The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies Competition 2020 reveals finalists

Source: press release, 27 August 2020

Director of Science & Communities at the Royal Society of Chemistry, Jo Reynolds
Director of Science & Communities at the Royal Society of Chemistry, Jo Reynolds (photo: Royal Society of Chemistry)

The Royal Society of Chemistry has announced its 24-strong shortlist for its Emerging Technologies Competition 2020.

Now in its 8th year, the competition is a programme identifying some of the most novel, innovative and promising chemistry across its core categories of Heath, Food & Drink, Enabling Technologies and Energy & Environment.

This year’s competition attracted over 90 high quality applications, with the final shortlisted 24 representing a diverse range of proposals from tech innovators, start-ups and spin outs from across the continent.

The eye-catching technologies vying for the judges’ attention include a plant-protein alternative to plastics and microplastics; a breakthrough solution for sustaining brain health; a suspended graphene gas sensor for real-time air-quality monitoring and a non-invasive drug delivery solution for targeted delivery and release in the human body.

The finalists will pitch to their category’s judging panels at a virtual event on Monday 28 September to gain a share of GBP 160,000 no-strings funding and support to accelerate their work.

Each category winner selected by the judges will gain GBP 20,000 prize money – up from GBP 10,000 last year – as well as 12 months’ one-on-one support from a specially assigned Royal Society of Chemistry mentor, and a further GBP 20,000 available as a business acceleration grant.

Emerging Technologies Competition winners from previous years have gone on to raise a combined total of over GBP 51 million in equity investment and grant funding, with one company subsequently being sold for GBP 28 million.

Jo Reynolds, Director of Science & Communities at the Royal Society of Chemistry, says, “We have been incredibly impressed by the quality and quantity of applications to the competition. The proposals have demonstrated that this year’s extraordinary circumstances have fuelled some pioneering ideas for chemistry to play a prominent role in tackling some of the biggest challenges facing the planet at this moment. As always, it was very difficult to narrow the wealth of applications down to the final 24, but we believe this year’s shortlist represents a hugely exciting range of agile tech innovators, start-ups and spin-outs with opportunities to bring cutting-edge science to the real world and benefit all of us.”

“Our highly experienced judges are very much looking forward to meeting the finalists at our virtual event and seeing first-hand the creative ideas and innovations that could help shape the world of tomorrow. We wish them all the very best of luck!” Reynolds adds.

Full list of Emerging Technologies Competition 2020 finalists and their proposed technology:


  • Indicatrix Crystallography Limited: Many medicines are manufactured as crystalline solids for inclusion in tablets and capsules, but discovering the correct crystalline form is often difficult. This nanodroplet crystallisation technology utilises liquid-handling robotics to enable rapid, in-depth experimental space exploration and accelerate drug development.
  • University of Bath: Most vaccines are only stable when refrigerated. Ensilication technology can stabilise vaccines without refrigerators, allowing an extra 2 million people ever year with the potential to be saved from vaccine-preventable diseases.
  • Vector Bioscience Ltd: Many drugs suffer from poor localisation and are rapidly cleared from the body. By developing porous nanoparticles called MOFs as a drug delivery platform, these materials carry large quantities of therapeutics and are readily tuned for targeted delivery and controlled release.
  • Oxford HighQ: An instrument using optical microcavities that can characterise novel solutions by measuring loading of drug delivery nanoparticles at single particle level, a key parameter for advanced therapies.
  • University of Cambridge: A spinal cord stimulator using thin-film, shape adaptive electronics and conductive polymers which can be introduced to a patient using minimally-invasive surgical techniques, but with the efficacy of large area conventional stimulators. The device has applications in pain management, rehabilitation and movement disorders.
  • Fluid Pharma: Manufacturing particles suitable for inclusion in liquid medicines (that control drug release or mask drug taste) is highly challenging due to their small size. This innovative particle engineering approach prevents particle massing d and achieves industrially advantageous yields.

