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Edinburgh students launch 100 startups in a year

Edinburgh students launch 100 startups in a year

University of Edinburgh students and recent graduates have launched 100 startup companies in a single year for the first time.

The total of exactly 100 companies launched in 2020-21 is higher than any institution in the Russell Group of 24 leading UK universities has previously recorded.

The milestone comes despite many students having been absent from campus in the latest academic year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of the 100 startups, 43 were founded by women, and 21 of the businesses define themselves as social enterprises, meaning they exist to benefit society.

Forty-five of the companies were launched by current or recent undergraduate students, while 55 were founded by postgraduates.

More than 800 since 1967

Since the University of Edinburgh launched its first spinout company, Reynolds Medical Ltd, in 1967, staff and students at the University have founded more than 800 companies.

The number of student startups launched has been growing consistently in recent years, more than doubling over the past three years from 50 in 2017-18.

Inventions launched by the University’s student entrepreneurs during 2020-21 include AI-based virtual-reality software for tennis players and coaches, a health-research app that tracks people’s mood, a robotic system to sort waste for recycling, and a grip-assist glove to help people live independently.

Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, said:

“Reaching this impressive milestone of 100 student startups in a year of lockdown and restrictions truly demonstrates the entrepreneurial spirit of our students.


“I know peer support is a big feature among these company founders, which is doubly impressive in these difficult times. I wish all our entrepreneurs every success with their enterprises, many of which are aiming to tackle important societal needs.”

EI support

Entrepreneurial students and staff at the University of Edinburgh receive free support from Edinburgh Innovations. Support includes one-to-one business advice, access to mentoring networks, accelerator programmes and a busy calendar of enterprise events and competitions.

Lorna Baird, Student Enterprise Manager at Edinburgh Innovations, said:

“The rising number of young people turning their creative ideas into new products and services gives us all grounds for hope for the future.


“At Edinburgh Innovations we’re proud of all our company founders and proud to support them as they begin what we hope will be a long and fruitful journey.”

The 100 milestone was marked at a Covid-safe celebration at the University’s Student Enterprise Hub.

Collin Powers, founder of startup company Ellyra, demonstrated his virtual reality tennis training software. Ellyra is developing VR sports engagement technology, allowing anyone to access coaching, competitions and a sports community regardless of their location, income or disability.

He launched his company in 2020 shortly after graduating in Business with Enterprise and Innovation from the University of Edinburgh Business School.

Collin was supported by Edinburgh Innovations while a student and after graduation, taking part in the Startup Summer Accelerator, and reaching the final of Edinburgh Innovations’ Inspire Launch Grow competition. As a US citizen, he has also received visa support to remain in the UK as an entrepreneur.

Collin said:

“Edinburgh Innovations has been instrumental in helping me on my entrepreneurial journey. Being accepted into EI’s Startup Summer Accelerator gave me the confidence to pursue my vision full-time.


“The Student Enterprise Hub has been critical in growing my business as I can brainstorm with other entrepreneurs, be part of a community and get instant feedback on what I and my company are doing in a constructive way.”

Funding, awards, investment

Startups in this year’s cohort received funds from schemes including Unlocking Ambition and Smart:Scotland, and won awards at Converge Challenge, Scottish EDGE and other national competitions.

Companies launched by the University’s students and staff have an enviable record of long-term success, supported by venture capital and other investors. In the year to 31 July 2021, provisional figures show that £47.5 million was invested in University of Edinburgh startups and spin-outs.

Related links


EI support for students


Future Proof – Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences making ideas work for a better world

Future Proof – Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences making ideas work for a better world

A campaign to enable even more impact from the University of Edinburgh’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS) has been launched by Edinburgh Innovations.

‘Future Proof’ will highlight the expertise, process of co-creation and track record of research and innovation at the College to increase external collaborations and enable more ideas to improve our world.

Increasing innovation

This approach builds on an already highly successful year where innovation at the College has rocketed. For example over the past year CAHSS has tripled its income from external partners.

In addition, the College has secured significant new projects through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund focusing on healthy working lives and reducing barriers to employment for older people.

The Creative Informatics programme has been a particular success, with each £1 R&D invested in Creative Cluster companies generating around £1.74 in additional investment, grants and in-kind value.

Lastly, CAHSS students have proven themselves to embody the College’s entrepreneurial values, having created 72 startups in the past year alone, another dramatic increase.

Creative solutions

The campaign will provide regular updates on the college’s work discovering and co-creating solutions that work to make our world a better place, particularly with regards to the creative industries.

The creative sector has been extremely negatively affected by the restrictions of the last year so there will be particular emphasis on work within data skills and knowledge, data infrastructure, protocols and innovation as the key areas of interest and change for many within that space.

