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Tripling of investment in University of Edinburgh student startups 

Student startups from the University of Edinburgh have secured over £30m in combined investment over the last year, nearly triple the amount compared to the previous year. The news comes as the University’s commercialisation service, Edinburgh Innovations, reveals figures showing another 100 student startups formed over the same period. 

The £30.5m investment into student-led businesses marks a significant rise from the £11m secured the previous year, as the portfolio of University-supported companies matures and develops.  

The number of student startups founded is also increasing year on year –  with 105 this year (August 1, 2021 to July 31, 2022), compared to 102 in 2020/2021 and 72 in 2019/2020. 

To mark the growth in student entrepreneurship, company founders and University enterprise leaders yesterday [September 21] came together to plant the first of 100 trees on campus. 

Dr George Baxter, CEO of Edinburgh Innovations (EI), said: “Our impressive cohort this year is notably using data and artificial intelligence to transform areas of society from health care to energy provision. Their ideas have the potential to change the world, and our job at Edinburgh Innovations is to equip them with business knowledge and skills to ensure that impact. We are proud to support them on their journey.” 

Synthetic biologist Maggie Hicks founded SynSense after fellow research student Florentina Winkleman suggested she commercialise her PhD. The pair have attracted the attention of the US Navy with their skin patch that uses sweat to detect potentially problematic body states, enabling eventual diagnosis.  

Maggie said: “We’ve gained so much knowledge and confidence this past year through Edinburgh Innovations, from being directed to award schemes, to support with the legal side of our intellectual property, to coaching and training through the Startup Accelerator. 

“Our aim is to keep the patch as low cost and accessible as possible, for it to be used as a universal, non-invasive medical device.” 

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Another member of this year’s cohort present for the tree planting was graduate Xiaoyan Ma, founder of robotic waste-sorter Danu Robotics, which is set to use automation to increase the global percentage of recycled waste. 

The University of Edinburgh is top in Scotland and second in the Russell Group of universities for student entrepreneurship, according to Higher Education Statistics Agency data 2020/21. 

In April, cancer treatment innovators Carcinotech, founded by graduate Ishani Malhotra, announced it had secured £1.6m investment to accelerate its commercialisation and global expansion plans. 

Previous successes include audio tech company Two Big Ears, acquired by Facebook in 2016, and Krotos, creator of the Dehumaniser sound effects software used by Hollywood movies and blockbuster video games. 

Edinburgh Innovations support for students includes events, competitions and workshops, one to one business advice, awards and programmes, and funding opportunities, including via the University’s in-house venture capital fund Old College Capital

The University’s Student Enterprise Manager Lorna Baird said: “With emphasis on inclusivity and sustainability, our aim is to inspire and equip every University of Edinburgh student with the enterprise and entrepreneurship knowledge and skills to meet the world’s biggest challenges.” 


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