Innovation needs enterprise. Enterprise needs innovation. Whether you are looking for experts to work with, bright ideas to build on, or spaces to innovate in, Imperial Enterprise plugs you in to an academic network fizzing with talent and cutting-edge technology.
How to... access expertise in your area
Match your unique challenge to Imperial’s extraordinary people.
Is this you?
You’re searching for collaborators for your company’s blue-sky research; you’ve got an incredible idea that needs testing; you have a pressing industry challenge you would like to address with expert thinking. No problem: Imperial Enterprise is here to help your business innovate and grow.
Whether you’re a startup, a multinational or driving change in the public sector, we can help you access the very best academic expertise – and even carry out joint research with Imperial, which may range from a single PhD project to a new department or centre.
Imperial’s extraordinary people have done everything from steadying the Leaning Tower of Pisa to helping care homes become more human-centred. Let’s have a conversation about how we can help you meet your challenges.
What to expect
We design every new project and partnership around addressing your specific needs and solving your problems. Imperial Enterprise can identify the experts who can drive your project forward and even bring together research teams to create new insights, technologies and techniques focused on the questions that affect your enterprise.
Meanwhile, we deliver exceptional and agile project management – from proposal and budgets through to contracts and intellectual property rights. This deeply collaborative and proven process has resulted in an abundance of new thinking, new ideas and, we’re proud to say, decades-long partnerships with some of the world’s biggest brands.
They’ve discovered that one great idea inevitably leads to another – and we want to help you drive that change forward.
Who you'll work with
In 2010, experts at Imperial began working with Sainsbury’s to generate key bespoke knowledge to power its sustainability strategy in its shops and warehouses. The challenge? Marry the company’s ambitious growth plans to its equally ambitious carbon targets.
Dr Salvador Acha Izquierdo and his colleagues worked with the Sainsbury’s team to examine the performance of the company’s extensive buildings, and to quantify the impact of new technologies on the existing portfolio.
Today, Imperial’s experts work in a strategic partnership with Sainsbury’s, adding cutting-edge insight across multiple projects. These include: decarbonising power, heating, cooling and transport services; understanding the impact of electrifying heating and transport systems; and ensuring that transitioning away from fossil fuels is commercially viable.
Return on investment
“Carbon reduction is necessary not only to support our sustainability commitments, but also to make our business more efficient,” says David Merefield, Carbon, Utilities and Engineering Manager at Sainsbury’s. Working with an academic partner brings independence to the process, he says.
Imperial was already working with Sainsbury’s on a number of long-term projects, so a new partnership made perfect sense. “It enables us to explore opportunities as part of the feasibility process in a different way, drawing on additional research and learning to ensure the decisions we make are balanced and right for the business,” says Merefield. “When two brands come together with similar goals and objectives, it’s easy to set up partnerships and to create new ways of working.”
Case study: BASF
The sustainable solutions helping BASF improve its performance and resilience
Deep change requires teamwork. And for BASF, the world’s largest producer of chemicals, that teamwork now includes a major partnership with Imperial, one of just a few universities worldwide that the company has chosen to work with as a strategic partner.
The exciting and wide-ranging multi-disciplinary research brings together experts in disciplines that include not only chemistry and chemical engineering but also maths and computing.
Dozens of Imperial researchers across these fields are working with BASF on advanced research that is helping create more high-tech, sustainable and efficient chemical industries.
Professor Mimi Hii leads one of the key research groups involved. “Much of our work is about working with responsible organisations to find sustainable solutions which will reduce their carbon footprint,” she says. “Taken together, it gives us the chance to work on real-world processes and collectively make genuine impact on sustainability.”
To achieve these vital improvements in efficiency and sustainability, a major focus is the development of modern continuous production methods known as flow chemistry for the synthesis of low-volume, high-value products such as pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and speciality chemicals.
Digitisation will also play a key role: drawing on one of Imperial’s key strengths, several researchers are working on applying digital technologies such as machine learning to automate and optimise chemical R&D and manufacturing.
Hii says that BASF’s forward-thinking and collaborative approach has always looked outside the immediate organisation, bringing in external expertise to encourage innovation. “It’s incredibly fulfilling to deliver our research and to then see it in the client’s processes. It’s very beneficial to both sides.”
