A startup that uses soundwaves to move cells in petri dishes has won £10,000 and a year’s membership at tech incubator SETsquared Bristol.
Dr Luke Cox’s startup Impulsonics makes growing cells in the lab cheaper, faster and more reliable, by automating processes still done by hand in all but the biggest labs.
Impulsonics’ patented technology “gently moves cells” using sound waves, “reducing the cost by an order of magnitude” without breaking the cells’ sterile housing, according to Dr Cox.
Cell cultures growing in petri dishes and well plates must be moved every three days – Dr Cox says his technology could reduce the equipment costs involved in automating this process by 90%.
Last night he won the top prize at the University of Bristol’s New Enterprise Competition (NEC), which each year awards £50,000 in funding and prizes to entrepreneurial students, staff and alumni.
Other winners included an app that helps sports teams organise themselves, and a startup tackling child illiteracy with an artistically impressive computer game and board game.
Dr Cox, who is Impulsonics’ CEO, said: “With so many impressive businesses entering the NEC it’s fantastic to have taken the top prize. It’s also a real vindication of everything we’re doing at Impulsonics.
“We’ve talked to more than 150 people in the biotech industry to find out exactly what they need, and we’ve already had several expressions of interest in our technology.
“To help develop our first product we’re currently raising in our first funding round – so get in touch if you want to be involved.”
In the longer term, Impulsonics’ technology will build clusters of cells that mimic human organs, helping to reduce the cost of testing drugs in the pre-clinical stage.
Dr Cox joined the University of Bristol as an undergraduate in 2013 and went on to complete a PhD under the supervision of Prof Bruce Drinkwater and Prof Anthony Croxford, who have both built successful ‘spinouts’ (businesses based on university research).
Both are professors in the University’s Ultrasonics and Non-destructive Testing lab, where Dr Cox spun out his sound wave research. They have also been working closely with The Armstrong Group in Bristol Medical School.
Prof Michele Barbour, the University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Innovation, who was on the NEC judging panel, said: “Seeing the creative and genuinely innovative ideas brought to the NEC by our university community is a real highlight of the year.
“It is always incredibly hard to pick the winners, but Luke’s research-informed technology really blew us away. I’ve done plenty of cell biology in my time and I very much recognise the barriers and problems Impulsonics’ technology seeks to address.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that cell biology will be much, much more automated in future – and I would love for a Bristol spinout to lead the way in that laboratory revolution. ”
Impulsonics was awarded £10,000, plus pro bono legal support from VWV, SETsquared Bristol’s in-house legal team. The year’s membership at SETsquared Bristol includes tailored business support, coaching and training, a network of advisers, mentors and investors and a community of inspiring startups to work alongside.
Kimberley Brook, Director at SETsquared Bristol, said: “We are always impressed by the quality of student enterprises who come through this competition, and this year has been no different. All of the finalists had a unique proposition and will receive some level of follow up support from the judging panel.
“We are delighted to offer both Impulsonics and Remap a place on our incubation programme to take their companies to the next level.”
Other winners on the night were:
Wonderspun – £5,000
A program combining traditional board games with digital techniques to promote reading among schoolchildren. By immersing children in a rich fantasy world, it sparks their imagination and enthusiasm for literature, fostering a love for reading.
Founder: Gareth Osborne, PhD in Theatre and Performance
Armago – £2,500
A platform for managing university sports clubs, including membership, scheduling and communication. It simplifies administrative tasks, empowering club leaders to create thriving and vibrant sports communities on campus.
Founder: Mark Bushby, MSci in Geography with Innovation
- Armago won £2,000 from the New Enterprise Competition People’s Choice Award, which is decided by a public vote.
Elevate – £2,500
An app providing mentor support for international students planning to study abroad. Elevate connects students with experienced mentors, offering personalised guidance, resources and advice for a smooth transition and successful academic journey in a foreign country.
Founders: Anuradha Kamble, MSc in Aerospace Engineering, and Pravin Kamble, PhD in Aerospace Engineering
Remap Mental Fitness – 6-months SETsquared Bristol membership
A platform promoting mental wellbeing and physical health. Through educational materials, interactive workshops and personalised support, it empowers individuals to proactively prioritise mental wellness, fostering resilience and overall well-being.
Founders: Maya Raichoora, an MSci in Geography with Innovation graduate and Ben Wainwright, an MEng in Computer Science with Innovation graduate
The New Enterprise Competition is run by the Basecamp Enterprise Team within the University of Bristol Careers Service.