We launched Conception X three years ago. Now our deeptech startups are making waves.
There’s a thread running through most Conception X startups. Despite working on technologies spanning a wide variety of sectors and industries, they are driven by the desire to solve tomorrow’s problems.
“These aren’t just companies that optimise a tiny step in a corporate process so that whatever companies were doing before they can do it more efficiently,” Lead Tech Coach Rodolfo Rosini said recently. “Their focus is purely on long-term impact.”
They come from leading academic institutions across the UK and beyond, and are backed by deep research. In most instances, the road to market is still quite long for them, yet the potential is immense.
Some of this year’s Demo Day finalists have initiated global conversations about the future of AI and art.
Others are applying complex low-memory machine learning technology to conservation projects with support from our partners at Deloitte, reducing reliance on large devices just as the world is facing a severe chip shortage.
As we wrap up another Demo Day and our Cohort IV, we asked Conception X Academic Lead Richard Anson and Hub Manager Olivia Ash to share their thoughts on where we’re at — and where we’re headed next. If you’d like to help us get there, we look forward to hearing from you.
A UK-wide deeptech institute
With the COP26 climate talks on everyone’s mind, this year’s Demo Day felt timely as most of our deeptech ventures pitched technologies with the potential to positively impact humankind and the planet — from early warning systems for organ failure in intensive care units to turbines improving the efficiency of wind energy.
The latest cohort had 70 PhD teams from almost 30 universities, a sign that Conception X is on its way to becoming a de facto National Deeptech Institute. The rapid transition to virtual that the COVID pandemic forced upon us ended up unlocking the secret sauce to scale the programme to more universities across the country.
Nurturing deeptech venture scientists is different. In many cases, you have sophisticated technology or scientific findings that haven’t found a real-world application yet, a problem to solve. The Conception X programme is a unique mix of entrepreneurship training and hands-on coaching by industry experts who regularly advise the emerging ventures, surrounded by an ecosphere of investors, academics, partners and customers.
Every year, during the summer, the Conception X team carries out a comprehensive review. Looking ahead to 2022, the goal is to at least double the number of venture scientists and universities on the programme. We have created an academic advisory board with thought leaders representing UCL, Oxford, Cambridge, Newcastle and Imperial, who are helping us think through programme strategy and ecosphere development.
Our programme will be further fine-tuned to the needs of venture scientists and their aspirations, and we will be looking to encourage them to push forward harder than ever — after all, it is not too big an exaggeration to say that our future is in their hands.
A community like no other
We are lucky to engage with some of the brightest people in the country at the point where they can take their ideas and put them into practice. We can rely on a community like no other, full of talented and passionate people.
Our teams aren’t just focused on learning how to commercialise their research. They are keen to make an impact on the world around us, whether by tackling climate change with wind turbines or reducing waste in labs, addressing social isolation with hugging robots, saving lives with AI algorithms that can help doctors make life-or-death decisions under pressure or just making life that little bit easier for vulnerable people with wearable technologies. Often, they don’t fully realise what their technologies and research could achieve when they first join us.
On a daily basis, I am inspired by our startups as they grow and mature over the course of nine months at Conception X. Take our Cohort IV Demo Day winners, Myriad Wind. They met on the programme, they have already put together a prototype, reached out to potential customers and are now looking to fundraise — all within three months. Another example is Zeke Steer from Milbotix, who’s had conversations with more than thirty care homes to understand whether his stress detecting socks would be applicable to their residences — and he’s done this while finishing his PhD. Alexis Block from Sephri Solutions, who has built the first human-sized hugging robot with visual and haptic perception, has pushed forward with her business, finished her PhD and moved across the world to LA, continuing to engage with the programme despite time differences.
These are just a few examples of our teams’ progress and dedication — not just to the programme, but to the broader causes they are fighting.