Danu Robotics among Converge 22 finalists

Startups and spinouts
 
14 Sep 2022

Eight of 28 finalists in Scotland’s largest company creation programme for the university sector are from the University of Edinburgh, the organisers of Converge 2022 have announced.

University startups – students, graduates and staff - from all over Scotland are competing for over £300,000 of equity-free funding and support, across sectors from tech, robotics and sensors, through to the chemical industry, health care and engineering.

Finalists in the Converge Challenge category, focused on novel solutions with solid IP and high commercial potential, include Danu Robotics, headed up by Xiaoyan Ma from the University of Edinburgh (pictured above). Danu Robotics uses AI to tackle the global issue of contamination in recycling – a problem which means that less than ten per cent of global waste is currently recycled.

Speaking to other student startups at the Edinburgh Innovations’ Summer Accelerator last week, having won the year before, Xiaoyan said: “I thought that large corporations and banks were moving too slowly on this issue, and that it was time to take action myself to try and make real change.

“I received helpful training in soft skills like confidence and communication from Student Enterprise and, through Edinburgh Innovations, I was introduced to the Centre for Robotics. From there, I hired Nathan Western, our CTO. I now have a brilliant team of eight who share my passion.

“Danu Robotics is developing an advanced and sustainable robotic system to automate the waste-sorting process without the risk to human health and with much greater speed and accuracy.”

As a Converge Challenge finalist, she will also be invited to pitch live at an exclusive investors-only event at Scotland House in London next month.

Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director at Converge, said: “Scotland’s world-class universities continue to be brilliant hotbeds of innovation and creativity, as exemplified by this year’s Converge finalist cohort.

“The judges who reviewed this year’s cohort’s business plans believe that these emerging entrepreneurs are leading projects with real market potential and the power to strengthen our economy while creating a fairer future for all. The promise for all these 28 fledgling companies is huge, and the Converge team will be right behind them in championing their ground-breaking ideas.”

The Converge 2022 winners will be announced at a ceremony in Edinburgh in early November.

The other University of Edinburgh finalists are:

Converge Challenge

Eye to the Future, Dr Tom MacGillivray, Senior Research Fellow

Eye to the Future (EttF™) is a planned spin-off from the Universities of Dundee and Edinburgh. It builds on 20 years of joint research /expertise on retinal image and data analysis, augmented by a two-year commercialisation exercise to scope the market and identify real needs. The project has been supported by two phases of Scottish Enterprise High Growth funding. The team has identified a clear, precise market need for optometrists globally to be able to more efficiently diagnosis and refer patients with eye conditions to secondary care, or manage them in a community setting. Its software product addresses this need.

Net Zero Challenge

Bennu.ai, Jonathan Feldstein, Postgraduate Student:

A major challenge in achieving sustainability is that so far it always comes at a financial cost to businesses. Our vision is that sustainability should not come at a cost.

Bennu.ai develops AI-Robotics solutions to help business reach net-zero while saving on operational costs. Our first product is a smart bin that sorts trash automatically and through our patentable technology with higher accuracy into the correct bins compared to humans. This leads to higher recycling rates and therefore to reduced carbon footprints and waste management bills for our customers.

Robocean Ltd, Niall McGrath, Undergraduate Student:

Seagrass meadows are endangered ecosystems which are vital to marine biodiversity and blue carbon storage. Restoring these ecosystems is essential to combatting climate collapse. Unfortunately, current restoration methods are too expensive and inefficient for large-scale projects.

Robocean is mechanising seagrass restoration through innovative autonomous and remotely operated subsea robotics which collect and plant seeds. Our technology removes barriers to restoration by lowering workforce costs and accelerating the entire process. Our cohesive network of amphibious robots will support restoration processes from seed to sapling. With international technological applications, Robocean will rewild our oceans and turn the tide on climate change.

KickStart Challenge

Altra ERC Ltd, Jack Walker, Postgraduate Student:

Teachers are wasting hours doubling their workload; sourcing relevant content and creating custom resources for their classes. This time could be better spent focusing on the needs of individual students. At Altra, we are looking to save teachers’ time and encourage a cultural shift toward a more personalised education. Our online curriculum explorer enables teachers and students to find adaptable resources mapped to the specific outcomes used in their classroom within seconds. Our resources are broken down into digital blocks which can be pieced together and exported to a variety of formats all within a few seconds.

Concinnity Genetics, Rebecca Birt, Postgraduate Student:

We want to solve the problem of off-target effects in gene therapies. Side effects are a major problem and can often be caused by the therapy being active in the wrong tissue. This can result in clinical halts and failures, costing time and money and preventing many gene therapies from getting to market. With our unique AI technology, we aim to build gene control systems that ensure the gene therapy is active only in the right place at the right time, accelerating the development of gene therapies and increasing their success in clinical trials.

