Emerging Technologies Competition unveils new science stars

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The Royal Society of Chemistry has provided a sneak peek into the future after announcing the winners of its prestigious Emerging Technologies Competition 2018.

This year’s winners were HexagonFab, a spin-off from the University of Cambridge, Smartwound from the University of Bath, Oxford Biotrans and London-based BioNano Consulting. The Royal Society of Chemistry said the winners had ‘gone beyond simply creating fantastic new ideas – they have the potential to improve the world we live in’.

Aurora Antemir, Head of Industry at the Royal Society of Chemistry said: “The Emerging Technologies Competition is a celebration of chemistry’s contribution to our rapidly changing world – and a terrific showcase for some of the SMEs working at the cutting edge of science.

“Winning is no mean feat, with an extremely competitive field in each category. Our winners have demonstrated tremendous skill and an ability to find solutions to problems that will change the way we will all live our lives in years to come.”

To win the Emerging Technologies Competition 2018, 39 eager candidates pitched ideas towards panels of experts in a ‘Dragons’ Den’ style competition at the society’s Chemistry Means Business event, a showcase of success and innovation in the sector across the UK and Europe. Ideas had to fit into one of four categories, Food and Drink, Materials and Enabling Technology, Energy and the Environment and Health.

Each winner will receive tailored business support from the competition’s multinational partner companies, as well as business training and media support – in addition to a cash prize of £10,000.

Previous winners have gone on to raise a combined £31m in investment and grant funding, collectively doubled employee numbers and attracted licence deals and significant international expansion. Some have gone on to be acquired, with winners securing trade sales of £28million, while previous “One to Watch” winner, Ziylo, was recently acquired in a £623million deal.

Winners and Runners-up in summary:

Materials and Enabling Technologies

  • Winner: HexagonFab Ltd, a spin-out from the University of Cambridge who have created a sensor platform for fast and sensitive biomarker detection, useful for finding allergens in food production
  • Second place: Micropore Technologies, from Teesside, for their fully scalable equipment for manufacture of precision particles and microcapsules. 


  • Winner: University of Bath, Smartwound – an infection-detecting wound dressing.
  • Second place: University of Birmingham, ‘Four dimensional medicine’ – polycarbonate resin inks for 3D-printing of shape-changing resorbable medical devices.

Energy and the Environment

Food and Drink

  • Winner: Oxford Biotrans, for their product Nootkatone, which produces the flavour and scent of grapefruit.
  • Second place: Aqualution, for their approach to Optimising health, welfare and productivity on dairy farms.

Aurora continued: “Chemistry Means Business brings SMEs, start-ups and academic entrepreneurs together with the major and multinational companies that can take their ideas and innovations to the next level.

“This competition has proven to be a fantastic springboard for entrepreneurial ideas and have helped countless SMEs make the leap from lab to market – so we’re looking forward to seeing what our winners, and indeed all those shortlisted, will achieve in future.”

A great deal of the competition’s success is owed to its partners, chemistry-using multinationals who share a passion for innovation and collaboration. They provide support to winners in a number of ways, including strategy reviews, product testing, and introducing them to new networks.