Professor Louise Jackson, Associate Dean of Knowledge Exchange and Impact at CAHSS, said:

“Our research is absolutely world-class and our researchers are motivated by making a positive contribution to the communities around them, locally and globally.


“We are throwing our doors open to the College for public and private organisations to discover the extraordinary research we have been undertaking and how we can use that research to co-create data-driven solutions and have real-world impact.”

Aileen Appleyard, Head of Business Development for CAHSS at EI, said:

“The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences is a hotbed of meaningful innovation where our particular combination of expertise, co-creation and creativity has enabled significant impact.


“All sectors have experienced profound societal and economic change over the last year. However, the creative industries are perhaps experiencing the deepest and most unpredictable shifts.


“Our campaign, Future Proof, will show how our data-driven expertise is at the forefront of understanding these reverberations and can help organisations understand, adapt and thrive in the new normal.”

Photograph: Sarah Calmus

Related links

Future Proof

Work with the University of Edinburgh

EI services for staff




AI Accelerator open for second-round applications

AI Accelerator open for second-round applications

The University of Edinburgh’s AI Accelerator is opening its doors once again to find 12 data-driven AI scale-ups looking to change the world.

The programme is designed to accelerate the best AI start-ups in the UK, Europe and beyond to scale globally within a short timeframe and aims to attract disruptive scale-ups that apply AI with high-growth potential while helping them grow into world-leading companies. The University of Edinburgh is home to the largest centres for computing science and informatics in Europe.

The AI Accelerator will be delivered both digitally and in-person by Edinburgh Innovations and the Bayes Centre, the University’s world-leading innovation hub for data science and artificial intelligence, on behalf of all the DDI hubs. The AI Accelerator is also supported by Edinburgh-based strategic design consultancy Nile.

The deadline for applications is 8 August 2021 and the programme will run for six months from 22 September to 18 March 2022.

The cohort taking part in the current AI Accelerator programme comprises 15 companies with high growth potential, each of which is addressing a global challenge, many responding to urgent needs in the health and climate change domains.

Scale Space partnership

Scale Space’s partnership with the University will provide start-up businesses on the Accelerator programme with access to the wide range of expertise, mentoring and knowledge at Scale Space, to help them grow faster and stronger. Scale Space is backed by Blenheim Chalcot, the UK’s leading digital venture builder, and has partnered with Imperial College London to launch the first physical site in White City, London.

Companies on the current programme include BioLiberty, designers of an AI-powered robotic glove that strengthens the user’s grip, Neeuro, which utilises Brain-Computer Interface technology to help ADHD children improve their attention span, and Reath, which enables companies to find compliant and scalable solutions for reusing single use items that have been sent to landfill.

Charlotte Waugh, Enterprise and Innovation Programme Lead, Edinburgh Innovations, said:

“We are delighted to be able to offer this fantastic opportunity to global data driven AI scale-ups, and to be partnering once again with Scale Space and Nile to build on the success of previous AI Accelerator programmes. Our USP is providing entrepreneurs with support on commercial skills at the same time as enabling them to tap into the University of Edinburgh’s world leading academic knowledge, data sets, talent and supercomputing facilities.


“The Bayes Centre, supported by Edinburgh Innovations, is at the heart of delivering this unique cross-hub collaboration ensuring cutting edge AI tech is at the heart of  these market led, real world solutions and providing specialist input, connections and investor networks that scale businesses quickly and successfully.”

Mark Sanders, Executive Chairman, Scale Space, and Entrepreneur-in-Residence, said:

I am so very proud to be Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the University of Edinburgh AI Accelerator for a second time and I can’t wait to meet the new cohort. Great things happen when you bring together academic excellence with business-building expertise, and the support provided by this programme is ideal for ambitious scaling businesses. In just a few months, the previous cohort made incredible progress in all areas of their business, developing clearer product propositions, sustainable commercial models and growth strategies.


“I wish that group the best of luck and I especially look forward to being able to welcome the new group to attend sessions at Scale Space in White City, which will help build their connections to Imperial College and the London market.

Jim Ashe, Director of Innovation, Bayes Centre, College of Science and Engineering, said:

The AI Accelerator provides an opportunity for data driven AI start-ups to grow and scale their businesses, in a dynamic environment – enabling connections with investors, mentors and their peers. The cohort will have access to the invaluable resources that the Bayes Centre provides.”

The AI Accelerator is financed by the Scottish Funding Council through the Data Driven Innovation (DDI) programme.

Related links


Scale Space


Bayes Centre




Student entrepreneurs win at Inspire Launch Grow 2021

Student entrepreneurs win at Inspire Launch Grow 2021

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.

