Snap decision to award two first prizes at this year’s Postdoc Competition finale

Kasia Ladds

by Kasia Ladds

Judges at this year’s Cambridge Postdoc Enterprise Competition grand finale were so impressed with the final pitches that after intense deliberation they decided to award two first prizes. The winners were Dr Giorgia Longobardi with Cambridge GaN Devices and Dr Max Bock with Netwookie. Each won a £20,000 investment.

Sponsored by Cambridge Enterprise and private investment company Holben Holt, the grand finale was held on Thursday 27 October, with five finalists pitching for investment to an audience of 100. Prizes on the table were £20,000 investment, £10,000 investment and £7,500 cash sponsored by the External Technology Assessment function of The Coca-Cola Company.

But the pitches were of such a high standard that the judges could not choose between the two winners, and so decided to award two prizes of £20,000 investment. The Coca-Cola prize was awarded to Giorgio Divitini with SynBioSeas. The other finalists included Dr Myriam Ouberai with Spirea and Dr Liang Wang with Kvasir.

The support of experienced and enthusiastic mentors provided by Cambridge Enterprise has been valuable in filling the gap between my academic-oriented skills and attitude and an entrepreneurial approach to innovation and communication.

Giorgia Longobardi, Cambridge GaN Devices

The Cambridge Postdoc Enterprise Competition is run jointly by Cambridge Enterprise and the Entrepreneurial Postdocs of Cambridge and is open to all postdocs at the University of Cambridge. Those who are successful in the first round go on to receive mentoring from a list of experienced Cambridge Enterprise mentors, pitching training for their final pitches, and advice and continued support for the development of their idea from Cambridge Enterprise.

Netwookie aims to provide transparency and opportunity to marginalised people in Kenya by matching job seekers with employers through a digital platform. Max Bock, Netwookie founder and winner of £20,000 investment, said, ‘Our business proposal for matching skills and people in developing countries is unusual in the technology orientated start-up space found in Cambridge. It was a positive surprise to not only be nominated as a winner of this competition, but also to receive great support during and after the competition to reach out to experts and connect with interested investors. On behalf of Netwookie, thank you Cambridge Enterprise and EPOC.’

Cambridge GaN Devices aims to exploit a disruptive Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology for energy-saving, high power electronics applications. Giorgia Longobardi, the company’s founder and winner of £20,000 investment, said, ‘Thanks to this contest, I worked for the first time on a business plan focused on exploiting my technology, I filed a patent, pitched my business to investors, and started my own company for high efficiency power electronics. The support of experienced and enthusiastic mentors provided by Cambridge Enterprise has been valuable in filling the gap between my academic-oriented skills and attitude and an entrepreneurial approach to innovation and communication.’

SynBioSeas, winner of the Coca-Cola prize, aims to develop their sustainable technology to extract valuable components, such as chitin, calcium and protein, from shellfish waste.

We would like to thank all of those that took part in the competition this year and made it such a success, including the sponsors, mentors, entrants, judges, and attendees of the grand finale.

The competition will open again for entries in May 2017.

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