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Revealed: #21toWatch Top21 winners for 2023 named in Cambridge at celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship

The next generation of game-changers has been revealed as the winners of the #21toWatch were unveiled in a ceremony in Cambridge.

Celebrating entrepreneurs and innovators across the city and the East of England region, the annual initiative from the integrated communications company cofinitive - supported once again by the Cambridge Independent - has become one of the highlights of the business calendar.

The #21toWatch Top21 for 2023 at Storey’s Field Centre, Eddington. Picture: Keith Heppell
The #21toWatch Top21 for 2023 at Storey’s Field Centre, Eddington. Picture: Keith Heppell

This year’s #21toWatch Top21 follows in illustrious footsteps.

AI, IVF, DNA, Bluetooth, wireless internet, the webcam, inkjet printing, Arm’s smartphone chips, Alexa, smart meters, gene sequencers, the asthma inhaler, the flushing toilet, thermos flasks, cats’ eyes, catflaps, round teabags, the hovercraft, the reflecting telescope, video games, the pacemaker, heart transplants, liver transplants, iris recognition, the Clearblue digital pregnancy test, ghd hair straighteners, Darktrace’s cyber security technology, Raspberry Pi computers, the Hotel Chocolat brand, the Maris piper potato and Concorde’s droop nose - all these have created, developed or discovered in Cambridge.

The #21toWatch initiative is designed to celebrate those who are building on the legacy of the famed Cambridge cluster by setting fresh standards in innovation and entrepreneurship across the globe.

And this year’s winners are a true reflection of our time, providing solutions which highlight and address key concerns of today: Alzheimer’s, inclusion, food security, energy-saving, recycling, sustainability, decarbonisation and other net zero challenges.

Over the last five years, #21toWatch Top21 winners have - so far - attracted funding and investment totalling more than £300million (£304,889,419 if you want to be precise) - showing the initiative has proven a reliable indicator of success..

Divided into People, Companies and ‘Things’, the Top21.2023 have all been assessed according to five strict criteria: Innovation, Challenge, Influence, Viability and Memorability, researched via third party platforms, and selected by an independent panel of judges.

The winners were announced at an awards ceremony held at the Storey’s Field Centre in Eddington.

The #21toWatch event Storey’s Field Centre, Eddington. Picture: Keith Heppell
The #21toWatch event Storey’s Field Centre, Eddington. Picture: Keith Heppell


  • Ama Frimpong - already named the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) ‘Young Woman Engineer of the Year’ in January, Ama is head of product development at 52North. She is currently overseeing the engineering team in the development of NeutroCheck - a portable, low-cost, device which enables chemotherapy patients to be tested at home for suspected neutropenic sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of anticancer treatment.
  • Broderick House - CEO and founder of Ethēcos, a venture revolutionising the experience of personalised nutrition. Broderick is also a Harding distinguished postgraduate scholar at the University of Cambridge, where he is tackling global food insecurity through his cutting-edge research.
  • Coco Newton - neuroscientist and co-founder of Fathom Cognition. Her goal is to create new cognitive markers which can help detect Alzheimer's disease earlier, years before dementia onset.
  • Elena Cismigiu – neuroscientist and CEO of Neuro XR, a company focused on bringing the power of the human mind to virtual reality. Listed in The Telegraph newspaper’s “Top 100 female entrepreneurs to watch”, Elena is passionate about inclusion in tech and, as a disabled woman herself, providing equal opportunities to disabled talent and women wanting to pursue careers within the sector.
  • Dr Hannah Sore - founder and CEO of PharmEnable, a company combining AI and medicinal chemistry expertise to develop the next generation of complex 3D small molecule drugs.
  • Lucy Jung - the youngest ever winner of Cambridge Judge Business School’s Woman Entrepreneur accolade, Lucy is the CEO and founder of Charco, an experienced founder with a demonstrated history of working in the health, wellness and fitness industry.
  • Dr Zoe Tolkien - Zoe is head of research at Advanced Furnace Technology, an engineering and materials science company working on net zero challenges through the ramp-up of silicon carbide semiconductors and electric transport.
#21toWatch at Storey's Field Centre, Eddington. Picture: Keith Heppell. (62762302)
#21toWatch at Storey's Field Centre, Eddington. Picture: Keith Heppell. (62762302)


