" /> Gareth Overton, Author at Edinburgh Innovations

Blog: too much to talk about

My job comes with hazards for my family. There is very little we can discuss at the dinner table, or watch or listen to, where I can’t bang on about a connection with my work. And sometimes I do.

And the longer I’m at EI, the worse it gets. I learn more every week about the vast range of work my colleagues are doing and how it touches every aspect of life: crime and justice policy; myriad aspects of medicine and health; sausages, beer and bread (I promise I’m not making this up); everything in sport from Deep Heat to virtual tennis; the soundtracks to computer games; and student startups that span charity shops to skin for robots.

At this time of year I reach a peak of nerdy enthusiasm as I help put together an annual ‘Staff Update’ for EI colleagues and look back over the previous 12 months.

Having recently completed that task, and perhaps to get it out of my system for my family’s sake, here I’m sharing some of those highlights for a wider audience.

‘That could be me’

The selection here illustrates the range of our clients and sectors we work in. I hope some of them provide an ‘it could be you’ factor. Whether you’re an external organisation (either a business, a public-sector body, a charity or an investor), a University colleague or a student, there may be activity here that you didn’t know was the kind we got involved in. Are there ways we can help you become the next success story?


Speak:Unique is a spinout company that has developed technology to create personalised synthesised voices for those who lose their own voice as a result of conditions such as motor neurone disease, cerebral palsy and stroke. A patient records or ‘banks’ a sample of their own voice, from which the technology can create accurate synthetic speech. EI has helped the team form a company, helped guide them to gain funding and introduced them to the innovation network.

Canon collaboration

EI recently helped Dr Sotirios Tsaftaris in the University’s School of Engineering secure a Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellowship to advance healthcare artificial intelligence, in collaboration with Canon Medical’s global Centre of Excellence for Healthcare AI, based at Canon Medical Research Europe in Edinburgh. Current systems rely on manual organisation of data, such as images and other health records, and annotation to teach algorithms how to identify anomalies. This five-year project will develop new methods to extract information from healthcare records and imaging examinations without expert curation and supervision. Ultimately the aim is to produce clinician-ready tools for detecting and predicting cardiovascular disease.

Long-Term Agreement with UNICEF

We recently helped the University sign a Long-Term Agreement (LTA) with UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s fund, for the provision of expertise in child protection. This means any UNICEF office can invite the University to submit a proposal for work without going through a tendering process, and academics can approach UNICEF with project ideas. The areas of focus are: (1) Data management – drawing on disciplines including mathematics, law, social policy and medical policy; (2) Technical expertise in child protection – delivering staff training which will involve expertise in social work, disability, education, child psychology and more; (3) Research – supporting data and evidence generation and developing national capacities.

Centre of Excellence in Bioprocessing

Thanks to EI’s engagement activities, the University was chosen in early 2019 as the lead academic partner in the FDB Centre of Excellence in Bioprocessing 2.0, a multi-million-pound commercial collaboration to boost biotech innovation. Edinburgh was selected after Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies (FDB) reviewed its research relationships with UK universities, and the EI-led proposal best matched the company’s needs. The Centre of Excellence is a collaboration between FDB, Scotland’s Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), and the universities of Edinburgh, Manchester and York. 

Best wishes for the coming year

There you have it. I could go on, and probably will. We wish all our clients, past, present and future, a happy holiday season and an innovative new year when it comes.

Take a look at our services and case studies. Whether you’re an external business or other organisation, a member of University staff or a current student or recent graduate, we can help you have a prosperous and exciting year ahead.


Carbon-cutting spinout Carbogenics raises £500,000

Carbon-cutting spinout Carbogenics raises £500,000

Carbogenics, the spinout that turns difficult-to-recycle paper waste including disposable coffee cups into a carbon product that boosts green energy production, has raised nearly £500,000 in an investment led by Techstart Ventures.

Techstart is joined in the seed investment round by Old College Capital, the University’s venture fund managed by EI, and private investors.

Carbogenics takes low-value paper waste and turns it into CreChar®, a proprietary carbon-rich porous material. The company’s first application of its product adds CreChar to the feed material of anaerobic digestion (AD) plants.

This significantly increases the plant’s output and can reduce feedstock costs. At the end of its life, CreChar is returned to the soil to work as fertiliser and lock away carbon for hundreds of years, offering significant carbon savings.

Variants of CreChar targeted at other applications will be launched in 2020.

Major milestone

The fundraising supports the first phase of an ambitious growth plan. Carbogenics will build a pilot production facility in Perthshire, seek to prove its first product in industrial AD plants, and expand its team.

