Three innovative spin-out ideas have landed £30,000 following the final of UMIP’s inaugural ‘Next Big Thing’ competition which attracted 23 applications from entrepreneurial academics, staff and post-doctoral researchers from across the University.
Value from Data, Manchester Robotics and RobotAnalyst all secured £10,000 apiece which will enable them to start their commercial journeys in the business world.
‘The Next Big Thing’, hosted at The University of Manchester Innovation Centre on Grafton Street by UMIP, a division of UMI3 Ltd, also saw four other finalists pitch business concepts to a panel of four judges.
Through Value from Data Norman Paton, a Professor of Computer Science at the University since 2000 and Nikolaos Konstantinou, are seeking to make it easier for data scientists to clean up and organise the data that they need in order to carry out analyses and gain insights.
Post-Doctoral Research Associate Matthew Nancekievill is behind Manchester Robotics, which is aiming to sell a small educational robot to universities, colleges and schools.
John McNaught, Deputy Director of the National Centre for Text Mining, standing in for the Director, Professor Sophia Ananiadou, pitched RobotAnalyst to the judges –a project that aims to help people working to elaborate best practices, guidelines and policies, by vastly reducing the amount of effort needed to filter nuggets of evidence from large datasets, through learning from human decisions on relevance.
Chair of the judging panel, Dr Rich Ferrie, UMIP Director of Operations, said: “The Next Big Thing has been a real experiment for us.
“And we’ve been overwhelmed with entries during what was a tight timeline to develop value propositions around these entrants.
“The applicants were all of a high standard and very passionate about commercialising their research. With that in mind it was important that we made sure all the finalists got some form of support from UMIP. They are all strong businesses and UMIP is intent on helping them achieve commercial success.”
He added: “Having said that we had to make a decision about who the recipients would be of the £10,000 prizes.
“We felt that having sizeable commercial opportunities to go for, those companies where there was an urgent need to engage, and where £10,000 could make a real impact, should benefit.
“We intend to build on this competition next year.”
Manchester Robotics’ Matthew Nancekievill said: “We are aiming to sell a small educational robot to universities and design tech students and are also going to build an online web presence to create market credibility.
“We are also going to talk to universities that are already interested in the product which will be followed by advertising the product to other universities and schools.”
He added: “It’s been a fantastic competition. I started the process wanting to learn more and start my own company at some point. So, to actually get to the final, do the pitch and win is absolutely fantastic.”
John McNaught and Sophia Ananiadou of RobotAnalyst, said: “Winning this is very important because business funding is very hard to come by.
“We will put this money to very good use to take what is currently a research prototype forward to a full product.
“It’s also very important to be working in partnership with UMIP as we are academics without business backgrounds.”
Norman Paton of Value from Data said: “What we are seeking to do is make it easier for data scientists to clean up and organise the data that they need in order to carry out analyses and gain insights into their data.
“We have a plan to set up the company to market our data preparation software.
“As a fledgling tech company we are building a minimum viable product, and will use the £10,000 to launch that and the website.
“This initial launch will help us to improve our understanding of how people use the product in practice, and thus show us how best to develop and market it.”