“We appreciate the excellent infrastructure and cutting-edge research at Imperial,” says Dr Christian Holtze, Academic Partnership Developer and Principal Scientist for Flow Chemistry at BASF. “The cross-disciplinary approach and the impact-driven mindset are why we’ve selected Imperial as our primary academic partner in the UK – one of a select few strategic partners worldwide.”
How to... invest in the future
Join Imperial’s brightest minds to tackle the biggest issues facing the planet.
Is this you?
Want to invest in a brighter future? Start here. Every year, Imperial’s brightest minds create around 100 new ventures, tackling the most significant issues facing our planet. Whether you’re a first-time angel or a seasoned VC, we’ll give you access to our open investor ecosystem.
Following its launch in 2020, the first two iterations of the Imperial College Enterprise Fund (ICEF), managed by FCA-regulated Parkwalk Advisors, provided a tax-efficient means to invest in a portfolio of companies founded by Imperial staff, students and alumni. The Imperial Investor Network provides investors who are interested in directly supporting individual Imperial startups with curated lists of our latest investor-ready companies and invitations to exclusive showcase events.
What to expect
We offer a dynamic startup ecosystem: from fledgling companies looking to secure pre-seed funds through to established businesses raising Series B funding. The innovation delivered by Imperial’s new ventures reflect the College’s research strengths, translating deep-tech breakthroughs in medicine, engineering, biochemistry, physics and genetics into disruptive technology. We also apply new thinking in materials science, plant sciences, nanosciences, computer science and artificial intelligence.
All this is made possible by cutting-edge infrastructure and facilities, entrepreneurial training and venture-building programmes. The extensive Imperial network means that companies are mentored, nurtured and supported to be investor-ready and to close investment rounds.
How to find out more
To learn more about investing in Imperial startups or to join the Imperial Investor Network, drop us a line to be connected with our dedicated in-house seed investment managers.
Investing in any new business, and especially technology or science-focused businesses, is a high-risk activity. We strongly advise potential investors to take advice from a specialist in startup investment authorised under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 before making an investment into any project. Imperial Enterprise does not provide investment advice and presents business plans and proposals for information only, without making any recommendations to potential investors. Startup success is difficult to predict: past startup success does not indicate or predict the success of others.
Investing in the future
When you invest in an Imperial startup, you’re backing founders at a critical point in their entrepreneurial journey, as they are leaving the College and taking their first steps in building a company capable of hitting their first milestones in order to secure follow-on investment – and a future. And a relatively small amount of investment at an early stage can be crucial to release a company’s potential, taking it from academia to the world and generating real impact.
In fact, your investment could help change the world, too. You’ll help to accelerate the translation of disruptive ideas and technologies into real-world solutions designed to address the most significant issues facing our planet, such as in healthcare, energy, decarbonisation, clean water, global sustainability and nutrition.
Case studies: Powering the game-changers
How investment helped take three companies to the next level.
How to... pay it forward
Use your experience to help the next generation of innovators.
Is this you?
Do you want to help guide the next generation of innovators? Whether giving feedback on a pitch or helping a startup navigate the intricacies of IP, Imperial offers great opportunities to qualified mentors.
Could you join more than 75 professionals at the Experts-in-Residence Service, providing tailored support for startups – for example, on issues such as patent application or legal questions?
Or perhaps you could work long term with a startup moving to the next stage, via the Imperial Venture Mentoring Service (IVMS). Its mentors have now worked with more than 110 ventures that have collectively gone on to raise more than £55 million.
Alternatively, there are plenty of ad hoc opportunities to run workshops or provide help, without making a specific, set annual commitment.
What to expect
Once you’ve decided you’d like to help – whatever your field of expertise – just get in touch with Imperial Enterprise. We’ll work with you to help you find exactly the right place for you and your experience, and we’ll help it go smoothly by supporting your mentoring activity.
Mentees get training too, to make sure they understand what to expect, the commitment required, and how to make the most of your involvement. Not sure where you might fit in? That’s fine. We welcome a variety of expertise and are delighted to help you find the right opportunity to get involved.
