Yann Frachi enjoys playing narrative video games in his spare time — from Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain and Detroit to Uncharted. Astonished by the beauty of the movie-like storytelling, he feels there’s one thing that could turn these games into truly memorable experiences: emotion.

“For me, gaming is the most advanced example of human-machine interaction. But it’s missing a layer,” Frachi, a PhD student at Queen Mary University working on a thesis about emotion and game design, says. “Up until now, game developers’ focus has been on creating hyper-realistic graphics. …


When creating The Crouching Beggar back in 1902, Picasso painted over art by one of his earliest influences, Santiago Rusiñol of the Catalan modernisme movement. Now, British startup Oxia Palus has brought Rusiñol’s painting back to life by mapping it with machine learning and 3D printing it on canvas.

Founders George Cann and Anthony Bourached met as PhD students at University College London, focusing respectively on infrared spectroscopy applied to the Mars atmosphere and machine learning. …


In a recent poll we ran among our newest cohort, we asked aspiring founders what their purpose was, the reason why they had decided to join the Conception X programme in the first place.

The responses were enlightening:

18% said “I’m just curious to learn more”

46% said “I’m trying to have an impact with my research”

33% said “I’m trying to help solve a specific user need”

3% said “I’m looking to make money”

Overall, 79% of the cohort said they had joined Conception X for a sense of higher purpose, while 3% perhaps very honestly said they were…


The Rahko team

Named a top European quantum computing company to watch, Rahko originally evolved out of joint research groups at UCL, where PhD students could explore the boundaries and intersection of different technologies. It wasn’t long until the student team decided to take their research out of the academic environment and into a more commercial setting, raising £1.3 million in a seed round led by Balderton Capital early on.

Today, Rahko is a machine learning company building a quantum discovery platform to more accurately predict the behaviour and properties of drugs, with the goal of speeding up and bringing down the cost…


Neurosalience’s prototype

Ksenia Sokolova first realised that her PhD research could be turned into a business after developing an algorithm that predicts people’s brain age from MRI scans.

“I realised that this information could be used to detect dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases early,” Sokolova says. “This is a pressing priority in countries with ageing populations.”

According to the World Health Organization, the number of people suffering from dementia worldwide is estimated at 50 million and will almost triple by 2050. …


Credit: ThisIsEngineering; Start your Conception X application today

If you have an existing start-up and business plan or pitch deck, you’re ready to go.If you’re coming to this for the first time, you’re also ready to go.

The Conception X application is designed to be accessible and straightforward. It’s specifically designed for PhD researchers and takes about 20 minutes to complete.

(In the event you’d like to structure your thoughts a bit more, you can use the Sequoia Business Plan template. Set a timer for 30–60 minutes and work through each section in 5–10 minutes. This stage is completely optional to help you think through your idea. …


Marc Svensson founded Helsa to support LGBTQ+ people in need through technology

As a social psychologist and PhD researcher in LGBTQ+ mental health, Marc Svensson started Helsa to help close the mental health gap affecting the LGBTQ+ community at disproportionately higher rates compared to the general population.

“Due to the heteronormative society we grow up and live in, LGBTQ+ people suffer more from common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety,” says Svensson. “This is caused by unique stressors many of us experience, such as stigma, internalised homophobia and concealment of identity.

Svensson created Helsa as an online platform that uses a matching algorithm to connect LGBTQ+ people in need with…


École polytechnique — J.Barande via CC license

When Conception X was launched as a small pilot within one of the largest university systems in the UK, I knew I wanted to create a different kind of space, an inclusive community of aspiring entrepreneurs with deep science backgrounds coming together and experimenting freely in a low-risk environment.

But I hadn’t yet considered the implications of such a model for mental health. As cohort after cohort completed the free, nine-month programme, I began to realise what the Conception X team had created was quite unique.

It’s been a few years since Michael A. Freeman from the University of California…


VR entertainment, under CC license

Eve Gregoriou first started NeuroVirt to help stroke patients reach their full recovery potential.

By combining her passion for gaming with her PhD research at the intersection of neuroscience and technology, she developed a tool that aims to improve success rates for stroke patients in need of upper body rehabilitation by using virtual reality and a data glove.

The technology itself is simple: A virtual reality headset that immerses patients into engaging games that have been designed and calibrated based on their needs.

For instance, a patient might be playing VR basketball in order to execute shoulder exercises and specific…


Building by bgreenlee, under CC BY 2.0 license

Kapacity.io is a cloud-based AI tool that optimises energy use in buildings to help customers reduce costs and save energy. By adjusting heating and cooling systems’ consumption based on energy prices, weather forecasts and people’s thermal comfort, building owners can save on bills while reducing their CO2 footprint.

Rami El Geneidy co-founded Kapacity.io during his PhD at Loughborough University, and joined Conception X to complement his research background with the skills needed to found and operate a startup.

“Being a long-term programme spanning nine months rather than weeks provided us with an effective platform to develop from scratch and grow…

Conception X

Venture builders creating deeptech startups from leading research labs and PhD programmes around the UK. conceptionx.org

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