Tech innovators and start-ups will be pitching their potential life-changing and ground-breaking ideas in a bid to win in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technology Competition 2021.
From the 120 high-quality applications, the 24 shortlisted companies will pitch their plans Dragon’s Den style to a highly experienced judging panel – many of whom have been involved since the competition’s inception in 2013 – in late June.
If they win, they not only get £20,000 prize money, but a year of one-on-one support from a specially assigned Royal Society of Chemistry mentor, and a further £20,000 available as a business acceleration grant.
Last year’s winners tackled issues from stabilising vaccines without refrigeration, using machine learning to make cultivated meat products and creating catalytic solutions for closing the carbon loop.
Previous winners have also raised their profiles, expanded overseas, entered commercial contracts, conducted clinical and industrial-scale trials, and collectively doubled their staff as well as raised a combined total of over £116m in equity investment and grant funding.
Just like last year, the competition’s final will run virtually, where entrants will be expected to demonstrate how their innovations can help to overcome significant challenges for the benefit of society as a whole.
Judges hail from a host of international companies, including AstraZeneca, Boots, Croda, Eli Lilly, Givaudan, Marks & Spencer, Pepsico, PETRONAS, Reckitt Benckiser, RSSL, Scott Bader and Unilever.
Now in its ninth year, the competition has a reputation for finding novel, innovative and promising chemistry from across Europe.
Dr Jo Slota-Newson, Principal at IQ Capital – a deeptech VC based in Cambridge and London – became a judge last year and said she has been excited by all the new and novel ideas presented so far, including last year’s health category winner from the University of Bath.
The team were developing ensilication technology that can stabilise vaccines without refrigerators, enabling an extra two million people every year to be saved from vaccine-preventable diseases.
“I was incredibly impressed by last year’s winner,” she said. “The judging panel agreed that it was an important application, with massive potential impact highlighted by media attention during the last year on the difficulty of vaccine logistics.
“I have been really fascinated by what I have seen so far. There is a high bar and it is exciting to see the breadth of ideas.”
This year she is judging the Enabling Technologies category.
“We want to see they have made the leap from a science project to how it will have an impact as technology, to be able to explain why it really matters,” she said. “It can be hard to get across pretty complicated subjects on Zoom so they should focus on the big picture and try not to squeeze too much information in.”
Dr Slota-Newson holds a Masters and PhD in Chemistry and had an academic career in Canada. But she was keen to get the technology out of the lab and have an impact in real life.
She became a venture capitalist, getting involved with early-stage tech companies, helping them access investment, funding “new and exciting” projects. IQ Capital provides investment and expert assistance to its portfolio companies and thought-leading founders.
She said: “I got involved in the competition because in my role as a venture capital investor I need to be involved in communities of cutting edge technologists and I wanted to give a bit back, to offer support and advice, even if companies are at too early a stage for us to invest in.
“The Royal Society of Chemistry has a very high reputation as a hub for excellence in chemical science. It is a great opportunity for innovators to have the backing from a society with that kind of reputation.”
Jo Reynolds, Director of Science & Communities at the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “We were so impressed with the way last year’s difficult circumstances inspired such an array of terrific ideas for using chemistry to tackle the challenges we are facing.
“This competition consistently demonstrates the prominent role that chemistry can play – not only in developing solutions to pressing societal challenges and countering threats to the sustainable future of our planet – but also in driving economic growth.”
Despite the online format, finalists will be able to engage directly with the judges and learn from the best in the business.
Winners will enjoy up to £160,000 no-strings funding and support to accelerate their businesses across each of the core categories of Health, Energy & Environment, Food & Drink and Enabling Technologies.
This year’s virtual final will be open to the public, allowing them to see first-hand some of the most cutting-edge ideas and innovations that could help shape the world of tomorrow.
For more details about the competition and to register for the audience for the final pitch event, visit the website.