A team from The University of Manchester were runners up in the national final of the BiotechnologyYES competition. Following a day of pitching at the Sofitel London St. James, the awards ceremony was held on 10th December at One Whitehall Place, London. Alcoa ™ Ltd beat off stiff competition from other university teams from across the country in the plant, microbial and environment category of the EnvironmentYES Syngenta workshop in November to win a place in the national finals.
From left to right: Victoria Spencer; Mariela Aguilera Miranda; Yaomin Cai; Laura Velazquez Carrasco; Tom Driver
Aloca Ltd has developed a method of producing cocoa powder and cocoa butter from algae instead of cocoa beans. Cocoa butter and powder can be combined to make cocoa liquor, the form of cocoa sold on a large scale for chocolate production. One algal line has been generated to produce butter with fatty acid ratios equivalent to that of cocoa butter, whilst another line has been generated with high levels of the cocoa aroma protein ‘vicillin’ for the production of cocoa powder. These strains are produced using non-GM modern breeding techniques and are suitable for production and sale across the globe. The rising cocoa deficit is causing ever-growing concern in the chocolate industry and Alcoa is the only viable cocoa alternative with the potential to ethically fill the huge gap in the market, without compromising on quality, taste or cost.
Tom Driver, Alcoa’s Head of IP and Legal, comments: “We’re delighted to have made it to the final of Environment YES 2015. The experience as a whole has been fantastic and we have all learned so much, and developed well as a team throughout the process. The competition has been a thoroughly enjoyable and useful experience, and will help us in our future careers. We would like to thank everyone at Environment YES for organising such a fabulous event, we are also extremely grateful to everyone at UMIP for their great help and advice on our business plan.”
The Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (Biotechnology YES) is an innovative competition developed to raise awareness of the commercialisation of bioscience ideas among early career researchers. The competition, funded by sponsorship, aims to encourage an entrepreneurial culture for the benefit of the UK economy.
Biotechnology YES is organised jointly by The University of Nottingham’s Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HGI), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).
The thematic heats were held over three days across the country throughout October and November. Regional professionals, including representatives from UMIP and their network of advisors and professional associates offered mentoring sessions to the researchers during the competition. Teams also attended seminars giving advice and tips on how to develop their ideas into commercially-viable opportunities.
Each team was required to build a compelling proposal for a hypothetical bioscience business concept. On the final day of the event they presented their concept to a judging panel of biotechnology, intellectual property and business experts to win the chance to reach the finals in London.
Dr Rich Ferrie, Director of Operations UMIP, commented: “I am delighted that Alcoa were runners-up. This competition gives young scientists an opportunity to learn about business creation from a range of seasoned professionals, all of whom give their valuable time for free. This year’s competition was the strongest field we have seen. It was a great pleasure to Chair one of the panels of judges and see for myself how much the teams had progressed in such a short period. Congratulations to Alcoa and to all the teams that took part.”
For further information about the winners of the competition, please see here