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Grain robot startup Crover competes on world stage

Grain robot startup Crover competes on world stage

Agritech company Crover has reached the final stages of one of the world’s most prestigious startup competitions.

The Edinburgh Innovations client was one of 20 companies chosen from 400 applicants around the world to compete in Startup Battlefield, the biggest global competition of its kind and a career-defining springboard for new companies. Startup Battlefield alumni include Fitbit, Dropbox and Yammer.

The contest is organised by online publisher Techcrunch, and takes place during its annual tech conference Disrupt, which draws more than 10,000 founders, investors, developers and technologists from all over the globe.

Silo swimmer

Crover has developed the world’s first robotic device able to swim through granular media. The company is aiming its revolutionary technology at the global grain storage market, which currently loses between 20% and 50% of post-harvest grains through spoilage and infestation.

The Crover robot can provide accurate data on grain conditions and monitor every inch of a grain silo, information that is otherwise impossible to gather.

First for Scotland

Crover is the first Scottish company to take part in Startup Battlefield and only the second to be selected from the UK in the competition’s 10-year history.

Crover was founded by Dr Lorenzo Conti when he was studying at Edinburgh for his PhD at the School of Engineering.

“Getting to the final is a great validation. They really understood what we are doing and why we are unique.”


– Dr Lorenzo Conti, founder and Managing Director, Crover.

Techcrunch training

Crover received two weeks of intensive pitch and demonstration coaching from Techcrunch editors as part of the finalist package ahead of the competition’s heats.

Founders were then given six minutes to pitch and demo their startups to a panel of judges comprising venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and Techcrunch editors.

EI ‘best supporter’

Dr Conti began his startup journey with an approach to Edinburgh Innovations after discovering during his PhD that there was a way of moving devices through granular media.

EI helped Dr Conti conduct market research to identify the best application for the technology, then helped him develop and launch the company, providing in-house expertise and access to funding support, and financial and legal associates.

He has taken part in EI’s Startup Summer Accelerator and has been hosted by EI as a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellow. He has won multiple awards including prizes in Converge Challenge, Scottish EDGE and Shell Livewire.

“EI has been our best supporter from the start.”


Dr Lorenzo Conti.

Exposure to investors

Startup Battlefield 2020 was won by Canix. The company has built a robust enterprise resource planning platform designed to reduce the time it takes cannabis growers to input data. The software is designed to reduce labour costs, handle costing, reporting and monitor current inventory. It also includes forecasting features. 

The winner takes home $100,000, but the real prize is the exposure that all 20 finalists receive from global media, investors and big tech players scouting for promising startups.

To date, Battlefield’s 900 previous competitors have raised a collective $9 billion in investments.

While Disrupt usually takes place in San Francisco, this year’s event was moved online in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Related links


Startup Battlefield

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Edinburgh among global universities targeting Covid recovery

Edinburgh among global universities targeting Covid recovery

Edinburgh Innovations is representing the University of Edinburgh at a meeting of 10 leading universities from the UK, US and EU and international decision-makers to harness research and commercialisation to support the post-Covid economic recovery.

Dr George Baxter, CEO of Edinburgh Innovations, is joined by counterparts from institutions including MIT, Stanford, Cambridge and Oxford at the inaugural event of TenU, a recently established transatlantic research commercialisation collaboration, funded by Research England.

Talks with decision-makers

The commercialisation leaders will discuss with officials from governments and funding bodies how best to translate public investment in research into new products, businesses and jobs.

In addition to best practice discussions, the TenU event will review current government and national policy hot topics, including the US bipartisan bill “Endless Frontier Act” and the UK Government’s R&D Roadmap, which addresses research and innovation support and policy.

“Following the recent establishment of TenU, it’s good to be speaking as a group with those who can help us maximise the impact from research.


“Universities have been at the heart of tackling the Covid-19 crisis, and we can also be at the heart of helping the economic recovery.”


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

Leading speakers

Speakers at today’s event include Walter Copan, the US Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology who is also the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology; David Goldston, MIT’s Washington DC Office Director, and David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England.