“The seed investment is a major milestone for Carbogenics. We will now accelerate our progress towards launching CreChar on the anaerobic digestion market and we look forward to growing our team and product range over the next year.


“There are billions of tonnes of waste out there that our technology can turn into new sustainable carbon products to create value for our clients and the environment.”


– Carbogenics co-founder and CEO Dr Jan Mumme.

Techstart, which specialises in seed investment for ambitious early stage companies based in Scotland and Northern Ireland, provided considerable support to the company during the investment process. Carbogenics is the ninth investment from Techstart’s new Scottish fund, which was launched earlier this year.

“Carbogenics’ ambition is to be the market leader in carbon upcycling and we’re delighted to support the company with this investment.


“We’re excited about the scale of this opportunity and have enjoyed working with the Carbogenics team, the University, Edinburgh Innovations, Old College Capital and the other investors at this round.”


– Robert Richmond, Investment Director, Techstart Ventures.

EI has provided extensive business support to the Carbogenics team since 2015, including regular in-house advice, introduction to external advisers, help to secure grant funding and support with the company formation process. 

“We’re delighted to join this investment, which is the first time we’ve worked alongside Techstart.


“The investment shows our joint confidence that Carbogenics holds great promise for carbon sequestration and green power generation, and is the latest affirmation of the credibility of the innovations pipeline from the University of Edinburgh.”


– Dr George Baxter, CEO, Edinburgh Innovations.

With support from EI, Carbogenics has won awards including the top prize in Converge 2018 and major awards at Scottish EDGE and Shell Springboard. The company is also a part of the EU-funded Climate-KIC Accelerator programme at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation.

Carbogenics was launched by co-founders Dr Jan Mumme, Franziska Srocke and Lidia Krzynowek on the basis of work by Mumme in the University’s School of GeoSciences. Formerly a researcher in Germany, he relocated to Edinburgh to work at the University’s UK Biochar Research Centre and to establish his specialist spinout company in Edinburgh’s vibrant ecosystem.

The company uses pyrolysis to convert waste such as plastic-lined paper cups, low-grade recycled paper, cardboard and papermill sludge into gases, bio-oil and CreChar. The gas and bio-oil can be used to produce energy or can be upgraded for the recovery of valuable chemicals.

Carbon sequestration

The production of CreChar reduces carbon dioxide emissions by up to half when compared with incineration of paper waste, and every tonne of CreChar produced and added to the biogas production process could save a total of 10 tonnes of CO2 through increased biogas generation and reduction of emissions.

Europe’s 20,000 AD plants present a potential market of 1 million tonnes of CreChar a year, which would reduce emissions by 10 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year, equal to a quarter of Scotland’s annual CO2 emissions, and would sequester carbon into the soil equivalent to 1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

The UK currently exports 4 million tonnes of paper waste for incineration in other countries, which is more than enough to produce sufficient CreChar to supply Europe’s AD plants.

Related links


Techstart Ventures

EI services for University staff

Dialysis pioneer Invizius raises £2.75m

Dialysis pioneer Invizius raises £2.75m

Edinburgh spinout Invizius, whose innovative technology could save kidney patients’ lives, has raised £2.75 million in a new funding deal.

The EI client has secured funding from a consortium of investors including Mercia Asset Management, whose partnership with the University has been nurtured by EI, and the University’s venture investment fund, Old College Capital, which is managed by EI.

Invizius stems from years of research by Dr Andy Herbert and his team in the University’s School of Chemistry. In May 2018 he co-founded Invizius and became the copmany’s Chief Technology Officer.

“This investment allows us to take a big step towards our goal to bring much needed improvement to the lives of three million dialysis patients and we are delighted to have won the backing of a consortium of smart, well-funded investors.”


– Dr Andy Herbert, co-founder and CTO of Invizius.

Reducing risk

The researchers believe they have found a way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease among patients undergoing long-term dialysis.

Dialysis is a procedure to remove waste products and excess fluid from the blood, when the kidneys have stopped working properly. It commonly involves diverting blood through an external filter to be cleansed of toxins.

The problem is that the patient’s immune system sees the dialysis filter as a foreign body, creating inflammation that damages the cardiovascular system over time.

Invizius has developed H-Guard, which acts as an “invisibility cloak” for the filter, effectively hiding it from the immune system.

The latest investment will support Invizius as it conducts further testing as well as preparing for the next stage including pre-clinical trials.

“This substantial investment reflects the great promise we’ve seen in Invizius from the initial identification of novel science. Old College Capital is pleased to be part of the consortium backing this technology, which holds so much potential for so many people, and Edinburgh Innovations looks forward continuing to support the Invizius team.”


– Dr George Baxter, Chief Executive Officer, Edinburgh Innovations.