For an informal chat about the range of mentoring opportunities available at Imperial, whether that’s working with individuals, startups or established ventures hoping to take the next step, talk to us about how you can make the best use of your expertise.
How it will work
Like many dementia sufferers, Pat struggled to drink enough water: dehydration is one of the leading causes of death for people with the condition. After her grandson, Lewis Hornby, witnessed her struggle with dehydration, and after spending a year living in her care home, he was inspired to create Jelly Drops – super-hydrating sweets to help people with dementia get enough liquid.
But he needed help to take his idea to market – so, as an Imperial student, he applied to IVMS. “The IVMS mentors have been invaluable to Jelly Drops’ success,” says Hornby. “Since we started working together, we have raised £500k investment, built a production facility and launched the product.
“It is invaluable to have impartial advisers who are not invested in the company but are still willing and able to share their extensive business-building experience.”
Return on investment
Paying it forward isn’t a one-way street – mentoring can be hugely rewarding for everyone concerned. It’s not just about being part of a world-leading community of talented students and researchers, either, but also being instrumental in driving forward Imperial’s thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“The quality of the other mentors is amazing,” says marketing strategy and brand consultant Stella Hartley, who has mentored Imperial startups including Bia-Care, Community, Get Football and Hectar Farming.
“I’ve learnt a lot from them and enjoyed their company. IVMS offers startups an invaluable support network and a shortcut to business wisdom that would take years to accumulate. I feel I have been able to add value in terms of offering practical consumer-facing experience and access to a useful network.”
Case study: Mentoring for success
Dr Peter Collins, Imperial mentor and founder of Permasense, says commercial viability is key.
“The UK desperately needs to get better at commercialising its intellectual property. For our size, we’re disproportionally good at generating ‘commercialisable’ ideas – but we’re still not good at actually commercialising them. We’re much better at generating IP in our universities than we are at turning it into companies, revenue and jobs
Partly by luck and partly by judgment, I’ve had a degree of success in turning spin-out companies into commercially viable companies. And it’s important to try and help those who are coming up behind me. That’s why I mentor for the Imperial Venture Mentoring Service (IVMS).
We will not compete on the global stage by making things to cost. Instead, we will build and sustain an economy that gives our children job opportunities and a future by building businesses differentiated by IP. Markets have never been so global – and the technology to access them has never been so inexpensive. As a mentor, I want to encourage people who have ideas to think globally – luckily, Imperial is a very international place to start with.
At IVMS, I mentor teams of mainly postgraduate research students, sometimes with academic participation. It’s hugely important that these teams think in terms of commercial application and have the courage to have a go. My role as a mentor is to keep them grounded, without in any way diminishing their energy and positivity. It’s coming to them with a glass half-full approach. It’s not about warning them what they have missed, but about getting them to think about things they haven’t thought about, and the risks they need to be aware of – while sustaining their belief that they can transform the world.
The IVMS team does a great job in pre-qualifying these student teams before they come to us mentors, to ensure that our time is used wisely. We’d love to see them get to commercial viability. If they don’t make it this time, the hope is that they have learned enough for their next project to be a success. It’s particularly inspiring for me to see that our teams have a good gender balance, with women in management and leadership positions – which my profession of engineering has not yet achieved.
I was lucky enough to be guided in my corporate career by several good bosses, but when I struck out on my own, I would have been very glad of someone who didn’t have a financial interest. That’s a key part of the IVMS mentorship: we all sign up to clear rules around not having a financial interest in the enterprise that we are mentoring. That makes it very different from being mentored by a boss or an investor. In those roles, you offer guidance and share experience – but of course you have your own agenda. A mentee cannot reject your advice. In my Imperial mentorship role, mentees are free to decide. And, of course, an emotionally intelligent mentee will always express appreciation for advice, even if they have no intention of following it.
Energy, positivity and intellect
Being a mentor is hugely rewarding. You are tapping into a huge well of energy, positivity and intellect. It’s quite humbling, frankly, but in the most positive way possible. I learn at least as much from the people I mentor as they learn from me.
It keeps me up to speed with what’s happening – not just in technology terms but how people are learning, which is quite different from how I learned.
