The fourth annual #21toWatch Top21 list of individuals, companies and innovations has been unveiled in a ceremony at the Cambridge Union.
The first in-person #21toWatch ceremony since the pandemic began, it recognised exciting and emerging talent from Cambridgeshire and the East of England’s renowned science and technology cluster, with representation from a range of sectors, including artificial intelligence, digital technology, automotive and agritech.
Created by entrepreneur Faye Holland, founder and director of the award-winning PR and marketing agency cofinitive, the #21toWatch initiative has again been backed this year by the Cambridge Independent.
This year’s list features a sharp focus on medical innovation, early disease detection, drug discovery, personalised medicine and, unsurprisingly, the sustainability/net zero agenda.
It features an eclectic mix of ground-breaking innovations including a needle-free injection, a robot ‘brain’, sustainable cellulose-based glitter and a sustainable raw material made from coffee grounds.
The #21toWatch Top21 for 2022
- Dr Christopher Cleaver, CEO of DeepForm, who is developing an innovative sheet metal forming process which will enable the automotive industry to produce better car body parts with half the metal and reach zero manufacturing emissions.
- Jeroen Verheyen, co-founder and CEO of University of Cambridge spin-out Semarion, who is fusing material science with cell biology to solve bottlenecks in drug discovery.
- Kanta Dihal, principal investigator on the Global AI Narratives project and project development lead on decolonising AI at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge.
- Marcel Gehrung, co-founder and CEO of medical diagnostics company, Cyted, who is working to prevent disease with a pioneering digital pathology infrastructure.
- Mohammed Alawami, PhD student at Cambridge University and Co-founder of Cambridge Nucleomics, who is developing cutting-edge cancer early detection technology.
- Sasha Haco, co-founder and CEO of Unitary, who is developing computer vision technology able to identify harmful and abusive content in context and in the absence of human moderators.
- Stephanie Martlew, CEO of Psyomics, who is using technology to improve and prevent mental illness.
- AgriGrub: using black soldier fly larvae to provide a net-zero-carbon solution for processing food waste.
- Cambridge GaN Devices: designing and developing highly efficient/compact prototypes of next-generation gallium nitride power modules for both low and high-power applications. They have recently won government funding to develop a GaN power IC for server PSUs – and have revealed their first devices.
- CorrosionRADAR: providing unique solutions for Predictive Corrosion Monitoring (PCM), enabling safer and more sustainable operations in oil and gas and energy sectors.
- Porotech: developing unique micro-LED products. It gas just announced a $20million Series A investment to accelerate global expansion and mass production.
- Psyomics: relieving pressure on the over-stretched mental health system with its comprehensive digital mental health assessment/triage platform (Censeo) which enables people to find the right support or treatment pathway first time.
- R4DAR Technologies: improving the safety and effectiveness of autonomous systems both on the road and in the air.
- Sano Genetics: enabling research opportunities to support personalised medicine.
- uRCU® robot ‘brain’ (Antobot): Highly integrated automotive-grade universal robot control units combining hardware and software to power the next generation of intelligent mobile robots, in agriculture and beyond.
- Inficaf sustainable raw material (bio-bean): Made from upcycled spent coffee grounds, Inficaf offers a consistent, versatile material for product developers, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and displacing virgin and petrochemical materials in plastics, automotive friction, cosmetics and more.
- Needle-free jet injection (DIOSynVax): The spring-powered jet injection is delivered into the skin by a blast of air, offering an alternative to those who have a fear of needle-based injections.
- FLS110 sensor (Flusso): The world’s smallest flow sensor has a unique integration concept, designed to make it easy to add new flow measurement features into virtually any product, even the most tightly packed or cost-sensitive designs.
- APC (Adaptive Passive Cancellation) Chip (Forefront RF): Game-changing chip with unique self-interference cancellation, enabling a smartphone’s receiver to ‘hear’ the weakest signals whilst transmitting at full power.
- Bolt (HexagonFab): HexagonFab creates tools to unlock the secrets of proteins and their interactions. The company recently secured £1.9M in seed funding to launch Bolt, an analytical lab instrument to speed discovery and production of next-generation biopharmaceuticals.
- Sustainable cellulose pigments and glitters (Sparxell): Made from cellulose extracted from plants, these sustainable pigments enable products to reach carbon-neutrality more easily. They can be used in countless applications where colour vibrancy and effect are needed – from cosmetics and fashion through to paint and food.
Faye created the #21toWatch initiative in March 2018, and has now celebrated and promoted close to 1,000 game-changing start-ups, ground-breaking innovations and stand-out individuals.
Nearly half of those featured (47 per cent) receive much-needed seed and Series A funding after being named in the #21toWatch Top21 – and many of the original winners are now closing significant Series B rounds, highlighting the accuracy of being on the #21toWatch lists.
Faye said: “cofinitive is itself a start-up immersed in the start-up culture. We understand more than most that a helping hand and a bit of a back scratch goes a long way – and that’s often all it takes to get a world-beating idea off the ground. And that’s why we continue to put on #21toWatch every year: to showcase the emerging, the lesser known, the ever-outstanding talent on the bleeding edge of innovation from our region – those that really deserve recognition, funding and support because what they are doing is truly ground-breaking.”
The final Top21 were selected by an independent judging panel after being assessed for innovation, challenge, influence, viability and memorability.
The four judges were Emmi Nicholl, managing director at Cambridge Angels; Matthew Gooding, news editor at Tech Monitor; James Parton, managing director at The Bradfield Centre, and Ruchi Sharma, CEO and founder of Stemnovate, and a former #21toWatch Top21 winner herself.
Matthew said: “In what has been a difficult time for businesses, it is heartening to see that the ingenuity of the tech community in the East of England remains undimmed. Congratulations to this year’s Top21, all fine examples of the brilliant ideas and entrepreneurial spirit that we have in abundance in this region.”
The finalists were chosen from a longlist of innovative submissions.