A cluster of startups has joined the Imperial Incubator community to advance their technologies for renewable energy and sustainable food industries.
Some had planned to move into the Incubator at the Imperial White City campus during the time of the COVID-19 outbreak, so now that restrictions have eased, they have been able to set up their laboratories and continue their work with the help of the Imperial Incubator team.
Food for the future
Multus Media was formed by a group of Imperial students to develop next-generation growth media to enable the cultivated meat industry to scale production and make more affordable products. The cost of growing muscle and fat cells is currently very expensive, creating a bottleneck in production and limiting the potential of cultivated meat to lessen the environmental impact of livestock agriculture.
The team have been working on a replacement for blood serum that is completely animal-free and can be scaled to meet the cost requirements of the cultivated meat industry. Having moved into the Incubator last month, they will be working towards delivering their first growth medium product – Proliferum M.
“We saw White City as a growing hub of biotech,” says Cai Linton, CEO and Co-Founder of Multus Media. “There is Imperial itself and its facilities such as the Molecular Sciences Research Hub, but there is also a range of innovative companies in the area. Taken together, this provides a really good environment for a startup like ours.”
As an Imperial startup that has won or taken part in competitions such as the Faculty of Natural Sciences Make-a-Difference competition and the Enterprise Lab Venture Catalyst Challenge, Multus Media were keen to remain connected to the ecosystem from which they have already benefitted. They were also in need of a high spec lab in which to formulate the combination of ingredients best suited to growing mammalian cells.
“What has really stood out about the Incubator is the dedication of the team to make sure it’s a safe space that can remain open now and in the future,” says Linton. “For us another major attraction is that the Incubator can support us at our current stage in a shared lab right through to having our own personal lab where we could run a fairly large operation.”
Enabling 100% renewable energy
RFC Power is developing a low-cost, long-duration battery with the aim of facilitating the transition to 100% renewable energy. Despite the growth in renewable energy, the variability in renewable generation is still a barrier and there is a need for better forms of storage to enable constant supply.
Most batteries are based on lithium technology, which is expensive and can only store the energy for about an hour. RFC Power is developing a flow technology battery based on hydrogen manganese chemistry which is potentially cheaper and can store energy for longer. They moved into the Incubator last month with the aim of upscaling their technology from benchtop to a first pilot-scale unit ready for testing with partners.
“We are an Imperial spinout and building on technology that was originally developed here,” says Dr Tim von Werne, CEO of RFC Power. “So we were very keen to remain part of the Imperial entrepreneurial ecosystem and make the most of the ongoing access to facilities, networks and the shared passion around working in deep science technology.” The company were part of the EIT Climate Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) Accelerator and one of the founders and directors, Dr Vladimir Yufit, has participated in Imperial’s enterprise programme Techcelerate.
RFC Power have moved into a shared lab with another startup H2GO Power that also work with compressed hydrogen so require a space with the same specs and health and safety standards. “We are really excited to be at Imperial Incubator and have the opportunity to further develop our technology as part of the ecosystem,” says Dr Von Werne. “And it’s great to be able to share space with a company who fits so well with what we need from a lab.”
H2GO Power is developing a hydrogen-based energy storage technology with the goal of helping achieve a safe and reliable supply of zero-emissions power for commercial applications.
The technology uses nanomaterials to create a flexible sponge that traps hydrogen atoms in its pores, removing the safety concerns associated with compressed hydrogen use and enabling lightweight and clean energy storage.
Co-founder and CEO Dr Enass Abo-Hamed spent 2.5 years as a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellow at Imperial College London under the supervision of Professor Nigel Brandon, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering. For her and the company, it made sense to move into the Incubator at Imperial for the next stage of development.
“It’s a unique place,” she says. “Not only do we have a new lab built with all the best practices from Imperial laboratories, but we are surrounded by companies at a similar stage of development to us. This allows us to share knowledge about grants and funding, hiring, investments and also exchange experiences.”
As an enterprise working with hydrogen, H2GO Power has established a synergistic lab partnership with RFC Power who also require access to the gas for their technology. Having started their move into the Incubator just before the COVID-19 lockdown, H2GO Power is now fully established there and plan to continue technical development to get their products to market as soon as possible.
“What is so valuable about the Incubator is that so much of the administration is handled by the team,” says Dr Abo-Hamed. “And at a time when there are additional regulations in place, this makes it much easier for us to really focus on our work and our research.”
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