Staff Services Student Enterprise

Inspire Launch Grow 2023 winners announced

09 Jun 2023

Biotech companies for healthcare and sustainability and a social enterprise focused on the spice trade were the winners of this year’s Inspire, Launch, Grow awards for student enterprise.

Sixteen finalists, along with other startup founders, their mentors, funders and investors from the business community, University representatives and members of Edinburgh Innovations’ Student Enterprise team, who have supported the students every step of the way, all gathered at the Potterow Dome yesterday for the event.

Lorna Baird, Student Enterprise Manager at EI, took to the stage and thanked everybody, saying: “They say it takes a village to raise a child; it takes a city to raise an entrepreneur!”

She praised the ideas and grit of the founders, adding: “We are proud and privileged to work with them, and to stand alongside them on this part of their life’s journey. They inspire us every day.”

With £5000 up for grabs in each of three categories, finalists were invited to pitch their idea live on stage in less than 60 seconds. They had previously pitched for ten minutes to a judging panel looking for originality, commercial potential and scalability.

Winner of the ‘Inspire – Emerging Innovation’ award was startup SynSense – founded by two synthetic biology PhD students, Maggie Hicks (pictured above) and Florentina Winkelmann. They have invented a skin patch that detects energy and stress levels to help top athletes optimise performance, with possible further applications in disease diagnosis.

Speaking afterwards, Maggie said:

I’m always shocked when it’s me! This is fantastic because it’s tough financially in the early stages – we are pushing our technology to get it as close to a minimum viable product as possible for investors, and this money will help us work with a student engineer on the hardware development.
As well as the practical help – our EI advisor recently helped us access a useful grant for market validation – I’m grateful to the Student Enterprise team for just being there at the Hub for encouragement and confidence-boosting whenever we need it, which is fairly often! ”

Other finalists in this category were WhimsyLabs, Excellio Labs, Carbon Glance and Raygonal.

Winner of the ‘Launch- Impact’ award was Ujamaa Spice, founded by molecular biology PhD student Rist Van de Weyer and CEO Jawahir Al-Mauly, which aims to decolonise the spice trade, working with smallholders in Zanzibar.

Other finalists were Alt Milk Academy, NucBarcoder and Sunsave Solutions.

And winner of the ‘Grow – Growth Innovation’ award was EVA Biosystems, founded by Alexander Speakman, a PHD student in the Institute of Bioengineering, who is developing degradable bioplastics.

Finalists were Deep QA, Myriad Wind Energy Systems, Robocean and Clastify.

Winners of the Moving Mountain micro awards for inclusivity and creativity were Jaime Llorente Prada and Devian Maside Leon’s platform for marginalised artists Carried Away, and Apithanny Bourne and Kieran Playfair’s wellbeing brand Nature with Apithanny.

Douglas Martin (pictured above), founder and CEO of biotech and engineering company MiAlgae, which produces omega 3 from co-products of the whisky industry, was an ILG finalist seven years ago. He now has a team of 35 and was named in Forbes’ 30 under 30.

He said: “That 10 minutes of terror and pandemonium, pitching seven years ago, was the start of MiAlgae, and starting is the hardest part. Then momentum takes over."

He gave the keynote speech, containing a list of tips for founders he wished he’d known when he started out:

  1. Bad things are coming! Prepare, build your defences, work through them
  2. (From his EI advisor) If it feels under control, you’re not going fast enough!
  3. It’s lonely. Find people you can moan with
  4. It’s all about the people. Surround yourself with the ones who help you up the mountain
  5. Advice is cheap. Good advice is priceless
  6. Raising money is tough. Pick your investors carefully – you can say no – and equity is precious
  7. This is a marathon not a sprint. If you get tired, rest, don’t quit!

Pictures by Maverick Photo Agency

Related links

Student Enterprise


EVA Biosystems