Conception X: Creating deep tech startups from PhDs

Providing PhD students with business and technology coaching, mentorship from leading tech and industry experts, as well as opportunities to engage with client organisations and technical investors, Conception X’s mission is to help some of the UK’s brightest students become ‘venture scientists’.

Before each team made their pitches at Conception X Finalist Demo Day 2019, a fireside chat between Ben Davey, CEO, Barclays UK Ventures, Jane Butler, Vice Dean Enterprise, UCL Engineering and Dr Riam Kanso, CEO, Conception X, shed light on why events like this are important. According to them, students are too often failing to connect their research with tangible business use-cases, while universities are failing to help students become entrepreneurs.

“Conception X is pushing the ‘fourth way,’ which is a path for PhDs beyond academia, corporate world, and public sector,” said Kanso. “The world is changing, we have big problems to solve, and it’s our job to prepare talented students for the economy and society of the future.”

Addressing the disconnect

Jane Butler called on universities to adapt to the changing economy and help students pursue entrepreneurship.

“When I arrived at UCL, the vast majority of students in computer science were lined up to get job offers from the big tech companies; this is something I wanted to change,” said Butler. “That’s why it was an easy decision to work with Conception X.

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“We also knew at the time, with a little bit of analysis, that the PhD level was the sweetest spot for starting companies; particularly when you have multiple PhDs who are doing slightly different research topics, and can come together and spot more commercial possibilities together.”

Echoing this view, Davey added: “We are at the start of the fourth industrial revolution. When you look overseas at the likes of China, Isreal Singapore and the US, you see a pace of change that is just mind-blowing. In this environment, universities must push their best talent to innovate more and create new businesses.”

Unfortunately, as Kanso pointed out, this perspective is not always met by people who run PhD programmes.

Who pitched?

Rahko – this organisation is pioneering quantum discovery, using quantum machine learning to unlock discovery in chemical simulation.

Hexis – a health and human performance app that supports an individual to positively restructure their habits and behaviours.

In-Neutro – an accelerated alzheimers drug discovery platform.

Empathetic Media – an AR behavioural learning app.

Pinfold Technologies – a developer of 4D ultrasound hardware sensors.

Symbiotica – this organisation specialises in institutional financial liquidity optimisation.

Turing Intelligence Technology – a research-driven AI company that specialises in applying cutting edge research in AI & ML to provide machine learning models and optimisation services, that can benefit both individuals and various industries.

Bluezone Insurance – a real-time life insurance platform.

Enteromics – this organisations has created cutting-edge technology for gut microbiome monitoring.

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Andrew Ross

As a reporter with Information Age, Andrew Ross writes articles for technology leaders; helping them manage business critical issues both for today and in the future

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