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#21toWatch in 2020 - nine trailblazers on Cofinitive’s longlist revealed

We are delighted to feature nine of the longlisted companies on the innovative #21toWatch campaign and awards run by corporate communications consultancy Cofinitive.

#21toWatch is a campaign by Cofinitive
#21toWatch is a campaign by Cofinitive

After the formal nominations window opened in November 2019, the entries for Cofinitive’s #21toWatch initiative have already exceeded 250 companies, people and ‘things’ across the East of England region.

Designed to highlight emerging talent, many of those on the list so far originate, unsurprisingly, from the Cambridge area.

#21toWatch project leader Gemma Dorling said: “The #21toWatch campaign is open to all entrepreneurs and businesses across the East of England, but similar to the inaugural year we have a large influx of submissions from Cambridge-based companies.”

Cofinitive, based in Burwell, confirmed that around 65 per cent of all entries to date are from Cambridge, with companies in the Norwich tech corridor coming second at 15 per cent. The remaining 20 per cent represents businesses from Essex, Hertfordshire and Suffolk.

Gemma continued: “What is really exciting is the variety of companies addressing a range of issues in a variety of market sectors.”

The longlist is updated every Wednesday and promoted on Cofinitive’s social media channels to showcase the newly-qualified entrants.

The list is divided into the people, companies and the ‘things’ they create, setting the standards in innovation and entrepreneurship across the globe, with each submission assessed on the set criteria of innovation, challenge, influence, viability and memorability.

The Cambridge Independent is proud to support the initiative and here we feature nine of the entries on the current longlist, all based in Cambridge.

See the full longlist at cofinitive.com/21toWatch.


Fotis Fotiadis

Fotis is one of four co-founders of Entomics, a Cambridge recycling technology startup company. If food waste were its own country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. With an increasing population and modern lifestyles, the burden of food waste on society and the environment is set to increase in the future. What makes Fotis one to watch is how his work is pioneering the transformation of organic waste into high-quality functional animal feed. Before Entomics, Fotis worked in consulting in the oil and gas industry and holds an MPhil in sustainable engineering from the University of Cambridge and an MEng in mechanical engineering from the University of Sussex. Fotis has been recently featured in the Forbes Greece 30 under 30 list as someone who is “shaking up some of the world’s stodgiest industries”.

Jason Mellad

Jason Mellad. Picture: Keith Heppell
Jason Mellad. Picture: Keith Heppell

Jason is a scientist/entrepreneur passionate about translating innovative technologies into more effective therapies and better patient outcomes. Jason is CEO and co-founder of Start Codon which leverages the unique resources of the Cambridge Cluster to identify, seed-fund and drive the success of truly disruptive healthcare startups. Before founding Start Codon in 2019, he was CEO of Cambridge Epigenetix, and has recently also chaired the Cambridge Union debate for SVC2UK (Silicon Valley comes to the UK). Jason is one to watch for the influence he will have on businesses in our region and the global influence they in turn will have.

Katja Hofmann

Katja is a principal researcher at the Game Intelligence Group at Microsoft Research Cambridge. She leads a research team that focuses on reinforcement learning with applications in video games, who all share the belief that games will drive a transformation in how we interact with AI technology. One of the projects developed by Katja’s team is Project Malmo, which uses the popular game Minecraft as an experimentation platform for developing intelligent technology. Making her one to watch, Katja’s long-term goal is to develop AI systems that learn to collaborate with people, to empower their users and help solve complex real-world problems.


Cambridge GaN Devices (CGD)

CGD was created in 2016 to explore and develop a number of unique opportunities in power electronics on the back of the team’s proprietary application of gallium nitride to the silicon-based semiconductor transistor manufacturing process. With silicon transistors widely acknowledged as having attained maximum efficiency, CGD’s power design engineers have developed a range of gallium nitride transistors that are over 100 times faster, lose five to 10 times less power and are four times smaller than existing silicon equivalents. The possibilities and range of potential applications for these transistors is almost endless in this increasingly digitally connected world, making CGD one to watch as they drive the future of power electronics.


