Meet the five student startups that could change the world

Mar 21, 2021

Five Imperial student startups will battle it out in the final of the College’s biggest entrepreneurial competition, the Venture Catalyst Challenge.

By Joanna Wilson

From growing plants without soil, to fintech and intelligent 3D printers, the teams represent some of the College’s most promising new businesses.

The five teams will pitch their ground-breaking ideas to industry judges and the winner will take home a top prize of £20,000 to kickstart their business.

The Venture Catalyst Challenge (VCC) is the College’s largest entrepreneurial competition for students and alumni, enabling them to develop an innovative idea for commercialisation. It challenges them to turn their ideas into new technologies, products and businesses based around five key tracks:

  • Creative & Consumer – Sponsored by¬†Huawei
  • Digital &¬†Fintech¬†‚Äď Sponsored by¬†Citi and Imperial College Business School‚Äôs Centre for Financial Technology
  • Energy & Environment ‚Äď Sponsored by¬†Grosvenor
  • Health & Wellbeing ‚Äď Sponsored by¬†Santander Universities
  • AI & Robotics ‚Äď Sponsored by¬†Huawei

Run by¬†Imperial Enterprise Lab, the challenge provides access to seven intensive weeks of masterclasses, coaching, and meetings with experts, all with one aim ‚Äď to help students and alumni bring their idea to commercial reality while growing their knowledge, skills, and network.

25 teams, divided into the five themed tracks, pitched to expert panels in the competition’s heats in March. The winner of each track was awarded £10,000 and is now competing to win the £20,000 Grand Prize in the competition’s digital final on Thursday 25 March.

Creative & Consumer: Growing food locally

Long supply chains in the food industry lead to the nutritional benefits of produce being diminished and unnecessary plastic packaging. Hectar want the knowledge and tools to grow fresh food to be accessible to everyone, so food can be grown locally. To do this, they have designed a modular hydroponic system, where plants are grown without soil, in a nutrient-rich solution. They will provide kits to community gardens, cafes and schools, and will also make the system plans available open source online.

Digital & Fintech: Optimising finance

Savium is building a financial engine to allow small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access full real-time visibility of their finances and optimise their business costs. They use open banking application programming interfaces (APIs), classification algorithms and powerful statistics to help business owners streamline data entry and make smarter data-driven decisions.

Energy & Environment: Making metals simpler

Deep.Meta are tackling the issue of identifying problems in metals production. Currently defect investigations are manual, so take a long time to identify and are not always precise. Deep.Meta are using machine learning algorithms to predict when defects will occur, such as on the production line of a steelworks, before they do.

A laptop screen with a man presenting
Osas Omoigiade, co-founder of Deep.Meta¬†presenting at the competition’s heats

Health & Wellbeing: Preventing pressure ulcers

Pressure ulcers are defined as an NHS ‚Äėnever event‚Äô, a preventable condition which increases patient mortality.¬†CalidiScope¬†are developing a mattress topper with innovative sensors and machine learning to predict ulcers before they develop, monitor patient movement and automate documentation.

AI & Robotics: Making 3D printers intelligent

MattaLabs aim to make 3D printers intelligent. According to the team, 3D printers will spearhead the next industrial revolution, but are currently unreliable, frustrating to use and need constant human interaction from skilled technicians. This wastes material, energy and time. Their solution is to develop the first self-learning global 3D printer network using advanced computer vision and machine learning.

Previous successes

This year 20% of teams on the cohort have previously been part of WE Innovate, the College’s entrepreneurship programme designed to inspire and accelerate the progress of entrepreneurs identifying as women.

Previous winners of the VCC have gone on to found successful businesses, including last year’s winners The Shellworks. They created a plastic alternative from seafood waste that breaks down in any natural environment, allowing consumers to throw away their waste worry-free. The team took home the £30,000 top prize after battling it out against four other startups during the competition’s first ever all-digital final.

The Shellworks turn crustacean waste into a plastic alternative
Credit: The Shellworks

The headline sponsor for this year’s competition is Huawei.

What's on

Upcoming events

Discover what’s on (online, of course!) at Imperial Enterprise Lab

How To Pitch Your Idea
How To Pitch Your Idea

Event dateDecember 6, 2022

Learn how to bring your idea to life with words and pictures that connect with your target audience. Sign up

How To Build a Financial Model
How To Build a Financial Model

Event dateDecember 7, 2022

Learn the fundamentals on how to assess you idea’s potential to become a business. Sign up

What's on

From community events to expert masterclasses… There’s always something going on at the E-Lab

Next events

How To Pitch Your Idea
How To Pitch Your Idea

Event dateDecember 6, 2022

Sign up
How To Build a Financial Model
How To Build a Financial Model

Event dateDecember 7, 2022

Sign up

Connect

Join our community, meet co-founders and grow your entrepreneurial network!

Our monthly social bringing together students and postdocs from every corner of Imperial College London.

Our multi-purpose space is open to all Imperial students postdoc researchers and alumni 5-days a week.

Use your creativity and critical thinking to solve a challenge set by us. Spaces are limited so sign up ASAP!

Explore

Speak to someone about your idea and learn the skills you need to test it in the real world

Validate

Fast-track your idea on one of our cohort-based entrepreneurship programmes

Imperial’s flagship entrepreneurship programme for students and postdocs with an annual prize fund of £90K.

The UK’s leading university programme championing women-led startup teams with an annual £30K prize fund.

A unique programme designed to speed the commercial development of early-stage medical technologies

All available programmes

Grow

Get expert support and advice to turn your idea into a successful commercial venture

About

We’re passionate about inspiring the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs

Contact

Got a question, need some advice or just need directions to the best basement on campus? Get in touch!

Find us

Imperial College London
Level 0, Sherfield Building
(Access next to Great Hall)
South Kensington Campus
Exhibition Road
London SW7 2AZ