Leaders of the technology transfer offices (TTOs) of all the TenU universities will be present: the universities of Cambridge (UK), Columbia (USA), Edinburgh (UK), Imperial College London (UK), Leuven (Belgium), Manchester (UK), MIT (USA), Oxford (UK), Stanford (USA), and University College London (UK).

“It is even more important now to work together to tackle the challenges of economic recovery, and to learn from each other on both policy and practice.


“TenU has already created good transatlantic relationships with university TTOs and policy makers, and I know we can call on US experts, as they can call on us. I look forward to continuing this collaborative working partnership to address these challenges together.”


– David Sweeney, Executive Chair, Research England.

Global impact

The commercialisation and technology transfer offices of universities work with academic researchers to develop their ideas, technologies and inventions into opportunities for industry and investors to benefit economies and societies at a global scale.

Researchers and tech transfer teams of the TenU universities have been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19.

Covid fight

Since the early stages of the pandemic, several TenU members have supported the quick design and production of breathing devices for Covid patients, advanced some of the most widely used rapid testing devices, and have led vaccine development.

The University of Edinburgh has nearly 100 research projects under way relating to Covid-19 in collaboration with external organisations. The projects range from medicine and manufacturing to wellbeing and financial resilience.

Related links

TenU launch news

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Biotech launch targets new cancer treatments

Biotech launch targets new cancer treatments

A company has been launched with Edinburgh Innovations’ support to develop new gene therapies to target various forms of cancer.

Cellinta Limited, which will draw on University of Edinburgh research, has been established through an investment by SV Health Investors and Cancer Research UK.

The investment will be used to build a pipeline of highly selective gene therapies targeting cancer stem cells in various types of solid tumours.

The company draws on research conducted at the University of Edinburgh led by Professor Steven Pollard and funded through the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology, deploying the power of engineered biology to stem cell biology and cancer genomics.

Exciting time in gene therapy

Pollard is Professor of Stem Cell and Cancer Biology at the University’s Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre and is the scientific founder and senior adviser to the new company.

“It’s an extremely exciting time in the gene therapy field.


“With Cellinta, we can ensure that our discoveries and technologies can now be rapidly developed into new therapeutics that can be used to treat aggressive cancers with high unmet need.”


– Professor Steven Pollard, scientific founder and senior adviser, Cellinta.

Soraya Bekkali appointed CEO

Cellinta will be led by CEO Dr Soraya Bekkali, who has more than 20 years’ experience in drug development and business strategy, with a focus on gene therapy.

“I am delighted to be leading such an exciting company.


“Cellinta’s approach offers the opportunity to deliver combinations of therapies selectively to cancer stem cells, bypassing the limitations of traditional treatments which often target single genes or redundant signalling pathways.”


– Dr Soraya Bekkali, CEO, Cellinta.

Dr Bekkali said gene therapy can potentially overcome some of the drug delivery challenges encountered by past drug candidates.

Collaborative agreement

The company has entered a collaborative research agreement with the University and has an option to license intellectual property developed at the University. The parties have been supported by Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service.

Mike Ross, Managing Partner at London-based SV Health Investors, has been appointed Chairman of Cellinta.

“Cellinta represents a unique opportunity to build a leading company based on exciting and innovative science, with the potential to develop first-in-class therapies.


“We are delighted with the progress the company has made and extremely pleased to appoint Soraya, who has deep experience in gene therapy across various therapeutic areas, as CEO. We look forward supporting Cellinta in its progress as a pioneer in the field.”


– Mike Ross, Chairman, Cellinta.

The UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology acknowledges the support of the Research Councils’ Synthetic Biology for Growth programme and of BBSRC, EPSRC and MRC.

Related links


SV Health Investors

Cancer Research UK

UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology

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Principal’s Innovation Awards – first winners announced

Principal’s Innovation Awards – first winners announced

Seven research projects with transformative potential have been named winners of the inaugural Principal’s Innovation Awards.

