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Revealed: 2024 shortlist for #21toWatch, showcasing tech companies, people and innovations across East of England





The 2024 shortlist for next month’s coveted #21toWatch Awards can now be announced - and it once again includes some of the most game-changing innovations, inspirational entrepreneurs and start-ups from across the East of England.

Organised by leading tech PR and comms company cofinitive, and supported by the Cambridge Independent, the annual awards attract hundreds of entries from an eclectic mix of industries that include biotech, agritech, cleantech, deeptech, and life sciences.

#21toWatch was founded by cofinitive director Faye Holland
#21toWatch was founded by cofinitive director Faye Holland

Since last year’s Top21.2023 announcement, many of the winners have gone on to achieve further success, and in many cases funding.

Some highlights include:

Genomics company Broken String Biosciences, which closed a $15million Series A funding round;

ViaNautis Bio announced a £25m Series A round. Picture: Keith Heppell
ViaNautis Bio announced a £25m Series A round. Picture: Keith Heppell

ViaNautis - previously known as SomaServe - the developer of the revolutionary PolyNaut technology, which raised £20m in Series A funding to use nano-engineering technology to deliver treatments to hard-to-reach areas of the body; and

Biotech company Qkine, which announced a new partnership with the UK’s new £12m cellular agriculture manufacturing hub, CARMA, to revolutionise sustainable food production.

Qkine has partnered with the UK’s new £12m cellular agriculture manufacturing hub, CARMA, to revolutionise sustainable food production. From left, Dr Marko Hyvönen CSO and founder, Catherine Elton CEO and founder with Alice Taylor, distribution manager. Picture: Keith Heppell
Qkine has partnered with the UK’s new £12m cellular agriculture manufacturing hub, CARMA, to revolutionise sustainable food production. From left, Dr Marko Hyvönen CSO and founder, Catherine Elton CEO and founder with Alice Taylor, distribution manager. Picture: Keith Heppell

The shortlist is determined by cofinitive and its sponsors and partners.

This year Rachel Bradley, partner at Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP, and Jamie Bignal, relationship director, corporate banking at HSBC, evaluated each entrant to confirm the shortlist candidates.

The shortlist of 40 will each be assessed according to five strict criteria: innovation, the ability to address a real challenge, influence, viability, and memorability.

Faye Holland, creator of #21toWatch, said: “Each year we find entrants coming back year on year as their innovations develop, but this year it has been really exciting as the vast majority of entrants are joining #21toWatch for their first year.

“This just goes to show how much ongoing innovation there is, and we are hopeful that this list reflects the huge growth potential for the region in the future alongside our other alumni.”

The task to select the Top21.2024 is with the external judging panel, each year made of investors and innovators.

This year, the independent judging panel was Jon Bradford, partner at Dynamo Ventures, Fiona Nielsen, serial entrepreneur and CEO at Neurolentech GmbH, and Nitin Patel, founder and CEO at Impact Management Consulting Ltd.

Fiona told us: "As an alumna, it has been an absolute pleasure to join the judging panel for the annual #21toWatch. I will be looking forward to following how both award-winners and nominees will bring their technologies to global markets. There is a lot of record-breaking potential."

Nitin added: “It’s great to bring the rich diversity of the area together under the #21toWatch banner, enabling the innovative ventures to be showcased in a unique way.”

#21toWatch judges Fiona Nielsen, a serial entrepreneur and CEO at Neurolentech GmbH, Jon Bradford, partner at Dynamo Ventures, and Nitin Patel, founder and CEO at Impact Management Consulting Ltd.
#21toWatch judges Fiona Nielsen, a serial entrepreneur and CEO at Neurolentech GmbH, Jon Bradford, partner at Dynamo Ventures, and Nitin Patel, founder and CEO at Impact Management Consulting Ltd.

And Jon noted how Cambridge still has a stronghold for the region with innovation, observing: “Cambridge continues to prove its ability to generate novel and innovative new start-ups on an ongoing basis.”

The Top21.2024 will be announced at an exclusive ceremony on Thursday, 7 March 2024 at The Bradfield Centre in Cambridge. To stay informed, following #21toWatch on all social media platforms, and at cofinitive.com/21toWatch.