SAMASTAR Ltd, Asma Abdullah, Graduate:

Microbes are crucial in manufacturing essential products such as ethanol, antibiotics, vaccines, and food products. Culturing microbes in shake flasks, a standard practice in research and industry, requires continuous monitoring to track their growth for optimisation and reproducibility. Cultures are monitored manually by taking multiple samplings and offline data recording which is labour-intensive. We are developing an innovative device to automate monitoring of microbial cultures in shake flasks remotely and in real-time. It is time-saving, cost-efficient and eco-friendly technology. It will leverage the power of AI for data analysis and early error detection to drive innovation and accelerate research breakthroughs.

SensiBile, Sofia Ferreira-Gonzalez, Research Fellow:

SensiBile is developing a new biosensor (HepScan) to help assess the quality of donor livers prior-to-transplantation. Applied to discarded bile during organ retrieval, SensiBile HepScan determines the quality of the donor liver and its probability of developing complications post-operatively, allowing surgeons to make immediate informed decisions about the viability and further usage of the donor livers. SensiBile will help surgeons to predict transplantation viability, improving transplant success and long-term patient survival, which will have a corresponding impact on healthcare costs. The project received seed funding and entrepreneur-in-residence support from Edinburgh Innovations' Wellcome iTPA team, which in turn enabled access to the MRC Confidence in Concept scheme.

Main image credit: Lloyd Smith, Converge

Related links

Read the full list of winners on the Converge 2022 website

Student Enterprise services

Picture: SensiBile

The other University of Edinburgh finalists are:

Net Zero Challenge

Bennu.ai, Jonathan Feldstein, Postgraduate Student:

A major challenge in achieving sustainability is that so far it always comes at a financial cost to businesses. Our vision is that sustainability should not come at a cost.

Bennu.ai develops AI-Robotics solutions to help business reach net-zero while saving on operational costs. Our first product is a smart bin that sorts trash automatically and through our patentable technology with higher accuracy into the correct bins compared to humans. This leads to higher recycling rates and therefore to reduced carbon footprints and waste management bills for our customers.

Robocean Ltd, Niall McGrath, Undergraduate Student:

Seagrass meadows are endangered ecosystems which are vital to marine biodiversity and blue carbon storage. Restoring these ecosystems is essential to combatting climate collapse. Unfortunately, current restoration methods are too expensive and inefficient for large-scale projects.

Robocean is mechanising seagrass restoration through innovative autonomous and remotely operated subsea robotics which collect and plant seeds. Our technology removes barriers to restoration by lowering workforce costs and accelerating the entire process. Our cohesive network of amphibious robots will support restoration processes from seed to sapling. With international technological applications, Robocean will rewild our oceans and turn the tide on climate change.

KickStart Challenge

Altra ERC Ltd, Jack Walker, Postgraduate Student:

Teachers are wasting hours doubling their workload; sourcing relevant content and creating custom resources for their classes. This time could be better spent focusing on the needs of individual students. At Altra, we are looking to save teachers’ time and encourage a cultural shift toward a more personalised education. Our online curriculum explorer enables teachers and students to find adaptable resources mapped to the specific outcomes used in their classroom within seconds. Our resources are broken down into digital blocks which can be pieced together and exported to a variety of formats all within a few seconds.

Concinnity Genetics, Rebecca Birt, Postgraduate Student:

We want to solve the problem of off-target effects in gene therapies. Side effects are a major problem and can often be caused by the therapy being active in the wrong tissue. This can result in clinical halts and failures, costing time and money and preventing many gene therapies from getting to market. With our unique AI technology, we aim to build gene control systems that ensure the gene therapy is active only in the right place at the right time, accelerating the development of gene therapies and increasing their success in clinical trials.

SAMASTAR Ltd, Asma Abdullah, Graduate:

Microbes are crucial in manufacturing essential products such as ethanol, antibiotics, vaccines, and food products. Culturing microbes in shake flasks, a standard practice in research and industry, requires continuous monitoring to track their growth for optimisation and reproducibility. Cultures are monitored manually by taking multiple samplings and offline data recording which is labour-intensive. We are developing an innovative device to automate monitoring of microbial cultures in shake flasks remotely and in real-time. It is time-saving, cost-efficient and eco-friendly technology. It will leverage the power of AI for data analysis and early error detection to drive innovation and accelerate research breakthroughs.

SensiBile, Sofia Ferreira-Gonzalez, Research Fellow:

SensiBile is developing a new biosensor (HepScan) to help assess the quality of donor livers prior-to-transplantation. Applied to discarded bile during organ retrieval, SensiBile HepScan determines the quality of the donor liver and its probability of developing complications post-operatively, allowing surgeons to make immediate informed decisions about the viability and further usage of the donor livers. SensiBile will help surgeons to predict transplantation viability, improving transplant success and long-term patient survival, which will have a corresponding impact on healthcare costs. The project received seed funding and entrepreneur-in-residence support from Edinburgh Innovations' Wellcome iTPA team.

Related links

Read the full list of winners on the Converge 2022 website

Student Enterprise services