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Creative pair pitch to judges to win share of $1.5m prize

Simprints, from left, Christine Kim and Alex Grigore at the Department of Chemistry. Picture: Keith Heppell
Simprints, from left, Christine Kim and Alex Grigore at the Department of Chemistry. Picture: Keith Heppell

Simprints and Biomakespace pitch ideas to win a slice of $1.5m in The Creator Awards

Biomakespace members and visitors with Jenny Molloy on left
Biomakespace members and visitors with Jenny Molloy on left

Two Cambridge-based finalists in The Creator Awards – Simprints and Biomakespace – pitched their ideas to judges in London for their chance to win a share of the $1.5 million prize.

Simprints’ Alexandra Grigore, co-founder and director of innovation, and Christine Kim, partnership project manager, were shortlisted in the ‘scale’ category, while Jenny Molloy, co-founder of Biomakespace, was a finalist in the ‘launch’ category of the awards run by WeWork, the collaborative workspace company, in London yesterday (September 14).

Simprints, a non-profit tech company, has created an affordable, secure, open-source fingerprint system to empower mobile tools used by researchers, NGOs such as UNICEF, and governments fighting poverty around the world. It estimates its system helps 90,000 people, mainly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, by providing a secure form of identification.

Miss Kim said: “Our overall goal is to scale up to have five million beneficiaries in the next three years through our projects worldwide. One key way to reach that figure would be a fingerprint scanner for babies.”

Simprints, which counts the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Arm Holdings among its backers, is focusing on scaling its global reach. Miss Kim said United Nations research shows 1.1 billion people do not have any form of identity and can not access healthcare, education, bank accounts and other vital services, and Simprints is tackling that digital identity bottleneck.

She added: “We want to be the ones to create the world’s first fingerprint scanner for newborns. That would help us to reach the five million target in less than three years. This scanner would help to break down barriers.”

Jenny Molloy and a team of volunteers at Biomakespace have been working since September 2016 to transform an empty room in the heart of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus into a non-profit, functioning molecular biology lab.

Dr Molloy, whose full-time job is co-ordinator of the Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative at Cambridge University, hopes it will be launched in the next two months. The space aims to raise awareness of, and skills for, synthetic biology, building a cross-disciplinary, cross-sector Cambridge community with a focus on open technology and innovation.

Funding so far has come from members and Arm is a corporate sponsor. Dr Molloy said winning the prize would be “transformative”, adding: “We could very rapidly equip parts of the lab like our prototyping workshop. We want to offer facilities to try 3D printing and laser cutting.

“It would also help us to get projects off the ground and we would have more time on our hands to build up the community.”

The Creator Awards will grant $20million to entrepreneurs, small businesses, non-profits and more, with $1.5million allocated to the UK.

Eugen Miropolski, WeWork managing director, Europe and Israel, said: “We were thrilled with the standard of entries to The Creator Awards from the UK.

“It was incredibly challenging to select only a handful of finalists for each category.”

Find out more at the WeWork website.

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