  • Broken String Biosciences - a genomics tools company leveraging a state-of-the-art platform for assessing off-target gene editing events in the genome. In partnership with leaders in the field, their mission is to bring gene editing therapies safely to all who need it.
  • Cambridge Smart Plastics - is relaunching plastics for a smart and sustainable future. Their natural biopolymers have created a new class of sustainable barrier plastics to initially replace metal and chlorinated plastic in multi-layer packaging and ultimately fully replace plastics for guilt-free packaging.
  • Helio Display Materials - a joint spin-out venture from the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, which is commercialising technology for brighter and more colourful displays that use significantly less energy.
  • HutanBio – aims to decarbonise long-distance transport by making carbon-negative biofuel for shipping and transportation. HutanBio is utilising desert regions to increase global capacity for photosynthesis and achieve atmospheric carbon draw-down.
  • Qkine – a UK manufacturer driving innovation in growth factor proteins, essential reagents used in transformative technologies such as stem-cell disease models, organoids, cell therapy, bioinks and cultivated meat.
  • Roadfill Ltd – uses recycled waste plastics destined for landfill or incineration to repair and re-lay roads in an environmentally friendly way.
  • Spirea – created to advance a new generation of antibody-targeted cancer treatments with significantly better efficacy and safety profiles. Spirea will use its innovative technology to enable a pipeline of superior and differentiated antibody drug conjugates for the treatment of a range of solid tumours.
Networking at the #21toWatch event. Picture: Keith Heppell
Networking at the #21toWatch event. Picture: Keith Heppell


  • Cambridge Sensoriis - easy-to-install, all-weather, technology which is helping to unleash the drone revolution by maximising automation and safety, and minimising costs.
  • InferSens – game-changing ‘deep tech’ technology which is enabling ‘deep learning’ on device in the field on low-cost battery power for the very first time. InferSens’ first product, a clip-on, ultra-low power flow and temperature sensor, automates Legionella risk monitoring in building water systems. The sensors support efficient, wide-scale deployment, reducing costs and environmental impact.
  • Kerb-e – revolutionary on-street EV charger which is enabling the more than 30 per cent of UK households that do not have off-street parking to benefit from affordable, convenient and reliable charging.
  • PAUA - an EV charge card and app which is making EV charging easier for business. One EV charge card, one app, and one fleet management dashboard is combined with access to 25,000-plus charge points in the UK.
  • PolyNaut Technology (SomaServe) - polymer nanoparticle platform for next-gen genetic medicines. The PolyNaut polymer nanoparticle platform enables intracellular, targeted delivery of new genetic therapeutics, including siRNA and mRNA, to the brain and other hard to reach tissues and cell types.
  • Warmscore (Purrmetrix) - sensors and software to decarbonise housing without sacrificing comfort. For insulation and heating upgrades in housing, Warmscore uses environmental data and powerful software to measure housing and heating performance, so that we can decarbonize housing without sacrificing comfort.
  • Vuala X1 – automatic food waste separation technology from Vuala, which makes food waste recycling easy with added benefits. The Vuala X1 automatically separates food waste from other wastes, turning them into raw material for energy production in situ and all in a matter of hours.

Three businesses originated in the broader East of England leaving the majority of the Top21.2023 from Cambridge - reinforcing its reputation as the UK’s centre for science, technology and innovation,

As one of the most respected science and tech hubs in the world, Cambridge receives four times the amount of tech investment per head than in London. And, as the UK’s most inventive city, it has more patents published per resident than any other in the UK.

This year’s publication of the #21toWatch Top21.2023 list comes hot on the heels of the government creating, for the very first time, a brand new, dedicated Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

Faye Holland, founder of cofinitive and creator of #21toWatch
Faye Holland, founder of cofinitive and creator of #21toWatch

With the technologies of tomorrow - quantum, AI, engineering biology, semiconductors and future telecoms, together with life sciences and green technologies - being the lifeblood of Cambridge and the East of England, it is hoped this will prove an important step in supporting bold new discoveries to cement the UK’s position as a technology superpower.

[See the 2022 Top.21 winners here]

#21toWatch founder Faye Holland, director of cofinitive, said: “Cambridge is certainly no stranger to innovation and technology. The university alone leads the world in the number of successful tech founders and spin-outs it produces. And for most of those appearing on its long and shortlists, #21toWatch is a launchpad to greater things, and we look forward excitedly to following the journeys.”

  • Look out for more coverage and pictures from the awards in the Cambridge Independent, out from March 8, 2023.

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