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Case Studies

Entrepreneurial Warwick researchers secure place in the final stage of funding competition ICURe

Three early career researchers from the departments of Chemistry and Life Sciences have won additional funding to help commercialise their research-led innovations to reach new audiences.

The ICURe (Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research) programme trains, funds and supports teams led by university early-career researchers (ECRs) to determine whether there is a market for products or services that utilise their research, science or technology.

Through the programme, researchers are encouraged to take their commercially promising ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace. Over the coming year until March 2019, Warwick and Queens University Belfast, supported by Innovate UK, will work alongside the programme’s original delivery partner SETsquared Partnership to run and grow the ICURe programme across the UK.

Apply to be part for the programme or contact us at ventures at warwick dot ac dot uk should you wish to find out more.

Dr Andrew Weems, Dr Maartje Van Agthoven, and Dr James Stratford are the Warwick researchers who have successfully completed the market validation phase of the ICURe programme. Their market research analysis and presentations to a panel which included investors resulted in them being awarded additional funding worth £15,000 each, in order to prepare a business plan for a spinout to take to industry and apply for Innovate UK grant funding.

The three projects that have been awarded funding are:


1. Implantable Medical Devices:

Academic founders Professor Andrew Dove (Senior Researcher) and Dr Andrew Weems have worked together to develop a new polymer-resin technology that can be used to make resorbable medical devices using a 3D printing process. ICURe gave them the opportunity to speak with companies specialising in medical manufacturing, medical devices and personal medicine, and as a result they were better able to shape their value proposition

2. 2D Mass Spectrometry:

maartje_van_agthoven.jpgDr Maartje Van Agthoven joined the ICURe programme after her post doc research which focused on mass spectrometry across research labs in France, UK and USA. While at Warwick she worked in Professor Peter O’Connor’s lab. The programme provided her a platform to network with professionals in the pharmaceutical, medicine and food industries. This helped her to develop an understanding of the needs and gaps in the industry as well as the associated levels of risk.

I was preaching in the desert before I joined ICURe, I had no idea why people were not interested in this technology. ICURe is a versatile programme, my interactions with industry were enriching and extremely valuable and helped understand the business proposition to develop my plan further and be heard. - Dr Van Agthoven

Dr Van Agthoven spoke with 100 contacts in instrument companies, end users and the supply chain. She is now refining her business proposition and following up with companies as potential beta test site partners.

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3. Bacterial Detection and Discrimination:

Dr Munehiro Asally (Senior Researcher) and Dr James Stratford have developed a method to quickly detect live bacteria. Initial brainstorming saw them derive its use as a research tool with possible application in the fermentation industry. Through the ICURe network, they were able to speak with experts in a range of industries creating the idea of using the technology for bacterial detection in the water and health industries. They are now working on a renewed value proposition and preparing to pitch their business plan in the final stage of ICURe.

During the market discovery facilitated by the ICURe I spoke with 120 new contacts which allowed me to pivot the scientific and technological development of our project to target a different application which will be faster and more valuable but use the same devices. This has shortened our projected course to market dramatically and allowed a significant expansion of our value proposition. I returned to the research work with a renewed sense of purpose and direction. - Dr Stratford

The University of Warwick is the chosen delivery partner for the programme in the Midlands region in 2018-19. The Midlands ICURe programme will support up to 24 projects in two cohorts. Funding up to £35,000 will be made available as part of the programme. In addition, the team at Warwick Ventures will also be involved in supporting the researchers. Projects which emerge through the ICURe process and have the potential to form new start-up companies will be eligible to receive additionally up to £15,000 to develop their business plans.

Since the ICURe programme was established in 2014, Warwick has been the most successful University outside of SETSsquared university partners with 11 different projects being accepted onto the programme and 6 spin-outs thus formed. Four of these spin-outs have won over £1.85 million in grant funding. Out of these, Interface Polymers has secured £3 million in investments.