Conundrum is an AI-powered software that oversees a whole production process and assists factory engineers in decision making, helping to reduce waste and downtime. They help industrial companies (metals, mining, coal coke) to leapfrog into Industry 4.0 by leveraging value hidden in data and introducing AI-driven technologies in tasks such as predictive maintenance, quality control and industrial processes optimisation. TechNation recently listed Conundrum as one of the East of England’s regional winners of the UK’s early-stage tech scaleup competition – Rising Stars – which adds to their previous accolade from NVIDIA who named Conundrum as one of top 10 international companies with a focus on AI.


The Riverlane team
The Riverlane team

Founded in 2017, Riverlane is a research-led startup that develops software and algorithms for quantum computers. The company is building a simulation engine for microscopic systems to replace expensive laboratory tests with computer simulation. In collaboration with leading academics and cutting-edge companies, they are developing two early-use cases for their software: the design of new battery materials, and new drugs. With a cross-disciplinary team of world-leading researchers in computational chemistry, mathematics, and physics, Riverlane’s ambition is to take quantum computing from theory into practice. Last year, Riverlane raised £3.25m in seed funding, led by venture capital investors Cambridge Innovation Capital and Amadeus Capital Partners, with the participation of Cambridge Enterprise to advance their mission to bring the discovery of materials and drugs into a new computational era.


3D Water Purification Technology, by Blue Tap

Francesca O'Hanlon, CEO and co-founder of Blue Tap
Francesca O'Hanlon, CEO and co-founder of Blue Tap

Blue Tap is a technology company that creates products to improve access to high quality drinking water in low resource settings. They 3D print low-cost water purification technologies and their core product, the chlorine injector, is designed to automatically inject chlorine into household-level water systems for users in the developing world. Their commitment to the #yourwater movement continues in the UK, where they sell the Blue Tap Life Bottle range to encourage everyone to reduce their consumption of single-use plastic water bottles and to raise awareness of global water access issues. Profits from the sale of Life Bottles go towards their development work in Uganda. They are based in Cambridge and currently work in Uganda and Mexico.

KuduSmart, by Crossbridge

KuduSmart has created the world’s first real-time, wearable thermoregulatory monitor. KuduSmart allows coaches and sports scientists to measure the ability of athletes to sweat effectively, which means they can keep cool and maintain peak performance for longer. It is the first product delivered by Crossbridge which has been working in sports analytics since 2014. KuduSmart is a Bluetooth device that is worn on an athlete’s arm during training which, once connected with the app, they or their coaches can, in real-time, view how effective their skin is at producing sweat and thereby train their sweat glands to improve the cooling efficiency of their skin and raise thermoregulatory performance. KuduSmart is one to watch as they realise their ambition for this to be the first of a long run of great tech ideas that will help athletes perform better, for longer.


techspert.io is a fast-growing technology startup based in Cambridge. They have built an AI-driven technology to revolutionise how knowledge is indexed, identified, and sourced within the healthcare and life sciences sectors. Using machine learning, they index and rank more than 100 million experts globally for their suitability to speak on any niche, understanding exactly what data-points on influence and knowledge predict the likelihood of accurate and successful consultancy. The data covers every country, every language, and every niche, ensuring that they provide unrivalled access for their clients to the best expertise no matter how specific or rare an expertise request may be. Unlike expert networks that are limited to a fixed pool of specialists, techspert.io’s AI technology searches far corners of the web to find the world’s leading experts no matter how niche their specialism may be.

Faye Holland, of Cofinitive. Picture: Keith Heppell
Faye Holland, of Cofinitive. Picture: Keith Heppell

There’s still time to nominate

If you think you have what it takes, there is still time to submit a nomination. The deadline for submissions is January 31, after which the longlist will be reduced to a shortlist which will then be independently judged by a panel of experts, with the Top 21.2020 announced on March 5 at a bespoke event in Cambridge.

Read more

Nominations now open for the Cofinitive #21toWatch Awards 2020

Riverlane building operating system for quantum computers

Start Codon aims for ten Cambridge start-up successes a year

Start Codon accelerator straps science to fast start-up growth

Blue Tap water purifier tests start in Africa

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