Imperial College London

Life Sciences start-up scoops top prize at White City innovation awards


The winning team hold up a giant cheque

Will Pelton, Nicolas Kral and Petra Kozmova

A PhD student start-up to help the horticulture industry has claimed first prize in the White City Incubator Innovators' Programme.

Delivered in partnership with NatWest, the Innovators’ Programme gives tech start-ups free access to state of the art office and laboratory space, mentorship and training whilst working in close proximity to Imperial academics and industry experts.

At the Final Pitch day on Friday, teams competed against each other in a dragons-den style challenge to win £8,000 and a six month virtual membership to the White City Incubator.

A man points to a colourful powerpoint presentation

Will Pelton delivering the pitch

The top prize was won by Phytoform Labs, a start-up founded by PhD students Will Pelton and Nicolas Kral, which aims to work with horticultural breeders to cut down plant breeding times from decades to years using new gene editing technologies. This will maximise yields for breeders and improve the economics of breeding for customers.

A runners-up prize was awarded to Kahoots, an AI driven tool that aims to help homebuyers to make complicated financial decisions more easily, founded by full time MBA students Byron McCaughey and Henry Oakes.

The judging panel of experts included Neil Bellamy, National Head of TMT & Services at RBS/NatWest Bank, Stefania Ponzo, Associate Director, Global Markets, at Coutts Investment Club, Tim von Werne, Senior Technology Licensing Executive at Imperial Innovations and Simon Hepworth, Director of Enterprise at Imperial College London.

Speaking about his experience on the programme, Will Pelton said: “It was a fantastic opportunity for us to engage with the Incubator. We had a great mentor who helped us enormously and provided invaluable input for our final pitch. Looking to the future we are excited to use our winnings to develop our first two products being sent to us by our customer and to develop our IP.”

Tom Bond, Innovator’s Programme Manager, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to manage the Innovators’ Programme. What has struck me about this cohort is not just the quality, passion and humour of the teams but the sheer diversity and ingenuity of the tech which crosses business, healthcare, agriculture, property, media, optics and the environment. ”

White City Incubator

The 18,000 sq ft White City Incubator moved to its new home in November 2016 from its previous location at Imperial’s South Kensington Campus, where it attracted more than a billion dollars of investment in under a decade.

The Innovators’ Programme runs twice a year at the Incubator and takes on up to ten of London’s most exciting and innovative tech start-ups.

The I-hub building at the white city campus


The Incubator forms part of the Translation and Innovation Hub (I-HUB) – a flagship building which aims to drive forward commercialisation and translation of research and innovation for the benefit of society. The 13 story facility provides laboratory, incubator, accelerator and office space to enable the co-location of start-ups, entrepreneurs, and major corporations alongside Imperial’s academic community.


Dan West

Dan West
Estates Division

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