Data-driven projects join cross-university Venture Builder Incubator

Venture Builder Incubator cohort

TWENTY-seven data-driven projects have been chosen as the first cohort of the University of Edinburgh’s Data-Driven Entrepreneurship Venture Builder Incubator.

The incubator will support postgraduate students, post-doctoral researchers and academic staff looking to solve major global challenges. It will bring their research to market as part of the ambitious Data-Driven Entrepreneurship Beacon Programme at the University to support post-Covid recovery.

The incubator is the first at the University to include students from Heriot-Watt University, making it a pioneering collaboration between the two universities.

It is also the first at the University of Edinburgh to be delivered in partnership with edventure, a pan-European university venture builder and accelerator launched in September 2020 by three Edinburgh students, Zara Zaman, Ragnor Comerford and Fynn Comerford.

Since its launch, edventure has grown to a team of more than 40 people, more than half of them women, helping over 200 students to build startups at universities across Europe.

The DDE Venture Builder Incubator is managed by Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, and delivered by the Bayes Centre on behalf of the University’s five Data-Driven Innovation Hubs. It is delivered in partnership with Edinburgh-based strategic design consultancy Nile, as well as edventure.

Paul Devlin, Head of Commercialisation at Heriot-Watt University, said: “We are delighted to have some of our most promising entrepreneurial students participate in the inaugural Venture Builder Incubator and have an opportunity to collaborate with students from each of the Data-Driven Innovation Hubs.”

Dr John Lonsdale, Head of Enterprise Services at Edinburgh Innovations, said: “We have been delighted at the response we have had to this innovative programme. The University of Edinburgh is recognised worldwide for the quality of its research and this programme will make an important contribution to unlocking the benefits of that research for communities and the economy. We will be supporting these entrepreneurial researchers from idea to business launch.”

Jim Ashe, Director of Innovation at the Bayes Centre, said: “The PhD Incubator complements the Post-Covid AI Accelerator and the University investor readiness programme, EIE (Engage Invest Exploit). The cohort will benefit from our community of over 400 internationally recognised scientists, leading industry experts, entrepreneurs and investors. I look forward to working with them – to establish new dynamic businesses that will deliver data technology solutions to real-world problems.”

Applications were received from all corners of the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University, showing wide interest in entrepreneurship.

The majority of projects selected are based on PhD research, though initiatives from masters students, post-doctoral researchers and staff have also joined the incubator. Healthcare, climate change, animal care, finances and robotics are among the areas participants will be working on during the three-month programme.

Claire Ann Banga is a PhD Clinical Psychology student and founder of eMoodie, a digital platform to give people tools and interventions to manage their mental health. Ms Banga said: “Our team is very excited to be part of the incubator. We’re all looking forward to meeting like-minded individuals and hope that we can collaborate to help both our own and other projects move forward to help address current societal challenges.”

The cohort will benefit from tailored content and support, mentoring and conferences to turn their ideas and early-stage projects into sustainable businesses. Through the Data Driven Innovation (DDI) programme of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, each of the 27 initiatives will also receive a £2,000 grant from the Scottish Funding Council or Heriot-Watt.

The DDI programme, which is part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, aims to help Edinburgh become the Data Capital of Europe, creating wide-reaching benefits for the economy and society.

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