Five new student startups go head to head in Venture Catalyst Challenge final


The Shellworks are creating an alternative to plastic using crustacean waste

The Shellworks are creating an alternative to plastic using crustacean waste

Five new science and technology startups founded by Imperial students are set to battle it out in the final of Imperial’s Venture Catalyst Challenge.

From freshwater-free textiles to virtual reality for memory, the teams represent some of the College’s most promising new businesses. 

The Venture Catalyst Challenge (VCC) is the College’s largest entrepreneurial competition for students and alumni, enabling them to develop an innovative idea for commercialisation. It's run by Imperial Enterprise Lab and powered by Blenheim Chalcot, the UK’s leading venture builder. 

It challenges them to turn their ideas into new technologies, products and businesses based around five key tracks: 

  • Creative & Consumer - Sponsored by Imperial College London
  • Digital & Fintech – Sponsored by Santander Universities 
  • Energy & Environment – Sponsored by ABB 
  • Health & Wellbeing – Sponsored by P&G Ventures 
  • AI & Robotics – Sponsored by Amazon Robotics 

After an intense 7-week programme of workshops, mentoring and business coaching, 25 teams, divided into 5 themed tracks, pitched to expert panels in the heats in March. The winner of each track was awarded £10,000 and is now competing to win the £20,000 Grand Prize in the competition's first ever all-digital final. The winner will be announced on 26 June. 

People also have the opportunity to vote for their favourite semi-finalist pitch for the £500 People’s Prize.

View the finalists’ pitches on the Enterprise Lab website.

Creative & Consumer: freshwater-free textiles 

Textiles created by Salty CoSaltyCo aims to reduce global freshwater consumption by offering alternative, freshwater-free textiles. 

One of the main consumers of freshwater, an increasingly depleting resource, is the textiles industry where freshwater is used in the production of both natural and synthetic fabrics. Salty Co are aiming to reduce global freshwater consumption by creating alternative, freshwater-free textiles using seawater. 

They grow salt-tolerant plants by irrigating them with water pumped from the sea. Once they have grown, they harvest the plants and extract their fibres before manufacturing a variety of natural textile offerings – currently a yarn for woven textiles, non-woven textiles and an insulating stuffing 

Digital and Fintech: virtual reality for memory 

Nora Abdoun, the founder of Hippocampus
Nora Abdoun, the founder of Hippocampus

Hippocampus is an immersive virtual reality platform for those who need help with their long-term memory. The platform draws on the ancient Greek technique of the Memory Palace, which uses visualisations of familiar spatial environments in order to enhance and improve the recall of information and is favoured by Sherlock Holmes.  

Hippocampus eliminates the barriers to entry for this method by allowing users to build and share their memory palaces in an immersive 3D environment. Their vision is a world in which useful information is easier to remember.  

Energy & Environment: from seafood waste to plastic alternative 

Plastic alternatives created by The Shellworks
Plastic alternatives created by The Shellworks

The Shellworks is creating sustainable packaging from seafood waste by turning waste crustacean shells into an alternative to plastic.  

Their packaging is biodegradable and home compostable, made from up-cycled waste, and is a non-polluting fertiliser at its end of life, providing an alternative to plastic that is easy to throw away without harming the environment.  

Health & Wellbeing: menopause support 

The team behind Bia.Care
The team behind Bia.Care

Bia.Care is a digital platform that supports women during menopause, so they can receive information and personalised care that addresses both their medical symptoms and long-term goals.  

With the platform, women can access specialised healthcare professionals, safe hormone therapy recommendation and prescriptions, and personalised content. The team are using medicine, technology and design to put women in control of their menopause experience.  

AI & Robotics: organ failure prediction 

Sam Tukra, founder of Third Eye Intelligence
Sam Tukra, founder of Third Eye Intelligence

Powered by AI, Third Eye Intelligence aims to increase intensive care survival rates to predict the risk of organ failure.  

Third Eye have developed an AI capable of forecasting clinical deterioration, predicting the risk of organ failure and guiding targeted treatment planning. By giving clinicians ample warning and guidance, they hope that their system can help save lives and resources. 

Pushing boundaries of innovation 

This year’s competition also saw the introduction of two new prizes, which have already been awarded. 

The Moonshot Prize, sponsored by AirAsia, was awarded to The Tyre Collective for challenging the status quo and pushing boundaries of innovation. They were awarded £10,000 for their innovation to collect harmful tyre particles from vehicles, one of the largest contributors to air pollution.  

The Social Impact prize of £10,000, sponsored by Grosvenor, was awarded jointly to Recycleye and Tempo Market to raise the profile of teams seeking to make a positive impact on the world.  

Recycleye is a waste sorting solution that uses deep-learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to enable automated sorting of waste. Tempo Market offers easy camping equipment rentals to campsite visitors, overcoming the need to own your own equipment, saving customers money and making campsites accessible to a whole new market.  


Joanna Wilson

Joanna Wilson
Communications Division

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Enterprise, Entrepreneurship, Student-entrepreneurship, Comms-strategy-Entrepreneurial-ecosystem
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