#21toWatch shortlist for 2023 revealed and showcase next generation of Cambridge game-changers

By paul.brackley@iliffemedia.co.uk (Paul Brackley)

The shortlist for #21toWatch 2023 has been announced by cofinitive - and once again showcases the next-generation of game-changers and innovators in the Cambridge region.

Drawn from an array of sectors - including biotech, cleantech, agritech, construction, automotive, deep learning, marine, life sciences and AI - they share a commission mission o develop solutions for a better world.

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

The #21toWatch initiative has proved a reliable indicator of future success for those featured on its lists over the last five years, with half of those featured in the Top21 receiving funding. Last year was no exception, with the Top21.2022 companies receiving significant investment.

Micro-LED maker Porotech closed a series A round of venture funding worth $20m, DIOSynVax enjoyed a $42m injection from Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine, and Semarion, a company combining materials engineering and cell biology to tackle unmet drug screening needs, banked £2.14m in seed funding.

Porotech CEO and co-founder Dr Tongtong Zhu with a PoroGaN template (55029042)

This year, the independent judging panel with the tough job of picking the final Top21 from a shortlist overflowing with talent includes Hanadi Jabado, managing partner at Sana Capital, Tom Britton, entrepreneur, investor and co-founder of SyndicateRoom, Maximilian Ge, president of Entrepreneurial Postdocs of Cambridge (EPOC) at the University of Cambridge; and John Stenhouse, business support manager at the University of Essex, who manages the Angels@Essex equity investment platform.

The shortlist of 43 will be assessed according to five strict criteria: genuine innovation, the ability to address a real challenge, influence, viability and memorability. Each is then additionally researched via third party platforms such as Companies House and Crunchbase.

Judges for #21toWatch 2023 include managing partner at Sana Capital, left, Tom Britton, entrepreneur, investor and co-founder of SyndicateRoom, top, middle, Maximilian Ge, president of Entrepreneurial Postdocs of Cambridge (EPOC) at the University of Cambridge; top, right, and John Stenhouse (Picture: Elton Cilliers), business support manager at the University of Essex, who manages the Angels@Essex equity investment platform, bottom

Faye Holland, creator of #21toWatch, and cofinitive director, said: “Cambridge is the established centre of UK innovation playing host to a 1,000-plus start-ups and scale-ups in the vicinity, which makes it a very busy region.

“#21toWatch, however, throws the spotlight on our unique talent and helps them to stand out in the crowd, especially those who are lesser known. A lot of eyes are on the Cambridge cluster. It’s a buoyant area for investment. And it is also plugged into the global stage.

“#21toWatch puts you on the immediate radar of investors and buyers as well as potential customers and collaborators and provides a chance to connect with the bigger community that is the Cambridge ecosystem. And that’s why, year on year, we receive so many submissions from people and companies wanting to be a part of this. Congratulations to all who have made it this far!”

The judges said they have been overwhelmed with the quality.

Hanadi Jabado described the list as “inspirational”, while John Stenhouse said: “Innovation and innovators are at the very core of our UK economy and contribute to our global presence as a leading technology driven nation. It is encouraging to see such individual talent, technical enterprises and innovative products that will fuel future sector growth.”

The Cambridge Independent is proud to continue its support for #21toWatch, which is a natural companion to the One to Watch award sponsored by cofinitive at our Science and Technology Awards.

The #21toWatch 2023 shortlist for people

  • Lucy Jung, CEO & Co-founder, Charco Neurotech, which is developing a wearable, non-invasive medtech device to aid those suffering with Parkinson's Disease
  • Borong Hu, founder, Powersense, an intelligent operation and maintenance platform for renewable energy.
  • Dr Daniel Ives, CEO and co-founder, Shift Bioscience, which is developing machine learning technology to routinely reset to prime of life, avoid age-linked disease and make biological age control a reality.
  • Coco Newton, co-founder, Fathom Cognition, which is creating new cognitive markers to help detect Alzheimer's disease years before dementia onset.
Ryman Hashem (62147778)
  • Ryman Hashem, postdoctoral roboticist, University of Cambridge Bio-Inspired Robotic Laboratory, who is creating innovative robotics for the medical, healthcare and industrial sectors, and currently commercialising the automation of the biopsy process in collaboration with NHS and CUH.
  • Elena Cismigi, CEO and co-founder, Neuro XR, which is using neuroscience and behavioural insights to build and enhance immersive virtual worlds.
  • Broderick House, president, Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholarship programme, University of Cambridge whose research is focused on global food insecurity.
  • Dr Saussan Khalil, founder of Kalamna CIC, a social enterprise revolutionising the way Arabic is taught across the UK and globally.
  • Daniel de la Torre, head of R&D, Constructive Bio, which is pioneering approaches for building entirely synthetic genomes.
  • Dr Hannah Sore, CEO and co-founder, PharmEnable, a drug discovery company combining medicinal chemistry and AI to develop next-gen small molecule drugs.
  • Dr Zoe Tolkien, director of research, Advanced Furnace Technology Ltd - an engineering and materials science company providing specialist graphite services to the semiconductor industry, such as graphite cleaning, purification and coating.
Ama Frimpong (62147776)
  • Ama Frimpong, head of product development, 52 North Health, which is improving health outcomes and health equity by reinventing care pathways for all people across the world.
  • Dr Patrick Short, CEO, Sano Genetics – a healthtech startup improving the outlook for people living with rare and chronic genetic diseases.
  • Colleen Sheridan, founder and CEO, Luucid, which is developing products to alert individuals if their drink has been spiked.

