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The #21toWatch shortlist for 2021 is revealed

The 2021 shortlist for next month’s coveted #21toWatch Awards can now be revealed - and it includes some of the most inspirational entrepreneurs, start-ups and innovations from the East of England.

Organised by Burwell-based cofinitive, and supported by the Cambridge Independent, the annual awards attracted hundreds of entries.

Dr Andrea De Luca
Dr Andrea De Luca

There were 250 who made it onto the longlist, which has now been whittled down to a shortlist of 48, featuring a dynamic mix of people, companies and ‘things’.

The shortlist of people includes Dr Andrea De Luca, researcher-turned-entrepreneur and co-founder/CEO of Flusso, a fabless semiconductor company rewriting the rules on flow sensors in multiple consumer and industrial products. Andrea, an innovator in engineering, has become CEO of the now well-funded company, which is now addressing a big market potential.

The shortlisted companies include Leaf Expression Systems, a contract development and manufacturing business based in Norwich. The company specialises in plant-based expression and the production of proteins, vaccines and complex natural products for research and commercial applications including the ongoing global efforts to combat Covid-19.

The ‘things’ shortlist, meanwhile, includes FLIT bike, a revolutionary folding ebike for the urban commuter. Inspired by the cycling culture in Cambridge, the FLIT team of engineers, designers and cyclists have produced a quality product that is already gaining market traction. The team’s tireless pursuit of engineering innovation in a tough and fast-growing market makes them worthy candidates for the ‘Things’ award.

A FLIT bike
A FLIT bike

techspert.io was one of the Top 21.2020 in last year’s ‘Things’ category.

Graham Mills, co-founder and managing director, says: “Being named a cofinitive #21toWatch was a brilliant achievement for techspert.io in 2020. Being recognised for our growth alongside the brightest and best Cambridge has to offer was a real honour and has served as a valuable piece for advocating our brand globally to potential clients.”

But it’s not all just about making it to the Top21, just being named on the #21toWatch Longlist can elevate a profile significantly.

Cornelius Palm, CEO and co-founder of Happyr Health – which is helping children suffering from migraines - told us: “We are very grateful for the awareness #21toWatch provided around Happyr Health. It was the best running post I had on LinkedIn this year - possibly even ever - with so many fantastic people from within the Cambridge ecosystem engaging with it and us.”

Entrepreneur and cofinitive founder Faye Holland, who created the programme, said: “This year’s cohort have truly blown us away. The longlist was absolutely phenomenal – and, as a result, reducing this to a shortlist was incredibly challenging.

“We have been delighted to see so many people, companies and ‘things’ from previous shortlists, even Top21s, back again as their work progresses, and, in some cases, pivots. This continued recognition for innovation and entrepreneurship demonstrates how brilliantly these people and businesses are adapting, evolving and thriving despite what has been a challenging year for most.

Leaf Expression Systems. Picture: Dr C A Fowler
Leaf Expression Systems. Picture: Dr C A Fowler

“Our region is maintaining its global reputation for excellence in biotechnology and life sciences which is once again reflected in this year’s shortlist as expected. However, the shortlist also includes other incredibly innovative people, companies and ‘things’ in industries as diverse as artificial intelligence-enabled solutions, manufacturing, and water and energy sustainability. I really don’t envy the judges their task of assessing the 48 on the shortlist, to secure the Top21.2021!”

The #21toWatch shortlist is being judged by four leading experts across a range of disciplines. This year, the judges are Simon Thorpe, angel investor, managing partner of Delta 2020 and chair of Cambridge Angels, Yupar Myint, head of programme for Cambridge University’s Impulse Programme at The Maxwell Centre, a tried-and-tested catalyst for entrepreneurship, Thea Goodluck, entrepreneur engagement manager for East of England at Tech Nation, and Jason Mellad, CEO and co-founder of Cambridge healthcare accelerator Start Codon. All four will independently assess the candidates based on five criteria: innovation, challenge, influence, viability and memorability.

RSM, Tech Nation and Invested Investor have also joined as regular sponsors and partners of the #21toWatch campaign.

Now in its third year, the awards will be held as a bespoke virtual event on Thursday March 4, 2021, at 11am. Anyone in the entrepreneurial ecosystem – from entrepreneurs through to supporters of those shortlisted – can register for the event at https://cofinitive21towatch.eventbrite.co.uk.