Each research team receives £10,000 to develop its idea further.

Proof-of-concept projects

The awards, established in May 2020, support proof-of-concept work to help develop new, potentially transformative projects.

They are designed to enable researchers to develop innovative ideas into ambitious, large-scale research proposals.

“These seven innovative project proposals show real ambition and creativity, of the kind that can tackle today’s big challenges. I congratulate all the winners and look forward to seeing the projects’ progress.”


– Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor.

Edinburgh Innovations support

The awards were coordinated by Edinburgh Innovations, whose support for University of Edinburgh staff includes help to access funding streams, working with the College Deans of Research and Edinburgh Research Office.

“Excellent proposals have emerged in response to the competition, reflecting the power of Edinburgh’s researchers to have real impact, at a time when innovation is more important than ever.”


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

The winning teams’ proposals range from microlasers for medical diagnostics, to using artificial intelligence to boost crop performance, to greener synthesis of industrial chemicals.

Inaugural winners

The following winners of the first Principal’s Innovation Awards were announced in September 2020:

Principal Investigator Team Project
Professor Dominic Campopiano, School of Chemistry. Professor Dominic Campopiano, Professor Susan Rosser, Dr Filippo Menolascina, Dr Amanda Jarvis and Dr Stephen Wallace. ChemOD@Ed – Chemistry on Demand at the University of Edinburgh: harness cross-college expertise in synthetic chemistry and synthetic biology to create rapid, innovative approaches to the ‘greener’ synthesis of target chemicals on demand for industrial partners.
Professor Peter Doerner, School of Biological Sciences. Professor Peter Doerner, Professor Sotirios Tsaftaris, Dr Chris Wood, Dr Karl Burgess. Putting the plant in the driving seat: artificial intelligence for crop performance.
Dr Philip Hands, School of Engineering Dr Philip Hands, Calum Brown, Daisy Dickinson and Jason Norman. Liquid crystal microlasers: low-cost tuneable light sources for medical diagnostics, communications and displays.
Dr Amanda Jarvis, School of Chemistry Dr Amanda Jarvis, Professor Dominic Campopiano, Professor Susan Rosser, Professor Meriem El Karoui and Dr Diego Oyarzun. Expanding Nature’s Polymers: a platform technology for the streamlined incorporation of unnatural amino acids into proteins.
Professor Susan Rosser, UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology. Professor Susan Rosser and Dr Liz Flectcher. Make a step change in medicine by engineering new cell-based therapies that can simultaneously combine precise detection of a disease with a targeted treatment.
Dr Adam Stokes, Soft Systems Group. The Soft Systems Group in the School of Engineering. Soft Systems for Hard Problems: using soft materials, fluids, and biological components to design novel engineering solutions to societal and scientific problems, for example in soft robotics for safe interaction and fluidic logic control of machines.
Dr Arran Turnbull, Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre  Dr Arran Turnbull, Dr Carlos Martínez-Pérez, Charlene Kay, Dr James Meehan, Mark Gray and Professor Mike Dixon.


Related links

Principal’s Innovation Award

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Student entrepreneurs show the winning ways of Startup Summer

Student entrepreneurs show the winning ways of Startup Summer

Fourteen teams of entrepreneurial students and recent graduates have pitched stunning business proposals at Startup Summer Demo Day, the culmination of Edinburgh Innovations’ 12-week Startup Summer Accelerator programme.

Each team had just three minutes to pitch its business to an expert panel of judges and an audience of more than 50 at the online event. After each pitch they faced a four-minute grilling from the judges, who assessed the teams’ businesses against the simple test ‘would I invest?’.

Three cash prizes – £5,000, £3,000 and £1,500 – were awarded by the panel, and a fourth prize of £500 went to the pitch gaining most votes in an audience poll.

Lenz gains max traction

In what was described by the judges as a very close contest, the winner was named as Lenz, a startup that aims to use novel technology to improve braking control for trains, ending the notorious problems caused by ‘leaves on the line’. Lenz is founded by Daniel Carbonell, an Electrical and Mechanical Engineering student, and Hamish Geddes, a Mathematics and Physics student.

