" /> Gareth Overton, Author at Edinburgh Innovations Page 2 of 16
Fintech startup Aveni wins £520,000 funding to add AI to advice

Fintech startup Aveni wins £520,000 funding to add AI to advice

Fintech startup Aveni has secured investment of £520,000 for its video-conferencing AI technology, which aims to transform services across the financial and professional advice sectors as part of the ‘new normal’.

The seed investment is led by the Tricapital angel syndicate. Old College Capital, the University of Edinburgh’s venture fund managed by Edinburgh Innovations, is a co-investor, alongside Scottish Investment Bank and Wallace Equity.

The funding will accelerate Aveni’s growth, initially in the financial services and legal sectors, and expand its team of specialist engineers.

Client relationships

Aveni, launched with support from EI, aims to transform businesses’ interaction with clients by automating functions such as customer relations management (CRM), fact finding, risk monitoring and adviser prompts.

Its natural language processing software is tailored to the financial and professional services sectors to enhance what current video-conferencing platforms can offer.

“This backing will allow us to leverage the exceptional talent that we have on our doorstep at the University, which is in the top five globally for computation, information and cognition.”


Aveni CEO Joseph Twigg.

EI support

Aveni was co-founded as Hatch AI by Joseph Twigg while he was studying for an Executive MBA at the University of Edinburgh Business School in 2018, together with Dr Lexi Birch, a Senior Research Fellow and natural language specialist in the University’s School of Informatics.

Twigg has extensive experience in financial services, including six years as Global Head of Strategy and Business Management at Standard Life Aberdeen, the UK’s largest asset manager.

EI’s support for the team has included helping them develop the business proposition ahead of formally launching their company.

Twigg says the widespread adoption of video conferencing (VC) during the Covid-19 pandemic has been an enabler for new technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing.

“The impact on the service industry could be dramatic. Widespread automation will drive down cost to serve, open doors to national VC-only channels and transform both the approach to and cost of compliance.”


–      Aveni CEO Joseph Twigg.

Aveni, when operating as Hatch AI, was a 2019 winner of the Scottish EDGE business competition.


Related links


EI services for students

Old College Capital

Spinout rebuilds voices of people who lose theirs

Spinout rebuilds voices of people who lose theirs

People who have lost or are at risk of losing their voice due to a medical condition will be helped by a new spinout company that will create a personalised synthetic version of their voice.

The company – SpeakUnique – will digitally rebuild the voices of people with conditions that affect speech such as motor neurone disease (MND), stroke, cancer of the throat or tongue and cerebral palsy.

It is estimated that more than 500,000 people in the English-speaking world could benefit from this technology, with nearly 10,000 people being affected each year in the UK alone.

The spinout company is the result of a collaborative research project between world-leading researchers in computer sciences and healthcare at the University of Edinburgh. The project was inspired by Euan MacDonald (pictured), founder of the University’s Euan MacDonald Centre for MND research.

Enterprise support

SpeakUnique CEO Alice Smith, a Research Assistant at Edinburgh Medical School, has been supported by Edinburgh Innovations throughout the commercialisation process, including forming the spinout company.

EI helped the SpeakUnique team secure ICURe and Innovate UK funding, and supported Smith’s application to the Royal Society of Edinburgh for an Enterprise Fellowship in 2019, which was then hosted by EI.

Smith and the SpeakUnique team won the Emerging Innovation Award for Staff at EI’s 2019 Inspire Launch Grow awards.

“Personalised synthetic voices are valuable not just to the individual, but also to their families as their loved one can maintain a key part of their identity.


“We are extremely grateful to the 1,600 people from all over the UK who donated their voices to the research project, which has allowed individuals to communicate with a voice that is identifiably their own.”


– Alice Smith, CEO, SpeakUnique.

Full speech from short recording

When speech is impaired, people often use a communication aid, such as an iPad or eye gaze machine, to speak for them. Such devices use generic synthetic voices that many users have reported they find unnatural and can leave them feeling that they have lost a part of their identity.

SpeakUnique allows people to create their own synthetic voice using less than an hour of their speech recorded via the internet. The new voice can then be downloaded for use or banked for the future.