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



  • Dr Andrea De Luca, Flusso
  • Aleksandra Pedraszewska, VividQ
  • Ayaka Shinozaki, techspert.io
  • Carol Cheung, Cambridge Innovation Capital
  • Catherine Elton, Qkine
  • Dr Justin O'Grady, Quadram Institute
  • Dr Thuria Wenbar, e-Surgery
  • Dr Tom Stubbs, Chronomics
  • Francesca O'Hanlon, Blue Tap
  • George Bailey, Coral Eyewear
  • Giorgia Longobardi, Cambridge GaN Devices
  • Gita Khalili Moghaddam, GlycoVue
  • Jason Mellad, Start Codon
  • Jenny Tillotson, eScent
  • Rosanna Kierney, Recruitment Junky


  • Agile Analog
  • Blue Tap
  • Cambridge Cancer Genomics
  • Cydar Medical
  • Echion Technologies
  • Flusso
  • Iceni Diagnostics
  • Inawisdom
  • Intellisense.io
  • Kalium Health
  • Leaf Expression Systems
  • Lightcast Discovery
  • Mursla
  • Plastometrex
  • PolyProx Therapeutics
  • Rainbird
  • Reflection Therapeutics
  • Zedify


  • Ablatus Therapeutics’ Bimodal Electric Tissue Ablation (BETA)
  • Atelerix’s BeadReady
  • Better Origin’s X1
  • Cambond’s plant-based resin technology
  • Cambridge GaN Devices’ gallium nitride power modules
  • Developing Experts’ online science lessons
  • FLIT bike
  • Glyconics’ FTIR spectroscopy for point-of-care testing
  • Map of Ag’s platform
  • RoboK’s 3D perception software
  • Safepoint’s lone worker safety app
  • Sook spaces
  • Spotta Smart Pest Systems’ Spotta Bed Pod
  • Thyngs’ platform

The judges

Simon Thorpe is managing partner of Delta2020 and chair of Cambridge Angels. A chartered accountant and wannabe sports champion, Simon’s specialties include investing in early-stage tech start-ups to enable their growth potential, providing founders with mentorship and helping to future-proof and grow companies. He is an active angel investor in UK companies with a focus on the technology sector. His current portfolio consists of close to thirty companies, and he is known for supporting the digital economy and female founded businesses.

Simon holds non-executive directorships at the University of Manchester Innovation Factory, Inngot and UB.io and is also a board observer to Eagle Genomics and techspert.io.

Yupar Myint is head of entrepreneurship for the Impulse Programme at the Maxwell Centre, University of Cambridge. The Impulse Programme enables researchers and aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams; to better equip them in making their amazing ideas possible.

Since completing her MBA at Judge Business School, Cambridge, Yupar has gained extensive experience in building entrepreneurship programmes and international collaborations. For more than a decade, Yupar led Ignite, the programme for inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs. Under her leadership over 250 business ventures were generated, more than £200million in funding was raised and approximately 4,300 jobs were created by the alumni ventures.

Thea Goodluck is senior entrepreneur engagement manager at Tech Nation. Thea supports digital tech entrepreneurs to scale through Tech Nation’s programmes and resources, making the relevant introductions. She has a wealth of experience helping ambitious technology founders across all stages of growth. Thea is passionate about working with entrepreneurs across the whole region and focused on facilitating collaboration, regionally and nationally. A strong network inclusive of founders, ecosystem stakeholders, investors and advisors across the region, which she proactively supports through introductions, signposting and advice.

Jason Mellad is the CEO and co-founder of Start Codon, a life science and healthcare business accelerator based in Cambridge. With a PhD in medicine from the University of Cambridge, Jason is a scientist entrepreneur passionate about translating innovative technologies into better patient outcomes. He has a wealth of experience working in biotechnology, oncology and molecular biology and as an investor in early-stage life science startups has leadership skills in innovation management, patent law and business development.

About the #21toWatch Awards

The #21toWatch Awards - created by entrepreneur and cofinitive founder, Faye Holland - were launched in March 2018. The plan from the get-go was to highlight the lesser-known but outstanding talent within Cambridgeshire’s renowned science and tech industries - the start-ups, people and ‘things’ on the cutting-edge of innovation that really deserve recognition, funding and support because what they are doing is truly ground-breaking. The prestigious 2021 #21toWatch Awards are being held on March 4, 2021, in a virtual event. For more information, visit www.cofinitive.com/21toWatch

Read more

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Finalists in the 2020 Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards revealed

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