Imperial team crowned Student Start-Up of the Year


ThinAir at the Venture Catalyst Challenge

ThinAir at the Venture Catalyst Challenge

ThinAir were crowned Enterprise Nation's first ever Student Start-Up of the Year for their water condensing bio membrane.

ThinAir - the brainchild of Imperial undergraduates Sam Bruggen (Life Sciences), Jansen Teng (Life Sciences), Muhammed Maktari (Materials) and Jonathan Risley (Life Sciences) - was one of 10 semi-finalists in the competition, beating off teams from than 50 universities and colleges across the country.

ThinAir not only stood out because of the life-changing and life-saving potential of its product, but also for the outstanding ambition, drive and incredible professionalism.

– Emma Jones

Founder , Enterprise Nation

The team, who took their project to the final of this year’s Venture Catalyst Challenge (VCC), Imperial’s flagship entrepreneurial incubator programme, have created a bio-membrane capable of condensing water from the air to help provide clean water to people lacking access to it.

It combines principles already used in nature, with material science to create a surface on which water rapidly condenses. The membrane is flexible and can therefore be utilised in a variety of different formats; for instance, on a large scale, it can be applied to billboards to provide clean drinking water.

Jonathan Risley said: “It’s been fantastic. The support we’ve had online has been amazing. I think the judges highlighted that we have such a humanitarian focus with our product which really struck a chord with everyone. We all know how severe water scarcity is right now. It’s a problem that’s only going to get worse and we hope we can help be the solution.

ThinAir celebrate their win

ThinAir celebrate their win

“With the prize money we’re going to get on with developing a prototype and get that out there, and hopefully ship some to the refugee camps in Greece so they can start condensing water.”

The teams pitched their ideas to a panel of expert judges including Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones, StartUp Britain founder Oli Barrett, and entrepreneur Amber Atherton.

The five finalists were chosen to face a public vote, with ThinAir coming out on top with 699 votes. Other finalists included POW Bikes – a London based electric bicycle start up and sustainable underwear company LARA.

Emma Jones said: “We were bowled over by the incredibly high standard of the student entrepreneurs this initiative has uncovered, spread right across Britain’s universities and colleges and covering every conceivable sector.

“From food to fashion to environmentally-friendly travel, the businesses impressed us with their savvy business plans – as well as their fresh new ideas.

“ThinAir not only stood out because of the life-changing and life-saving potential of its product, but also for the outstanding ambition, drive and incredible professionalism and business acumen in ones so young.”

You can watch ThinAir’s full VCC pitch on the VCC website.


Jon Narcross

Jon Narcross
Communications and Public Affairs

Click to expand or contract

Contact details

Show all stories by this author


Student-entrepreneurship, Enterprise, Entrepreneurship
See more tags