The #21toWatch 2023 shortlist for companies

  • Spirea Limited, a biotech company spun out of the University of Cambridge, delivering a new generation of antibody drug conjugate (ADC) therapeutics to address the high unmet need in the treatment of solid tumours.
Mimicrete CTO Dr Lívia Ribeiro de Souza and CEO Arta Selmani. Picture: Keith Heppell
  • Mimicrete, an advanced materials science startup developing novel self-healing concrete.
  • Versed AI, a technology company using cutting edge AI to automatically map company supply chains and uncover and manage risk.
  • Cambridge Smart Plastics, a company relaunching plastics for a smart and sustainable future.
  • Qkine, a biotech manufacturer driving innovation in growth factor proteins and essential reagents used in transformative technologies such as stem-cell disease models, organoids, cell therapy, bioinks and cultured meat.
  • HutanBio, developers of a scalable, cost-effective, low carbon emission marine microalgal biofuel technology to meet the challenge of transitioning to net zero in the marine and heavy transport sectors.
Broken String team at the Sanger Institute (62147782)
  • Broken String Biosciences, a genomics start-up causing a global stir with technology that eschews animal testing.
  • Monument Therapeutic, a biotech company bringing a precision medicine approach to neuroscience drug development, using proprietary digital biomarkers to successfully develop new drugs for schizophrenia and neuroinflammatory conditions.
The opening of Sun Bear lab (62147780)
  • Sun Bear Bioworks, a biotech company reimagining farming with precision fermentation to develop and produce sustainable and healthier everyday ingredients including a deforestation-free, drop-in palm oil substitute for food and fuel.
  • Roadfill Ltd, a cleantech company using recycled plastic products to repair and re-lay roads in an environmentally friendly way.
  • Helio Display Materials, a joint spin-out venture from the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, which is commercialising technology that promises to take light-emitting applications to fresh frontiers.
  • Sanome, a biotech company developing novel AI technology to combine biomarkers into diagnostics, to detect early health changes. These detections will reduce hospitalisations, preventable deaths and enable early interventions.
  • CardiaTec, a University of Cambridge spin-out pioneering cardiovascular drug discovery with its AI-powered multi-omics drug target discovery platform.
  • Cambridge Future Tech, a uniquely technology-first venture builder, working closely with top-tier universities for positive global impact.

The #21toWatch 2023 shortlist for innovations (‘things’)

  • SemaCyte (Semarion) – cell assaying microcarriers driving 10x gains in drug screening applications.
  • Tenyks – ‘AI doctor’ resolving issues for machine learning engineers working with computer vision data.
Kerb-e (62147772)
  • Kerb-e (Reehana Ltd) – innovative on-street charger providing a unique charging solution for Electric Vehicle owners who do not have access to off-street parking.
InferSens flow sensor (62147774)
  • InferSens – game-changing technology enabling deep learning on device in the field on low-cost battery power.
  • Medwise AI Platform - it functions like a ‘Google’ for HCPs and HCOs.
  • TILLING platform (Viridian Seeds) - Next-gen computational breeding platform for generation of new, improved lines and crops.
  • Vuala – food waste recycling made simple.
Steve Clark, CEO of Cambridge Sensoriis with their Free-flow and Rapid Standoff security-screening for All Weapons (FORSAW) system . Picture: Keith Heppell
  • Cambridge Sensoriis - all-weather radar solutions for the drone revolution.
  • PolyNaut Technology (SomaServe) - polymer nanoparticle platform for next-gen genetic medicines.
  • VIOLET AI (IT & Software Vision Intelligence Limited) - enhancing manufacture and productivity.
  • Warmscore (Purrmetrix) - sensors and software to decarbonize housing without sacrificing comfort.
  • PAUA - an EV charge card and app making EV charging easier for business.
  • BCN2201 (Blecon) - novel low-cost chip operating over Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).
Wave Photonics, from left Matthew Anderson and Jamie Lee. Picture: Keith Heppell
  • Wave Photonics – removing the obstacles that integrated photonics technologies face with chips based on fibre-optic designs.
  • RippleXn - compliance monitoring SaaS platform for the advertising/ creator economy.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in March.