Agreement targets disease-resistant gene-edited pigs

Agreement targets disease-resistant gene-edited pigs

The University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute and animal genetics company Genus PLC have signed an agreement to produce pigs that are resistant to a respiratory disease affecting livestock worldwide.

Researchers and the company hope the licensing agreement, facilitated by Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, will lead the way to gene-edited, disease-resistant pigs being available to global pork-producing markets.

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) harms the animals’ welfare and is one of the most costly animal diseases in the world, with around $2.5 billion (£1.8 billion) revenue lost each year in the US and Europe alone.

The disease causes breathing problems and deaths in young animals and can result in pregnant sows losing their litters.

Vaccines have mostly failed to stop the spread of the virus that causes PRRS, which is endemic in most pig-producing countries worldwide.

The University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute has produced pigs that can resist the disease by editing their genetic code. The research received funding from both Genus and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Professor Bruce Whitelaw, Interim Director of the Roslin Institute and Dean of Innovation at the University’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, said:

“Roslin is rightly recognised for pioneering animal biotechnology that enables genetic engineering of farmed animals. The strong, productive and durable partnership with Genus has been a key aspect in seeing academic endeavour translate to useful and useable translational projects for the livestock sector.”

Project leaders say that by partnering with Genus, a leading global animal genetics company, the Roslin Institute will benefit from its existing relationship with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), insights into the pork sector, its established supply chain, and its distribution channels in the world’s biggest pig markets, including China, Europe and the US.

With the signing of the licensing agreement, Genus will continue planned work for testing multiple generations of pigs and conducting studies required for FDA approval.

Dr Elena Rice, Chief Scientific Officer at Genus PLC, said:

“We have long and fruitful relationships with Roslin and admire the depth of Roslin’s research and pioneering spirit. Together we laid out the groundwork for combating PRRS, and Genus is working with the FDA to obtain approval for this technology.”

Dr John Lonsdale, Head of Enterprise at Edinburgh Innovations, said:

“Animal health is a keystone of animal welfare as well as bringing benefits to food-producing economies and global food security.

“This highly specific edit to the animals to ensure disease resistance is a result of decades of work at Roslin, and we’re delighted to be helping to improve animal welfare by bringing this technological breakthrough to market through this partnership with Genus.”


For further information, please contact:
Shane Canning, Press and PR Office,
0755 782 0266, shane.canning@ed.ac.uk

Photo illustration: Alan Roberts/Unsplash

EI hosts global university experts to boost regional investment

EI hosts global university experts to boost regional investment

Edinburgh is hosting commercialisation experts from 10 leading transatlantic universities to find ways to boost investment in regional centres of innovation away from long-established hotspots.

The latest ‘TenU Hosts’ event, titled Regional Opportunities, focuses on attracting global and domestic investment into areas of the UK away from the south-east of England and areas of the US between the east and west coastal regions.

The event will be chaired by Dr George Baxter, Chief Executive Officer of Edinburgh Innovations.

In addition to Edinburgh, TenU comprises the heads of equivalent offices at the University of Cambridge, Columbia University, Imperial College London, KU Leuven, University of Manchester, MIT, University of Oxford, Stanford University, and UCL. The collaboration is funded by Research England.

Policy implications

TenU Hosts Regional Opportunities will highlight collaborative approaches that have proven successful and discuss policy incentives to increase their potential. This includes implications for national policy – the UK Government’s levelling up agenda and R&D Place Strategy, and the US Innovation and Competition Act, which authorises investment in regional technology hubs.

“Across the US, the UK and Europe there are many world-ranking universities producing exceptional intellectual property that is being relatively under-exploited.


“Our aim at this latest TenU forum is to ensure that investors and national and regional governments don’t miss out on opportunities across perhaps lesser known areas of the UK, Europe and the US.”


– Dr George Baxter, CEO, Edinburgh Innovations.

Regional innovation

The event will feed into a cooperation between Research England and the US’s National Institute of Standards and Technology to map regional innovation and economic development and improve connections between research and industry.

Speakers at the event, hosted online on 8 July, include partners from investment firms Osage University Partners, based in the US, and Edinburgh-based Epidarex Capital, as well as Nichole Mercier, Managing Director of the Office of Technology Management at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, and Andrew Wilkinson, CEO of University of Manchester Innovation Factory.

“The calibre of this panel and the content of the event will drive and inform positive policy discussions within the UK and Scottish governments on the importance and opportunity of university research and innovation.”


– Dr George Baxter

TenU Hosts series

It is the fourth TenU Hosts event to take place since the organisation was launched in July 2020. Previous events have focused on the post-Covid economic recovery, entrepreneurial ecosystems and international investment.

Related links

Ten U

EI in global push for entrepreneurial ecosystems

Research England backs schemes to boost universities’ impact