The People shortlist

Alicia Showering, CEO of BugBiome, is dedicated to developing natural and durable microbiome-based insect repellents.

Mark Golab, co-founder of Cambridge Surgical Models (CSM), a start-up focusing on manufacturing a new generation of artificial anatomical models for surgical training.

Chantal Epp, founder and CEO of ClicknClear, a music rights-tech and licensing company solving complex music licensing issues faced across choreographed sports and performing arts.

Bakul Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Deliver Biosciences, developing nanoparticle-based vectors to control each cell inside the body to deliver affordable, scalable and potent cures.

Dr Ahmed Waraky, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute and co-founder of K-Stem, is directing research that focuses on machine learning and single-cell omics to advance stem cell transplantation.

Christopher Mosedale, CEO of Matrix Bio, a company aiming to advance 3D cell culture through innovative applications of automation, artificial intelligence, and advanced manufacturing.

Douglas Brion, founder of Matta, a start-up developing the universal operating system for 3D printers, leveraging the latest machine learning research and the power of the cloud to bring intelligence to additive manufacturing to change radically how we make things.

Ismail Sami is a research fellow at University of Cambridge and Faraday Institution. He is the CEO and co-founder of award winning MoSTLi, creating the next generation energy storage solutions.

Jack Chengzhi Guo developed an award-winning technology that turns waste plastics into green hydrogen and other commodities with collaborators in Cambridge. He co-founded Protonera to bring the technology to scale.

Plant biologist Nadia Radzman is on the #21toWatch 2024 shortlist
Plant biologist Nadia Radzman is on the #21toWatch 2024 shortlist

Nadia Radzman is a plant biologist working on rehabilitating forgotten legumes back into the food system and is a co-founder of a startup that accelerates genetic improvements in challenging legume crops.

Paolo Bombelli and colleagues pioneered the development of a technology capable to generate electricity from the microbial photosynthesis. This novel technology can substitute portable batteries for powering billions of small electronic devices.

Samantha Hodder developed an adaptive platform which uses stories and games to educate children (aged 2 to 12 years) with cancer about their specific cancer's biology and treatments.

Swetha Kannan is a Cambridge international scholar pursuing her PhD at the Department of Medicine. She is up her own healthcare start-up by spinning out two very novel, award-winning and globally recognised inventions in accessible cancer diagnostics/therapeutics.

The Companies shortlist

BeyondMath is using AI to solve the complex simulation of physics in engineering design orders of magnitude faster, providing reductions in time, cost and environmental impact when taking designs to production.

Cambridge Vision Technology is a start-up creating technology that enables the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease using retinal scanning

Cellexcel has created a novel process to manufacture water-resistant bio-composite materials. These will replace conventional composites such as fibreglass and carbon fibre, as well as plastics and possibly metal.

The clock.bio team, from left, Mark Kotter, Lorraine Stephens, Markus Gstöttner, Joana Tavares and Koby Baranes. Picture: Keith Heppell
The clock.bio team, from left, Mark Kotter, Lorraine Stephens, Markus Gstöttner, Joana Tavares and Koby Baranes. Picture: Keith Heppell

clock.bio aims to extend and improve quality of life by reversing the harmful effects of time in our cells, harnessing the regenerative capabilities of human pluripotent stem cells.

Expression Edits’ proprietary platform developed at University of Cambridge improves transgene expression in mammalian systems. This has a direct impact on recombinant protein yields and the quality and efficacy of DNA medicines.

Gigabiome leverages the advances in next-generation sequencing, microbiome science and AI to build technology for diagnosing antimicrobial resistance.

HotHouse Therapeutics harnesses plants to develop next-generation drugs by identifying pathways from source plants and creating synthetic ‘production crops’ for both existing and new molecules.

Kuano combines state-of-the-art simulation and AI to add quantum detail to structure-based drug discovery, helping to enable the design of next generation medicines.

Opto Biosystems is developing wireless, minimally-invasive, biological interfaces which communicate electrical information from the body, creating opportunities in advanced diagnostics and therapeutics, with primary focuses in oncology and neurology.

