BioTherma from left to right: Lee Dunham, Sarah Withey, Joe Segal, Rebecca Sullivan, Jonathan Lemon
A team from The University of Manchester has secured a place in the final of a national competition to find the entrepreneurial bioscientists of the future.
BioTherma Ltd beat off stiff competition from 16 teams from eight universities and institutes in the Manchester workshop of the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (Biotechnology YES) 2013 competition. They will fly the flag for Manchester in December in London at the UK finals where the winning team will collect £2,500, an invitation to attend the BIA Gala Dinner and the opportunity to attend the premier regional US Business Plan Competition at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
BioTherma Ltd has genetically modified composting bacteria to produce temperatures in excess of 200⁰C. This thermal energy is then converted into electricity, enabling the conversion of organic waste into kilowatts more efficiently than any other process. They are selling this technology to farms and waste management companies in conjunction with a quarterly maintenance service, providing their customers with huge profits when electricity is sold to the national grid.
BioTherma CEO, Lee Dunham, commented: “Despite being a very busy few days, the Biotech YES NW workshop was absolutely fantastic. We all found the talks and mentors to be hugely beneficial, and we all learnt a great deal throughout the competition regarding the business side of biotechnology. Now onto London for the final!”
BioTherma will be joined by NuTec Ltd from Liverpool University. NuTec has developed a novel diet aid that acts to reduce the uptake of dietary sugar into the blood in order to combat the obesity epidemic.
Rod Benson, Chief Operations Officer at Imagen Biotech, who presented a case history of his company to participants and himself took part in Biotechnology YES in 1999 said: “I think the really valuable contribution the competition makes is in terms of changing people’s thinking about their career choices.”
The competition, hosted by The University of Manchester’s Innovation Centre (UMIC) on day one and organised jointly by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and The University of Nottingham Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is open to bioscience researchers and aims to help them commercialise their ideas. This year, for the first time, the Royal Society of Chemistry provided financial support for several of the participating teams.
“We are delighted to be able to support young chemists to learn more about entrepreneurship,” said Aurora Antemir, Industry Programme Manager at the Royal Society of Chemistry.
The North West heat was held over three days at UMIC’s Core Technology Facility and Manchester United Football Club. Regional professionals, including representatives from The University of Manchester’s agent for intellectual property commercialisation (UMIP) and their network of advisors and professional associates offered mentoring sessions to the researchers during the competition. Teams also attended workshops and seminars to hear advice and received tips on how to develop their ideas into commercially-viable opportunities.
Each team was required to present an idea that is based on a hypothetical biotech idea. On the final day of the event they presented their concept to a judging panel of biotechnology and business experts.
Dr Rich Ferrie, Director of Operations and Head of UMIP, commented: “This competition is a key part of the annual schedule of events at Manchester. It gives young bio 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 probably the strongest we have seen. It was a real pleasure to Chair one of the panels of judges and witness for myself how much the teams had learned in such a short period. We now wish the winning teams the best of luck for the UK Finals where they have every chance of overall success.”