For individuals who have already experienced a deterioration in their speech, such as slowness or slurring, SpeakUnique can repair the damage so their synthetic voice sounds like their previously healthy voice.

The service can also create bespoke voices for people who have lost or never had a voice, with a choice of regional accent, age and gender.

In addition to more than 1,600 people who donated their voices during development, SpeakUnique’s service is also based on feedback from more than 180 people with a range of medical conditions and healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses and speech and language therapists.

From idea to reality

Euan MacDonald lost his own voice due to the effects of MND. He came up with the idea for SpeakUnique because he didn’t want his children to remember him by a voice that wasn’t his own.

“We have been delighted to support this venture and see it grow from an idea to a research project.


“To be able to formally launch is very exciting, as people with MND, amongst others, will be able to bank their voices and receive the best quality synthesised voice in return. I know the benefits first hand as someone who uses my personalised voice through my eye gaze device every day.


“This is a great example of collaboration between the University and private individuals.”


– Euan MacDonald, founder of the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND research.

SpeakUnique’s business model is based on marketing its services to end users and charities.

The company can provide a voice to anyone who speaks English anywhere in the world, in any accent.

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Route-finding AI specialist Continuum Industries raises £1.5m

Route-finding AI specialist Continuum Industries raises £1.5m

Continuum Industries, which provides AI tools to rapidly design linear infrastructure projects such as routes for roads, railways and powerlines, has raised £1.5 million in seed funding.

The company, co-founded by Edinburgh Innovations clients, says the funding will enable it to make its technology widely available to planning and design teams around the world.

The funding round was co-led by Playfair Capital and Credo Ventures, with participation from Techstart Ventures, Simon Blakey, Michael Blakey and others.

Automated design

Founded in Edinburgh in 2018 with initial backing from Skyscanner co-founder Gareth Williams, Continuum Industries has created the CI Engine, which allows its users to automate their existing engineering design process and use AI, like a co-pilot, to explore millions of design options in rich detail. 

The CI Engine enables infrastructure planning and design teams to cut the time spent on early-stage design work via automation of design processes and decisions that traditionally happen in spreadsheets and emails. The initial stages of the design process can be cut from months to a matter of days. 

The company says the CI Engine can reduce construction and operational costs of large infrastructure projects by as much as 15%, and can help planners and designers contribute to worldwide economic recovery post-Covid-19.

Bespoke EI support

Continuum Industries emerged from the founders’ involvement in HYPED, a 150-strong student-led society at the University of Edinburgh that built the UK’s first hyperloop prototype vehicle and successfully competed in contests run by SpaceX and Virgin Hyperloop One.

The Continuum founders received support from EI during the HYPED project, including a bespoke bootcamp to help explore the possibilities for a spinoff company. The team were hosted at the time by EI at the Appleton Tower Enterprise Hub in Edinburgh.

It was the hyperloop moonshot that made us realise the socio-economic value of infrastructure and forced us to think about better ways of taking infrastructure projects from ideas to reality.”


– Grzegorz Marecki, co-founder and CEO, Continuum Industries


Continuum Industries CEO Grzegorz Marecki says productivity of the construction industry has not increased in the past 30 years. 

“As we fight to reduce our environmental impact and meet the needs of a growing population, we can’t keep relying on decades-old methods that are no longer fit for purpose,” says Marecki.

“Continuum Industries brings an AI-powered alternative to help the construction industry increase its productivity and meet the demand.”

‘Genuine game-changer’

Chris Smith, Managing Partner at Playfair Capital, who joined the company’s board of directors, said: “From the first message the team sent me on LinkedIn, we have been impressed with the depth and breadth of expertise they have in the infrastructure and construction space, matched with a burning passion to change the way we plan and build critical infrastructure projects.”

“Even at this relatively early stage, the technology Continuum Industries has built is a genuine game-changer, enabling significant time and cost savings for all parties involved in designing and constructing linear infrastructure projects. 

“With signed customers across Europe and a growing global pipeline of interest we are excited to be onboard to support the team through the next phase of growth.”

