The team scooped top prize in the annual Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) by impressing a panel of judges with their proposal for a hypothetical company called Ovega and its revolutionary new product which aims to produce vegetarian Omega-3 oil from food industry waste.
The team are Dr Nadia Abed, Federico Dorati, Joao Lopes, Dr Abby Thompson and Cristina Fante and were mentored by Dr Samantha Decombel from the University of Reading Technology Transfer Office.
The Reading team is one of 14 teams that made it through to the final from a total of 73 teams of bioscientists that took part in regional heats. Their fictional product, also named Ovega, was pitched against some excellent business ideas, such as a gel that indicates the presence of skin cancer cells; a food additive that fools you into feeling full and lowers cholesterol; a hair removal cream that prevents hair re-growth for three months; and a kit for allergy sufferers to detect traces of peanuts in their food. The winners walked away with the Biotechnology YES 2008 title, £1000 prize money, sponsored places at the Bioindustry Association dinner and the opportunity to give their presentation at a premier regional US Business Plan Competition.
Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, said: "I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Ovega. This scheme is producing a generation of commercially-aware scientists who will be crucial to the UK economy by generating new businesses, jobs and wealth for the UK. In addition to scientific talent, the development of entrepreneurial skills and ability to understand the commercialisation of research are key tools for young researchers today --- whether they stay in academia or move into business."
Dr Peter Ringrose, Chair of BBSRC and head of the final judging panel said: "The standard of competition this year was particularly high and in addition to the excellent entrepreneurial skills demonstrated we also heard about some incredibly innovative product ideas. We would like to congratulate the winning team and also commend all the finalists for their achievements throughout the competition.
"We are delighted that these talented scientists are preparing themselves early in their careers to translate their research into benefits for the UK economy and society - an activity for which their grasp of the principles of finance, marketing and intellectual property will be absolutely vital. The UK's bioscience sector is truly world class and we must continue to encourage our early-career scientists to turn excellent science into significant impacts."
Abby Thompson, Operations Director of Ovega, said: "We have learnt so much through this experience and are very grateful for the opportunity to develop the skills we would need to bring a real product to market one day. To win the competition is a huge bonus on top of an amazing journey; we have definitely benefited individually but we have also grown as a team and are looking forward very much to working together in the future."
Biotechnology YES is an annual competition, now in its 13th year, that aims to help the UK's early career bioscientists gain the skills and contacts needed to turn research into commercial reality. Year on year the competition grows in popularity and the 2008 competition was 10% bigger than 2007, with around 330 entrants. Through regional heats across the UK, young scientists competed for places in the final, mentored by a team of advisors including financiers, intellectual property experts and spin-out company heads.
This year saw ONE North East, the development agency for the North East of England, coming on board with Biotechnology YES for the first time as sponsor and host of the North East regional heat. This has paved the way for some excellent talent to come through from the North East region, with two Newcastle University teams scooping prizes at the final. Fybre were awarded the prize for best consideration of IP strategy, sponsored by Potter Clarkson and Allez won the Pfizer prize for innovation.
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