Runner-up was eMoodie Minds, which was co-founded by Claire Ann Banga, a recent PhD graduate in Clinical Psychology, alongside fellow Edinburgh graduates Cedric Clain and Johannes Millowitsch. EMoodie Minds is a digital platform to help people manage their mental health, preventing deterioration of mild symptoms into clinical disorders.

In third place was Yaldi Games, which aims to mainstream educational video games by seamlessly integrating factual and educational content into popular game genres. Yaldi Games is founded by Elena Höge, a masters student in Design and Digital Media.

The audience vote was won by BioLiberty, which aims to help sufferers of hand weakness with a combination of a soft robotic glove and digital therapy platform. BioLiberty is founded by Ross O’Hanlon and Rowan Armstrong, both students of Electronics and Electrical Engineering with Management.

Summer-long programme

The Demo Day followed a 12-week Startup Summer Accelerator programme for the 14-strong cohort of startups, selected from more than 90 applications.

“Developing a startup is a process of making ‘unknown unknowns’ known.


“The Accelerator has been a really formational experience for me as it’s certainly helped me learn about the hurdles I will need to cross as this develops.


“Great job to the team for making the transition to the online format for the delivery of this programme!”


Claire Ann Banga

Funding and support package

The Startup Summer Accelerator was sponsored in 2020 by Santander Universities and the Mastercard Foundation.

Each participating startup team received £3,000 in funding over the 12-week programme and a package of mentoring and business support.

The programme was managed by Karis Gill, who was a participant in 2019 as founder of Social Stories Club, a social enterprise gifting company shining
a light on social ventures and their missions.

“The summer accelerator was a great opportunity to learn and meet amazing founders. I’ve learned about leadership, negotiation, networking and sales.


“Every piece of information through the accelerator helped me improve myself, my company and my pitch.


“The demo day at the end was a great opportunity and improved my live pitching and pitch deck.”


Elena Höge, founder of Yaldi Games.


Startup Summer Accelerator alumni 2020

Startup Founders
Robotic glove and digital therapy to help sufferers of hand weakness.
Ross O’Hanlon
MEng Electronics and Electrical Engineering with Management
Rowan Armstrong
MEng Electronics and Electrical Engineering with
Chashi Foods
Producing dried fruit and vegetable products from food that would otherwise go to waste, to cut food losses in Zimbabwe.
Prince Chakanyuka
BSc Medicinal and Biological Chemistry
Keith Chivanga
Forget Shareka



eMoodie Minds
Mental health digital platform that facilitates early screening
and tailored symptom-management interventions.
Claire-Ann Banga
PhD Clinical Psychology
Cedric Clain
Johannes Millowitsch
Platform-as-a-Service to create apps (website, iOS, Android, AR, VR, IoT) faster and more affordably.
Frianto Moerdowo
Predictable braking control for trains, whatever the weather.
Daniel Carbonell
BEng Electrical and Mechanical Engineering
Hamish Geddes
BSc Mathematics and Physics
An app that tracks the carbon emissions of purchases, empowering individuals to make reductions to their carbon footprint.
Nick Carmont
BEng Artificial Intelligence
and Software Engineering
Ashish Telang
BSc Computer Science
and Management Science
Angus Shaw
MEng Informatics
Reusable and smart packaging solutions, with the aim of increasing the value of goods in the food supply chain while cutting carbon and waste.
Gauthier Collas
MSc Finance, Technology
and Policy
Armin Ghofrani
BSc Computer Science
and Mathematics


A mobile app to allow architects and clients to visualise and develop the design and layout of their projects together using augmented reality.

Nishtha Kumar
BEng Computer Science


Helping social media entrepreneurs and online buyers who need to avoid fraud
while online, through an escrow platform that builds trust and security.