Related links

Continuum Industries

EI services for students


New support for international entrepreneurs

New support for international entrepreneurs

Edinburgh Innovations has become one of the UK’s 43 endorsing bodies for the Innovator Visa, which enables entrepreneurs from outside Europe to establish businesses in the UK.

EI is already an endorsing body for the Startup Visa, typically issued to student entrepreneurs who want to remain in the UK after graduation. The Innovator Visa is for more developed entrepreneurs: a next step for those previously on a Startup Visa or a first step for someone looking to build a startup in the UK.

Applicants may include student and staff entrepreneurs; entrepreneurs looking to participate in the University’s accelerator programmes; and international clients who are looking to establish in the UK, through schemes such as the International Campus.

EI is able to endorse 25 Innovator Visa applications each year. The visa is for people from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

“By becoming an endorsing body, EI is able to extend its support for our graduate entrepreneurs and expand our services to a wider group of entrepreneurs wishing to launch businesses in the UK.”


– Ross McLennan, Enterprise Development Executive, Edinburgh Innovations

Record of support

The University of Edinburgh and EI have a long record in supporting international entrepreneurs. Cognihealth, Mocean Energy, Get Guided, Two Big Ears, Wootzano, Social Stories Club, SymbaSync, Crover and REOptimize Systems are among recent successful businesses whose entrepreneurs have benefited from our visa endorsements.

Until 2019, international entrepreneurs applied for a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa and then directly to the UK government for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa. With the Graduate Entrepreneur Visa now replaced with the Startup Visa, entrepreneurs wanting to continue their activity in the UK need the new Innovator Visa, which requires endorsement.

Related links

Contact the EI visa team

Innovator Visa (government website)

EI services for students and recent graduates

FAST venture targets agritech unicorns

FAST venture targets agritech unicorns

The University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute and investment firm Deep Science Ventures have launched the Food & Agriculture Science Transformer (FAST), which aims to create the first $1 billion company in the animal health, aquaculture or agritech sectors.

The FAST programme brings together DSV’s market-led approach to creating science companies, and Roslin’s world-leading expertise and facilities across genomics, veterinary biosciences, biotechnology and agriculture.

Each year the partnership will launch several high-growth technology start-ups comprising teams from the University of Edinburgh, the wider UK and the rest of the world.

Spotting the opportunity

Edinburgh Innovations played a central role in bringing the two sides together in 2018.

“I’m particularly grateful to Edinburgh Innovations for their continued support after having introduced DSV to the Roslin Institute and identified the joint opportunity for a novel approach to company creation.”


– Professor Bruce Whitelaw, Interim Director, the Roslin Institute.

High-growth potential

DSV was established to create a founder-friendly method for launching high-growth science companies with novel intellectual property. Founders are recruited to investigate neglected areas with potential for high impact.

As projects demonstrate increasing commercial viability, additional founders and advisors join, alongside a minimum £50,000 of equity investment, which can grow to £500,000.

FAST operates virtually but will also be jointly located at the Roslin Innovation Centre (RIC), based at the University’s Easter Bush Campus, and DSV’s London-based headquarters.

“FAST offers a transformative opportunity to accelerate the entrepreneurial culture at Easter Bush.”


– Professor Bruce Whitelaw.

Meeting identified needs

DSV and Roslin will select globally relevant commercial and technology opportunities, and will recruit and train ambitious founders from the Edinburgh ecosystem and beyond to create agricultural and biotech companies that can respond to the needs of farmers, the public and the planet’s ecosystems.

Edinburgh Innovations is providing support to the FAST programme, with funding provided by the Roslin Foundation and the UK Research and Innovation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (UKRI BBSRC).

“I am very excited by the prospect of this FAST programme, which is a highly unique approach to company formation.


“Attracting world-wide scientific and entrepreneurial talent and combining them with market-led opportunities to create companies of scale in Animal Health, Agri-tech and/or Aquaculture (AAA), FAST will hopefully find and create the first AAA unicorn company, which will only augment our world leading position at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus.”


– John Mackenzie, Chief Executive Officer, Roslin Innovation Centre.

Related links

Roslin Institute

Deep Science Ventures

Work with the University of Edinburgh