OutSee is a deep techbio company exploiting our innovative computational approach to genomics for drug target discovery and precision medicine, extracting value from genomics datasets beyond the state-of-the-art.

Remedium Energy is developing a new carbon capture technology, carbon capture battery, that captures CO2 from cement/steel plants and monetizes the variation in electricity price to make carbon capture profitable.

TraitSeq is leveraging cutting-edge AI to accurately predict complex agricultural traits, to develop high-yielding/climate-resilient crops, animal breeds, agrochemical/biological inputs, and gene edits to improve global food security and sustainable food production.

Vector Bioscience at The Hauser Forum. From left, synthetic chemist Fatma Demir Duman, COO Lluna Gallego Segrelles and CEO David Fairen-Jimenez. Picture: Richard Marsham
Vector Bioscience at The Hauser Forum. From left, synthetic chemist Fatma Demir Duman, COO Lluna Gallego Segrelles and CEO David Fairen-Jimenez. Picture: Richard Marsham

Vector Bioscience's platform technology tailors nanomaterials for drug delivery applications. These nanomaterials are MOFs (Metal Organic Frameworks) can store 10x more molecules than other encapsulation methods and are designed and tailored for effective and targeted delivery.

Virilitas Labs is dedicated to improving and optimising services and interventions around male reproductive health and fertility by translating cutting edge research into applications for clinical and at home use.

The Things (innovations) shortlist

EPIHERD, from Antler Bio, harnesses gene expression data and AI to evaluate the status of livestock and prescribe targeted husbandry interventions to increase performance, efficiency, welfare and sustainability.

AutoPickr co-founders Robyn Sands, CEO, and Dr David Sands, senior scientific advisor, with COO Kyle James-Keen and grower and commercial manager Scott Rumble. Picture: Richard Marsham
AutoPickr co-founders Robyn Sands, CEO, and Dr David Sands, senior scientific advisor, with COO Kyle James-Keen and grower and commercial manager Scott Rumble. Picture: Richard Marsham

Gus, the automated asparagus picker from Autopickr, incorporates cutting-edge AI and navigation technologies, robust robotics, and new cutting technology to optimise the harvesting process.

Ediform crafts exceptional food for those who can no longer find pleasure in eating but require tailored nutrition for their well-being.

The Heartfelt Technologies team with, centre, CEO Shamus Husheer with an award and their prototype device. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Heartfelt Technologies team with, centre, CEO Shamus Husheer with an award and their prototype device. Picture: Keith Heppell

Heartfelt Technologies - an automatic, AI supported, non-contact telemonitoring solution for heart failure patients.

Drawing Experiences, from Human Experience Dynamics, measures subjective aspects of experiences, allowing users to graph their experiences in time, providing more sensitive, and precise measurement of mental health outcomes.

Lark Optics’ AR glasses, which project images directly onto the user’s retina, eliminating the depth mismatch that causes discomfort and physical symptoms.

Lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery future from Mostli, which has developed a new cathode material to enable high energy-density to weight and long-life lithium-sulfur batteries, helping facilitate the net-zero transition.

OPAU’s no-heat technology, which helps industry remove up to 98 per cent water, transforming products into waterless, lightweight, preservative-free dry sheets without compromising quality and performance.

Supersense Technologies. From left, Matt Ash, Emil Preda and Dr James Brown. Picture: Keith Heppell
Supersense Technologies. From left, Matt Ash, Emil Preda and Dr James Brown. Picture: Keith Heppell

Supersense Technologies’ remote monitoring product, which empowers families and carers with insights, alerts, and support to maximise the quality of life for their loved ones and enable respite for carers.

Tenyks’ ‘AI doctor’ resolves issues for machine learning engineers working with computer vision data.

The Chemistry Shed - a new biotechnology business that uses an innovative in silico platform, developed by scientists at the UEA, to accelerate the discovery of new medicines.

Verinnogen, which is building hand-held, innovative tools to directly profile physical properties of 3D surfaces with direct applications in pre-clinical oncology research.

William Oak Diagnostics’ innovative point-of-care test, which simplifies the identification of various micronutrient deficiencies making maternal, child, and infant testing more accessible.



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