For anyone who has retained any degree of pride and passion in building businesses based on science and technology, this is a chance to help others do the same. If you want to see this aspect of the country do well, share what you have learned. You will be sharing it with people who are hungry for it and who are intellectually equipped and keen to absorb it. I can’t encourage potential mentors enough.”
How to... perfect your product
To research, test and develop a world-beating product, you need facilities to match.
Is this you?
You’ve got a groundbreaking idea or product prototype. Now, you need state-of-the-art facilities and expertise to research, test, develop and iterate. It doesn’t make commercial sense to create these resources from scratch – and, luckily, Imperial Consultants can ensure there is no need to.
Whether you need to test a racing car, innovate in biofuels or synthetic chemistry, design safety systems or track the behaviour of living tissue, our consultancy service has the technology and technical expertise.
Our Animal Models facility, for example, has been used for the development of RNA and DNA vaccines for global pharma companies, including the likes of Novartis and BioNtech, while our HEAD Lab has enabled SMEs to test their novel helmet designs on its cutting-edge test rig.
What to expect
Your project needs to move fast and be agile. That’s how we work, too. Once you’ve set out your requirements, whether it’s long-term product development or one-off testing and analysis, we’ll create a project scope covering costs, timeframes and expected outputs.
We’ll find the right facilities, from single pieces of equipment to entire suites – our highly reconfigurable, temperature-controlled 10x5 wind tunnel, for example, has been used for everything from race car testing to research on the spread of COVID-19.
And our expert technicians and researchers will get the most out of every piece of kit. We’ll keep you informed every step of the way – and we’ll offer the insight to not just create your product or proof of concept, but future-proof it, too.
What we offer
Imperial is a one-stop shop for facilities across a broad range of disciplines. Take our life science biotechnology facilities, custom-built for innovation in a rapidly changing field.
“We have all the cutting-edge equipment you might expect: automation, liquid handling robots, analytics, DNA synthesis, cell analyses and high-throughput microscopy,” says Professor Paul Freemont, Director of the London Biofoundry.
The facilities also showcase and test beta versions of infrastructure and instrumentation. “But equipment is nothing without the people who use it,” Freemont points out.
“Work with us and your company will be part of an active and vibrant biotechnology ecosystem of experts which works fast and flexibly and is at the forefront of technological innovation.”
Return on investment
Difficult-to-treat cancers require seriously complex science, and Prokarium is harnessing evolution: designing the perfect bacteria to be the next cancer immunotherapy platform.
Prokarium’s CEO Dr Kristen Albright was impressed by the expertise at the London Biofoundry, part of the National Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology – SynbiCITE – at Imperial, and the facilities at the Translation and Innovation Hub (I-HUB) on the White City Campus. Now, they’re collaborating on Prokarium’s next-generation therapies.
The first successful project was completed in 2021: new work will use Biofoundry’s directed evolution and strain engineering workflows to further develop Prokarium’s therapeutic pipeline, as well as taking several therapeutic candidates to pre-clinical development testing.
How to... take new technologies to a global market
When it comes to reaching the market, match your vision with Imperial’s technology.
Is this you?
You want to solve the world’s biggest challenges – antibiotic resistance, climate change, cybersecurity – and so do we. You have the vision: we have technology to help realise it.
If you’re searching for research and transformational technology with vast potential for commercialisation, our world-class academics and startups are ready for your call. That’s how we’ve already helped companies like yours take our technologies from a wide range of fields, including automotive, electronics, diagnostics, therapeutics, medtech and software – and make them go global with maximum impact.
And if you’d rather harness our researchers’ expertise to work on your own research with IP potential, we’re eager to work with you to take it to the next level.
What you can access
Antibiotic resistance is a growing and terrifying challenge with the potential to cause an estimated ten million deaths a year by 2050. Using the right antibiotic is key in preventing increased resistance. But there’s no quick way to detect the spread of antibiotic resistance. Clinicians therefore must shoot in the dark.
Dr Gerald Larrouy-Maumus at the MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection has found a way of rapidly testing for bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotics of last resort. The new test can be carried out at the point of need and the result takes just 30 minutes to come through rather than the usual one to two days. Without an industry partner, this breakthrough would still be in the lab.