Dialysis treatment

Despite improvements in dialysis therapy, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death for dialysis patients.

Almost half of all dialysis patients die from cardiovascular complications, and life expectancy on dialysis is just one-third of that for the general population.

Invizius’s H-Guard product is a powerful anti-inflammatory used during the normal priming procedure to coat the filter surface. Upon contact with the patient’s blood, it makes the surface seem less foreign to the patient’s immune system.

Unlike some other proposed solutions, H-Guard does not shut down the immune system but instead effectively hides the device from it to prevent an immune response.

There is potential to use the technology with other devices such as heart and lung machines, stents and grafts, or in organ and cell transplants.

Exciting partnership

With EI’s support, the University signed a partnership agreement with Mercia in November 2017, which included hosting Mercia staff on campus and Mercia earmarking funding for investment in opportunities developed by the University.

Mercia made an initial investment in Invizius of £500,000 in April last year. The latest investment consortium includes Downing Ventures, the Scottish Investment Bank and the University’s Old College Capital.

Related links


Mercia Asset Management

EI services for staff

University of Edinburgh news story

School of Chemistry

‘Outstanding Entrepreneurial University’ finalist

‘Outstanding Entrepreneurial University’ finalist

The University of Edinburgh has been shortlisted in the Outstanding Entrepreneurial University category of the Times Higher Education Awards 2019.

Reaching the final of the competition reflects the quality and quantity of support and services provided to the University’s staff and students by Edinburgh Innovations, particularly the Enterprise Services team. It also reflects a high quality submission by the team into the awards.

Embedded culture

The full submission – a summary of which is available on the THE Awards website – highlights EI’s comprehensive services offered across the University and the success in embedding the entrepreneurial attitude throughout the University’s activities and culture.

Highlights of the past year’s enterprise activities:

  • More than 800 one-to-one advisory meetings with entrepreneurial staff and students
  • 47 startups launched, a 27% rise on the previous year
  • £14 million invested in startups 
  • £3.3 million in grants awarded
  • Student social enterprise group Enactus Edinburgh won the national competition and represented the UK at the Enactus World Cup.

Student and staff events

EI continues to build its successful calendar of events for entrepreneurial staff and students, including Business Bootcamps, the UK’s longest-established 3-Day Startup programme, Pitch ‘n’ Mix, Find Your Startup, and the annual Inspire Launch Grow awards.

The THE Awards will be announced in London on 28 November 2019.

Related links

THE Awards shortlist

EI services for staff

EI services for students

‘Financial Technology Partner’ winner

‘Financial Technology Partner’ winner

The University of Edinburgh has been named best Financial Technology Partner at the Scottish Financial Technology Awards, reflecting impactful work by Edinburgh Innovations.

The University beat off stiff competition from corporations, law firms and high profile players in the sector including the Data Lab.

‘Biggest contribution to the industry’

The award was for “the academic institution, government body or supply chain partner making the biggest contribution to the industry, helping drive progress and innovation or addressing challenges or standards”.

Taking the fintech partner title reflects activity by EI, focused in particular on the Edinburgh Futures Institute and the University of Edinburgh Business School. The award submission was drafted by EI Business Development Manager Ksenia Siedlecka, based in the Business School.

EI-supported work that contributed to the award includes:

  • Development of the Fintech Doctoral Programme.
  • The launch and activities of EIT Digital satellite office at the Bayes Centre.
  • The establishment and hosting of FinTech Scotland.
  • The University’s leadership role in the Data-Driven Innovation programme of the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal.
  • The development of the Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence.
  • Fintech AIMday and Fintech Fast Forward events.

The award was presented at a ceremony in Edinburgh to Dr Gbenga Ibikunle, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Financial Markets at the Business School and Director, Industry Economy and Society at the Edinburgh Futures Institute.

“We are at the start of an exciting period in the implementation of our fintech sector engagement strategy, and for our efforts to be recognised early on is a testament to the dedication of colleagues from all across the University.


“At EFI, we will continue to work with all stakeholders to establish the University of Edinburgh as the leading higher education institute in the delivery of fintech education and research that supports sustainable growth within the industry.”


– Dr Gbenga Ibikunle.

Ingledew wins Evangelist award

The Evangelist of the Year award went to FinTech Scotland Chief Executive Officer Stephen Ingledew. FinTech Scotland was established with EI’s support by the Scottish Government, the University of Edinburgh and the private sector to boost growth in Scotland’s financial technology sector. It is hosted by EI.

The Scottish Financial Technology Awards are organised by technology media and events provider Digit. They are awarded across 12 categories.

Related links

Digit news

SFT Awards

Scottish fintech sector jumps to 100 firms