Food & Drink

  • Mitocholine Ltd: A novel chemical composition of natural metabolites that, if consumed regularly in the diet, will counteract the development of metabolic syndrome and impede the onset of dementia.
  • Glaia: A revolutionary product to boost crop yields, based on a water-soluble sugar-based material that unlocks the current bottleneck in agricultural production: the inefficiency of crops at utilising sunlight.
  • Hide Biotech: Transform fish industry waste into a collagen-based material that replicates genuine leather. As leather is 90% collagen, this material replicates the authentic feel of leather and significantly reduce water consumption, carbon footprint, and off-cut waste generated in the leather manufacturing process.
  • Hoxton Farms: Using mathematical modelling and machine learning to expand and differentiate adult stem cells to make cultivated meat products (meat grown from animal cells in labs).
  • Aarhus University: Revolutionising screening methods in the food market. A combination of colorimetric sensors note responses to different environments (e.g. different beverages’ colour changes) using advanced AI to create unique ‘fingerprints’ for each product.
  • Setanta Nutrition Science: A novel, nutraceutical formula to increase endothelial nitric oxide (NO) by supplying NO precursors (nitrate and nitrite) with a natural nitrite reductase as well as antioxidants which can synergistically protect the eNO producing enzyme (NO synthase) and improve NO production from NO precursors.

Enabling Technologies

  • University of Cambridge: Effect pigments prepared from a single organic and renewable component extracted from wood: cellulose nanocrystals. These pigments offer the most sustainable alternative to all existing products, including microplastic, partially biodegradable glitter, and unethically sourced mica-based pigments.
  • Xampla : A replacement for single-use plastics using plant proteins. Xampla is focusing initially on applications in microplastics, such as microcapsules for personal and home care, where we can design high performance capsules that degrade naturally in the environment at end of life.
  • Manchester Biofactory: Enzymes are used everywhere, added to many everyday products from food to washing powders and used in the manufacture of vital medicines. This technology revolutionises the way enzymes are developed, bypassing expensive and inefficient approaches to rapidly develop new enzyme products.
  • Chromosol Ltd: An approach to building optical amplifiers and lasers directly onto silicon chips. This will allow for the future integration of electronic and optical communications systems resulting in greater data transfer rates with reduced power usage.
  • ATLANT 3D Nanosystems: The most accurate and versatile atomic layer 3D printing technology for micro and nanodevices. It provides smart and cost-efficient atomically precise additive manufacturing in micro/nanodevices fabrication, such as MEMS & Sensors, RF devices and photonic/optics.
  • Synple Chem: An automated capsule-based synthesiser working analogously to a capsule coffee maker. Requiring no optimisation, it is ideally suited to the needs of discovery chemistry. Following the addition of the starting material and a commercially available reagent capsule, the product is generated, isolated and purified at the touch of a single button.

Energy & Environment

  • Mission Zero Technologies: A decentralised and energy-efficient technology for removing CO2 from air and delivering it as a product. Deployed in an innovative, low-cost and scalable product design, it will enable CO2emitters/consumers to fulfil carbon net-zero ambitions.
  • Greenskill Environmental Technology Ltd: Globally, sewage treatment releases ~4% GHG emissions.
  • This negative emission process technology captures CO2, produces zero sewage sludge, eliminates nitrous oxide and volatile emissions and removes nutrients and emerging contaminants – in a single stage.
  • Viridi CO2: Engineering heterogeneous, high-surface area, porous catalysts capable of transforming CO2 into polyurethane feedstock materials. This process provides a route to reduced reliance on petrochemicals.
  • University of A Coruna: A family of hybrid organic-inorganic materials that can be used as safe and eco-friendly solid refrigerants. These materials exhibit large thermal changes under low pressures and can be chemically engineered to adapt to different operating conditions.
  • Riptron Limited: A miniaturised suspended graphene array gas sensor for real-time air quality monitoring. The sensor’s ability to integrate with consumer electronics will provide a cost-effective technological solution for real-time/high-resolution selective detection of low concentrations of toxic atmospheric pollutants and help the world to breathe quality air.
  • Gas Recovery and Recycle Limited: A new form of sterilisation for medical devices and allowing the safe re-use of PPE via a point of use ethylene oxide, EtO, generator. EtO is the most effective low temperature sterilisation agent there is.

The programme is designed to provide a unique platform for these innovators to engage directly with and learn from large multinational partners and judges – including AstraZeneca, Boots, Croda, Johnson Matthey, Pepsico, Scott Bader, Reckitt Benckiser, RSSL, and Unilever – to build exposure and unrivalled industry validation for their projects.

Winners and participants have significantly raised their profiles, expanded overseas, entered commercial contracts, conducted clinical and industrial scale trials, and collectively doubled their staff.

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