Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

CSCT students awarded the Best Environmental Project prize at 'Engineering YES' competition

Thu Jun 23 12:50:00 BST 2016

20160622-Eng-YESFour PhD students from the CSCT took part in the Engineering YES programme where they developed and pitched a viable business plan to potential funding bodies. We interviewed the students (from left to right) Kasia Smug, Jon Chouler, James Coombs OBrien, and Tristan Smith who successfully passed the Bristol heats in April 2016 and made their way to the finals in Birmingham in June 2016 where they were awarded the Best Environmental Project prize. 

What is Engineering YES?

Engineering YES is a competitive three-day training experience for researchers that introduces participants to what is involved in setting up a technology start-up. It aims to help bridge the gap between academic research and a viable business, a journey often christened “the valley of death”.

Tell us about your company.

Our company, Calcaneus (named after the strongest bone in the body), aimed to solve the worlds persistent microbead issues with the use of biodegradable cellulose beads made via a unique technology.

What made your team unique?

The majority of teams within the competition came from a single disciple whereas our team had a wide and varied background including Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Biology and Manufacturing. This enabled us to approach problems from different angles which inevitably helped answer a lot of questions. Our previous experience with Public Engagement and Outreach events also enabled us to explain complex issues in accessible language.

How was presenting a business pitch different from presenting a research talk?

The panel of judges worked at companies including RBS, Rolls Royce, Potter Clarkson (Leading Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys) and NERC (Natural Environment Research Council). The pressure was on us to present in a language that was accessible to each judge, hence, we focussed on selling the benefits of the technology over the technical features. This was quite difficult for PhD students like us because technical presentations is what we do best! 

What did you take away from the competition?

Given our varying business experience we each took away different things. We all agree that for a technical business IP and protection cannot be understated. Businesses, especially spin outs, can survive or die with IP. Along with this planning for all eventualities via multiple business plans taught us to look into potential risks and hurdles forming a more proactive business.

Do you have any advice for future participants?

Engineering YES is hard work. You will constantly be tested and it helps being thick skinned as you will receive criticism. Have a strong research idea before you go and speak to people such as your supervisors.

Final and most importantly, expect to explain your business as simply as possible many, many times. It was a great experience and we learned a lot.

For more information, please contact:

Rubina Kalra
Digital Communications Co-ordinator
Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

e-mail: R.Kalra@bath.ac.uk
Tel: 01225 385827

About CSCT:
Established in 2008, the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies brings together academic expertise from the University of Bath with international industrial, academic and stakeholder partners to carry out research, training and outreach in sustainable chemical technologies.