" /> Student entrepreneurs win at Inspire Launch Grow 2021 | Edinburgh Innovations

A grip-strengthening robotic glove, an app to better connect restaurants and food suppliers and a system to measure forest health using satellites have been named the winners of the University of Edinburgh’s annual awards for student entrepreneurs.

The three startup businesses were announced at the Inspire Launch Grow 2021 awards run by Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, celebrating student and recent graduate enterprise.

They were selected by an expert judging panel from a shortlist of 14 finalists across three categories, with each winner awarded £5,000.

In the Emerging Enterprise category, sponsored by Balfour Beatty, the winners were undergraduate student Armin Ghofrani and recent graduates Thomas Billam and Gauthier Collas with their business NextChain. The team have developed an app to improve the food supply chain process for restaurants, promising chefs they can “say goodbye to phone calls, emails, paperwork and mistakes”.

Armin Ghofrani said:

“We are so grateful for the support and help we’ve received from EI – particularly the co-working space where we got to interact with so many inspiring people. We really wanted to help businesses adapt to the tough conditions they face and with this boost we hope to continue to grow our user base in Edinburgh.”

Two recent engineering graduates took the Impact Award for social enterprises focused on change for common good. Rowan Armstrong and Ross O’Hanlon are the founders of Bioliberty, developing a lightweight robotic glove which strengthens grip and a digital therapy platform which helps develop natural hand strength.

Ross O’Hanlon said:

“It has been a tough year, but we’ve managed to use that time really productively. We’re thrilled to be recognised. It’s obviously a team effort and I’d really like to thank everyone who’s supported us along the way.”

Thibault Sorret, a masters student in Ecosystems, Wildlife and Ecosystems Health, took the Innovation Award for technology-based businesses. His startup, Wildsense, monitors forest health using satellite imagery to help foresters better adapt to climate-change-related risks.

Thibault Sorret said:

“I’m really grateful for the university and EI’s support helping me take my academic work and translating it into real world impact. Hopefully we can inspire even more students to take the plunge and develop even more amazing and positive ideas.”

The 14 finalists were selected from a strong field of entries across the University of Edinburgh’s three colleges: Arts, Humanities & Social Science, Science & Engineering, and Medicine & Veterinary Medicine.

Lorna Baird, Enterprise Development Manager at Edinburgh Innovations said;

“It’s been an incredibly hard year for our student startups but throughout they have shown resilience, ambition and determination; showing us all that they can triumph even in a pandemic.  Our Inspire, Launch & Grow Awards is our way of celebrating their true grit!  Well done to all the finalists and winners.  We are incredibly proud of what you have achieved to date.”

Each finalist team made a 10-minute business pitch to an expert panel of judges ahead of an online awards ceremony where the winners were announced on Wednesday 7 July. All 11 runners-up received £500, and all finalists received a photography package to help market their businesses.

The judging panel included previous winners, who are now successful entrepreneurs as well as enterprise experts. They included Aayush Goyal, Co-founder Social Stories Club, Lorenzo Conti, Founder of Crover and Steve Hamill, CEO Scottish EDGE.

Past winners of ‘Inspire Launch Grow’ include TouchLab and WaterWhelm in 2019. TouchLab developed an electronic skin to give machines a human-like sense of touch while WaterWhelm aims to bring clean water to billions of people. Both startups have also won other awards such as the Scottish EDGE awards and the Converge Kickstart Challenge.

Student Enterprise at the University of Edinburgh continues to go from strength to strength with yet another record-breaking year of student startups and an excellent record of investment.