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Andrew Marsden, of the University’s Department of Chemistry, on Thursday accepted first prize on behalf of his team for Immaterial in the first-ever postdoc business plan competition, run by Cambridge Enterprise (CE) and the Entrepreneurial Postdocs of Cambridge (EPOC).

Professor Chris Abell, Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, took to the stage at Peterhouse College Theatre to award the £15,000 cash prize to Marsden, CEO of Immaterial, whose technology was co-developed by team members Dr David Fairen-Jimenez and Tian Tian, both of the Department of Chemical Engineering. It consists of a porous material that can be put inside a gas tank, enabling it to store up to 16 times as much gas at the same pressure and in the same volume.

It was an excellent opportunity for us to develop our plan for commercialisation and justify every aspect of our thinking.

Andrew Marsden

A second place prize of £7,500 was awarded to Dr Richard Bowman of project WaterScope. Using open-source technology, WaterScope is developing an innovative 3D-printable microscope that provides high-resolution images at significantly lower prices, offering a quick and inexpensive way to test water for bacteria.

The postdoc business plan competition, which was launched in August, required the entrants to progress through several rounds of judging to reach the final, including 20 minute pitches where they were questioned on the finer details of their technology and business plans, and offered mentoring from industry experts to improve their ideas. Of the field of contestants, four teams made it to the finals.

Andrew Marsden of Immaterial said, “It was an excellent opportunity for us to develop our plan for commercialisation and justify every aspect of our thinking. We are looking forward to building on the strong basis we have developed and using the funding to support a feasibility study of industrial scale production.”

Anne Dobrée, Head of Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds, which provided the investment prizes, said, “All of the finalists were of high calibre, as was clear from the quality of the pitches. The teams said that they found the mentoring stage of the competition very useful in improving their business plans. We wish them all luck.”

As the winner, Immaterial’s team will have an opportunity to pitch their idea to investors at one of CE’s Venture Partners dinners, an investor forum of venture capitalists and business angels with more than £4 billion of funds under management by members.

The postdoc business plan competition will be open to contestants again in 2016, so watch this space.