Ebenezer Ghanney
BSc Accounting and Finance
Genesis Nchopereu
MSc Data Science, Technology and Innovation
Tiro Al
AI assistant for meetings which summarises conversations, extracts and assigns actions, and sends a follow-up email, all from an audio recording.
Chris Doyle
MSc Artificial Intelligence
Daniel Polatajko
MSc Artificial Intelligence

App-based care management toolkit that pairs families with committed, compassionate, and vetted caregivers.

Alexandra Reissig
Garrett Sprague

Messaging app purposebuilt for university students that facilitates
improved connection between classmates, flatmates and potential friends.

Gary Smith
PhD Robotics and
Autonomous Systems
Jack McMillan
MA Business and Enterprise

Thistle Rocketry
Developing rocket launch systems capable of providing dedicated launches to orbit for single cube satellites.


Ian Hanley
MEng Aeronautical Engineering
David Robertson
MSc Artificial Intelligence

Yaldi Games
Mainstreaming educational games by seamlessly integrating educational content into popular game genres.

Elena Höge
MSc Design and Digital Media

Related links

EI services for students


£10m collaboration aims to launch commercial quantum computer

£10m collaboration aims to launch commercial quantum computer

Edinburgh Innovations has helped a consortium led by Rigetti UK win a major funding award to develop the UK’s first commercial quantum computer.

EI worked closely with the Bayes Centre and the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh to help deliver the successful application to the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s Commercialising Quantum Technologies challenge. Industry and government funding for the project amounts to £10 million.

The three-year programme, led by Rigetti UK in collaboration with Oxford Instruments Nanotechnology Tools, Standard Chartered Bank, Phasecraft and the University of Edinburgh, will build and operate the first quantum computer in the UK, make it available to partners and customers over the cloud, and pursue practical applications in machine learning, materials simulation and finance.

Testing hardware and software

Edinburgh researchers, led by Professor Elham Kashefi in the School of Informatics, will develop new ways of testing quantum hardware and verifying the performance of quantum programs, and will work with Standard Chartered Bank to advance quantum machine learning applications for finance.

Rigetti UK, a subsidiary of US-based Rigetti Computing, which was founded by former IBM researcher Chad Rigetti, will build the superconducting quantum computer in a Proteox dilution refrigerator provided by Oxford Instruments.

London-based Phasecraft will use its deep knowledge of quantum algorithms and high-efficiency quantum software to develop applications in materials design, energy and pharmaceuticals.

The project was announced in London by Science minister Amanda Sollway, who revealed that the Rigetti machine would be based in Abingdon, near Oxford, and described it as a key part of the government’s plan to attract the top talent and world-leading companies to the UK. She also announced the launch of the National Quantum Computing Centre.

“Our ambition is to be the world’s first quantum-ready economy, which could provide UK businesses and industries with billions of pounds worth of opportunities.


“Therefore, I am delighted that companies across the country will have access to our first commercial quantum computer, to be based in Abingdon.”


Amanda Solloway MP, UK Science Minister.

Qubits: both on and off

Unlike the ‘bits’ of classical computers, which are either ones or zeros, quantum bits, or qubits, can be in both states at the same time, creating the potential to perform millions of calculations instantly.

“Quantum machines today are able to run basic programs, but they’re not yet at the level of performance or scale for commercially relevant problems.


“To unlock the flywheel of economic value requires a full-stack co-design effort, with both academic and private institutions.”


Chad Rigetti, founder and CEO of Rigetti Computing.

Supercomputing leadership

In addition to delivering a practical quantum computer in the UK, a key goal of the initiative is to further develop the country’s quantum computing talent, infrastructure and national supply chain, and to advance the high-performance computing industry.

The University of Edinburgh is home to EPCC, which runs ARCHER, the UK’s largest supercomputing facility, and the UK Research Data Facility.

“The UK is investing in quantum technologies not only to create society-changing products and services but also to grow talent and expertise, create new jobs and turn outstanding science into economic prosperity.”


Roger McKinlay, Challenge Director for Quantum Technologies at UK Research and Innovation.

Photograph: IBM Research
Image licence

Related links

Rigetti Computing

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