Return on investment
Bruker Daltonics, the global mass spectrometry and diagnostic company, was quick to realise the technology’s potential. “There was and is a common idea and spirit to create an innovative future diagnostic, to improve healthcare,” says Dr Markus Kostrzewa, Executive Vice President Innovation of Bruker’s Microbiology and Diagnostics Division.
Through a research partnership with Imperial, it has created and launched the MBT Lipid Xtract™ Kit, which is now available for research use. Analyses can be performed in less than an hour – much faster than currently available phenotypic tests. Bruker Daltonics is now intending to develop a diagnostic solution based on Imperial’s technology that can be used in hospitals – enabling clinicians to make a much faster decision on the most appropriate therapy for patients with bacterial infections.
We want the world to easily see all the innovation we’ve got to offer. That’s why anyone can view all our current technologies available for licensing: simply check out Imperial.tech, the platform we use to promote Imperial researchers’ innovative technologies.
We carry out due diligence on all our technologies to ensure product claims can be substantiated, that the same technology does not exist already, and that it has commercial potential.
Seen something that interests you? Give us a call. You’ll then work with our expert teams who will smooth the translation journey from lab to real-world impact. Or if you want to work with us to help you create entirely new research with IP potential, let’s get that conversation started.
Case study: Arovella
How a licensing agreement could help revolutionise cancer treatment.
In 2020, Dr Michael Baker joined biotechnology company Arovella Therapeutics as CEO with a mission: to find new and transformational technologies to license and use to create new treatments. “We scoured the globe,” he says. “We wanted something with exciting pre-clinical data and genuine real-world potential.”
That search led him to Professor Tassos Karadimitris’s work on the invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cell, a rare type of immune cell that works alongside antibodies and T cells as part of the body’s natural immune defences. The two connected and talked. “Having that ability to talk to Professor Karadimitris was really important,” says Baker. “It led to a very collaborative and collegial relationship.”
Karadimitris’s approach, known as CAR-iNKT, resembles an existing advanced form of medicine, CAR-T therapy, currently successfully used to treat certain blood cancers.
Conventional T cells cannot be transplanted from one person to another, because they attack the recipient’s cells. So, in CAR-T therapy, cells are taken from the patient and genetically modified to produce a bespoke medicine. This is expensive, costing upwards of £200,000 per treatment.
A world-class team
The new approach has several advantages: most notably, that it can be produced as an off-the-shelf treatment. iNKT cells can be transplanted from person to person. And Karadimitris’s research has found a way for donated cells to be mass produced – at a much lower cost.
Through Imperial Enterprise, intellectual property generated by Karadimitris and his team has now been licensed to Arovella. Alongside the licensing agreement, Karadimitris and colleagues will now carry out collaborative research with Arovella, and Karadimitris himself chairs Arovella’s Scientific Advisory Board for the programme. “I wasn’t even aware that my work might attract this attention, though of course we believed strongly in its therapeutic potential,” says Karadimitris. “The connection with Arovella came about entirely because my work was promoted by Imperial Enterprise.”
How to... explore the possibilities
Imperial Business Partners offers access to the best of Imperial’s technologies, expertise and facilities.
Is this you?
Perhaps you’ve got a specific challenge and would like to understand the latest academic thinking on it. Maybe you’re looking for unrivalled networking opportunities with like-minded people from the business community, academics in related fields and stakeholders. Or perhaps you know that Imperial could benefit your business, but you’re not quite sure where to start.
Then welcome to Imperial Business Partners. We’re a unique membership body enabling organisations like yours to discover and access more than 4,000 academic experts, a thriving ecosystem of inventors and high-tech startups, and some of the brightest graduate students in the world.
Let Imperial Business Partners be your guide through all the ways that Imperial can help drive your business forward.
What to expect
Once you sign our membership agreement, your Imperial Business Partners account manager will work closely with you to create a curated navigation of research and expertise.
We’ll take you through a three-stage Pathfinder journey – scoping, exploration and delivery – that is designed to align your organisation’s business needs and challenges with the most relevant areas of our science, technology and business expertise. This could include design-thinking workshops, keynote academic speakers or startup support engagement programmes.
