Link team members, Liuqing Chen, Feng Shi and Ji Han, are PhDs of Design Engineering at Imperial with specialities including mechanical, material and industrial engineering. Their academic supervisor Prof Peter Childs has expertise of product design and creativity tools application.

B-Link is looking for a business development specialist to join the team helping with technology licensing and marketing strategy. B-Link is also seeking early stage funding for further development.

Medbotics

Automated cleaning solution for healthcare facilities

Got questions/ideas/contacts for Medbotics?

Imagine the dramatic psychological and physical impact for a patient to undergo a second surgery due to an infection acquired during his first surgery. According to the OMS, the costs of hospital acquired infections (HAIs) in the UK are 1 thousand million pounds per year. The cause are the current innacurate and unstandardized cleaning procedures used in hospital environments.

At MedBotics we intend to standardise the cleaning procedure, automatise it in order to avoid human error and make it through to devise a new and powerful cleaning gold-standard within hospitals. Our solution maps the entire environment and ensures a complete coverage of the area to be cleaned. We reduce the average cleaning time spent between surgeries, in intensive care units and in any other healthcare facilities by 40%. A high technology hospital could save up to 4 millions annually.

The Medbotics team is formed by Guillem Güell Garcia and Dan Terracina Barcas, currently completing their masters in Neurotechnology and Biomechanics respectively. Likewise, Medbotics has taken on board an expert advisor: the current manager of technology, equipments and procurement at Hospital Clinic of Barcelona.

Medbotics is seeking for an early stage funding to develop the working prototype. Furthermore, we look for an agreement with a UK hospital to test our product (besides the agreement we have already reached with Hospital Clinic of Barcelona).

TOffee

Emulating nature to design efficient engineering components

Got questions/ideas/contacts for TOffee?

Nowadays, 3D printers are revolutionising the production line of engineering components, overcoming manufacturing constraints imposed by drilling, stamping and molding. However, old designs are still used by aeronautical, automotive and many other industries for their products. A new design approach, able to create more efficient and reliable mechanical components, must be introduced in order to fully exploit the flexibility offered by 3D printers.

TOffee is the software able to automatically design efficient mechanical components for aeronautical, automotive and chemical engineering products. Relying on a state of the art mathematical model, it emulates natural evolutionary processes in order to automatically create optimised shape designs for the components purpose. The optimisation process produces complex geometries suitable for 3D printing manufacturing methods. Including the optimised new geometries in the production line of gas turbines, engine and cars will increase the efficiency and the reliability of the products.

The team of TOffee is currently composed by 3 members of Imperial College Aeronautics Department. Marco, MSc in Mathematics, and Audrey, MSc in aeronautics, are now two PhD candidates whereas Dr. Francesco Montomoli is a renown expert in Gas Turbines field and founder of UQLab.

At TOffee, we are looking for early stage funding to perform former tests on prototype components. We are looking to license our software and to sell new efficient designs to the aeronautical, automotive and chemical industry.

Machinome

Software to optimise effect of cancer therapies

Got questions/ideas/contacts for Machinome?

Combination therapies that hit cancer with multiple treatments simultaneously have shown immense clinical promise, but their design is expensive, time consuming and often based on incomplete or superficial information about the cancer’s location and appearance. As a result, despite the tireless efforts of doctors, combination therapy patients aren’t always given the right dosage or cocktail of drugs for their specific, evolving cancer. This means harsher side effects, more wasted money and ultimately, poorer patient outcomes. The NHS spent £340 million on anticancer drugs in 2015 alone, healthcare systems will need to adapt swiftly to deliver quality care with limited resources and ever-stretching budgets.

Machinome aims to take advantage of recent and upcoming advances in in-clinic cancer sequencing, machine learning and public cancer genome databases to recommend tailored combination therapies directly to doctors via subscription service. Our platform aims to take the guesswork out of therapy design, streamlining, tailoring and regularly updating treatments for each patient. In this way, we let doctors focus on delivering the best healthcare possible, intelligently matching cancer to the drugs it needs, not the other way around.

Currently, Machinome consists of two Honours students – Matthew Foster, a publishing Biosystems engineer at Imperial College London, and James Kerr – a molecular biologist with research experience in genomics and cancer diagnostics at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, and the University of Queensland’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.

We welcome passionate contributors and collaborators – both commercial and academic – to sit down with us to candidly discuss Machinome’s future.

Kodama

Learn through play platform merging physical and digital worlds

Got questions/ideas/contacts for Kodama?

Current iPad games or Virtual reality experiences are isolating and scientific research proves that such isolating experiences can prevent development of social skills. This is because children cannot learn from TV and videos as well as they can from real life interactions.

Kodama brings that essential real life interaction to tablets by connecting physical toys to tablets. Kodama is enabled by its proprietary patent pending short range tracking technology. With Kodama playdates are back on the agenda!

Our two co-founders, Imperial & RCA graduates, have complementary backgrounds in manufacturing and in the creative industry, designing products like WiiU and Kinect as well as world class franchises such as Tintin and Prince of Persia. Our business developer was previously Exec. Director of digital distribution at Paramount Pictures ensuring commercial success of Kodama.

Kodama is seeking further investment to commercialise the first batch of the product.

Wenstep

Language learning on your terms

Got questions/ideas/contacts for Wenstep?

Language learning is currently extremely laborious and potentially expensive for the billions pursuing it. Most of this effort goes towards learning new vocabulary and then memorizing it, and this is the main pain point Wenstep addresses.

Wenstep is an immersive language-learning tool that integrates into users daily digital lives. Wenstep automatically substitutes digital content into the language that users are learning, at a suitable competency level to reinforce previously learned vocabulary and teach new words in context. All of this makes memorisation truly intuitive and keeps users engaged through to mastery. Currently we have developed a browser plug-in which provides this language substitution based upon a user input, word lists, and suggestions from browsed content to build the vocabulary you are truly interested in while browsing. Engagement is critical when learning a new language, and we track user’s progress, interest areas, and other personalised data to provide testing and reward schemes relevant to the user.

Our team is currently comprised of 3 Imperial College post graduates from disciplines of innovation design engineering, communications and computer science. Shuxin, a trilingual communications major with international experience in business; Shu-ting, an experienced designer and the operation manager; Marta, a PHD in Natural Language processing.

We are looking for seed/angel funding to bring our working prototype to the market. Also, we are looking for business and technical partners in Ed-tech industry.