Then we’ll identify and arrange meetings with suitable academics who can help you solve specific problems. Plus, we’ll work with you if required to find the best vehicle for further collaboration – a consultancy project, for example, or a research partnership.
What we offer
Once your project is scoped and ready, and you have decided which Pathfinder activities are relevant to you, we’ll identify the people and teams most relevant to your needs from across our community, and deliver a bespoke package of activities and initiatives designed to address your specific challenges.
Imperial’s world-leading specialists, researchers and technicians have deep expertise in their subject areas, plus access to the very latest technology and equipment across a wide range of fields. You’ll also have the opportunity to work with Imperial’s foresight practice, Imperial Tech Foresight. They’re experts at horizon-scanning, giving you access to and insight into the cutting-edge ideas and trends that will impact business environments across sectors, from financial services to heavy engineering.
Return on investment
Multinational energy company SSEN joined Imperial Business Partners in 2018 to gain insight into complex systems and the transition to net-zero carbon technologies.
“We were able to use Imperial’s breadth of experience to identify examples from other sectors where complex system interactions were creating unintended consequences. This allowed us to gain insight and options for research into new solutions and mitigations,” says Stewart Reid, Head of Future Networks at SSEN.
Emmeline Smart, Head of Continuous Improvement and Agile Practice, says that the partnership has helped inform decision making. “The calibre of research and academic insight at Imperial has been consistently excellent. We have benefited from the access that the partnership has given us to engage with Imperial’s academics.”
Case study: Advantage Austria
How a trade promotion organisation found success with Imperial Business Partners.
When Advantage Austria shifted its focus towards bringing businesses together with innovation and knowledge, it discovered Imperial was the perfect place to find both. “We want to help Austrian businesses of all sizes and of all stages succeed,” says Dr Peter Pesl, Head of Technology and Innovation at Advantage Austria UK, a trade promotion organisation originally formed to help Austrian companies export to the UK. “That could be finding new partners, research projects, customers or markets. Imperial is one of the few universities that has a very practical focus on science, medicine and technology – all very relevant for us in a business context.”
Imperial and Advantage Austria already had an informal relationship: as a graduate and former researcher, Pesl had called on the expertise of former colleagues for talks and workshops. But he wanted to find a way that Advantage Austria could access everything Imperial has to offer, without just relying on his connections. Joining Imperial Business Partners (IBP) was the logical next step, and the organisation became a member in 2019.
“Our organisation is a little different from the typical profile of companies that use Imperial’s expertise to solve a particular problem – we don’t have a specific problem to solve,” says Pesl. “Rather, we are a gateway for many other companies. It has been fascinating to work with IBP and find out how we can benefit those companies together.”
That work includes everything from ‘laptop learning’ online sessions and workshops with Imperial experts – on topics such as cybersecurity and the future of energy storage – to carefully curated face-to-face events around a particular topic. A recent event for visiting Austrian business leaders, for example, was themed around the factory of the future, looking at innovations from design to production.
“This small group of business decision-makers had the opportunity for really close discussions with individual academics from all areas of Imperial: from the Dyson School of Design Engineering to the Mechanical Engineering department,” says Pesl. “The feedback was amazing. The Imperial experts were so engaging and so enthusiastic about working with the companies.” The next event will focus on another highly relevant topic: the future of health tech.
At the forefront of innovation
For Advantage Austria, IBP membership is an ideal way to add value to its mission of being at the forefront of where innovation is happening. “It means Austrian companies get access to expertise, research, ideas and connections from across the board, whether that’s innovations from the Imperial startup and spin-out ecosystem or future thinking from Imperial Tech Foresight,” says Pesl. “And sometimes, just being exposed to something new can have great consequences further down the line. It works for everyone.”
Get in touch
Imperial Enterprise is ready to become part of your extended network. Whether you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for or you’d like an informal introduction, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Use the contact form below or email one of the team members listed to the right. You can also read more about what we offer.
Dr Simon Hepworth
Director of Enterprise
Imperial College London
Dr Viraj Perera
Director of Industry Partnerships and Commercialisation (Natural Sciences)
Imperial College London
Associate Director of Engagement Services
Imperial College London
This is a digital version of a print publication produced for Imperial Enterprise by YBM Ltd.
Illustrations by Jamie Jones