Venture Prize Winners

2017 CustoMem Ltd

CustoMem Ltd has won the 2017 Armourers & Brasiers Materials Science Prize for a novel biomaterial that filters out harmful micropollutants.  

The granular adsorbent is capable of the specific binding and removing of target micro-pollutants, including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, high performance chemicals and heavy metals, from wastewater.  It will be particularly relevant at commercial airports, oil and gas operations and at military installations where there are significant micro-pollutants.

CustoMem, was founded in 2015 by two Imperial College London graduates, Henrik Hagemann and Gabi Santosa. 

"Although industrial micro-pollutants comprise only a small percentage of total pollutants, their complex chemistries prevent them from being effectively dealt with by current waste water treatment methods.  This renders freshwater unusable and contributes to water stress that will affect 47 per cent of the world's population by 2030," explained Henrik Hagemann, CEO of CustoMem. "One such class of micropollutants includes Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs), which pose a substantial health problem as they are highly toxic to humans and animals."

PFCs are common in Aqueous Film Forming Foams (AFFFs) used for firefighting and can also be found in fluoropolymer coated cookware, sports clothing, medical equipment, and more. They are amongst the most stable organic compounds and are highly persistent in the environment.

The health threat posed by PFCs has prompted many countries to lay down more stringent regulations to the discharge of these compounds. This is evidenced by recent moves by both the EU through the Environmental Quality Standards Directive and in the US through the Environmental Protection Agency.

CustoMem has combined its leading expertise in biomaterials and synthetic biology to create CustoMem Granular Media (CGM).  A novel bio-adsorbent that can selectively capture micropollutants, like PFCs, with ten times  faster binding kinetics and two times greater adsorption compared with  traditional adsorbent materials like anion-exchange media and granular activated carbon.  CGM, once saturated, can be regenerated more than five times. The captured pollutants can be removed with a proprietary wash and safely disposed of or repurposed. 

"Our CGM solution is cost-effective and designed to drop-in to existing infrastructure. This avoids the need to install expensive treatment processes and will augment water recycling and reclamation on local and industrial scales," explained Mr Hagemann. 


CGM is designed and manufactured through a sustainable biological production that does not rely on or produce any hazardous chemicals and reduces energy consumption.  It enables a circular economy and reduces energy of operation upon implementation. 

CustoMem's CGM is pertinent to navy and airforce bases where AFFFs for firefighting are indispensable for safety reasons.  CGM can treat these industries' industrial waste water and help restore legacy contamination sites.  

"We are initially targeting the PFCs treatment market worth $1.6bn in Europe and the US. However, CGM can also address hazardous wastewater from other industries including mining, pharmaceuticals and textiles," explained Henrik Hagemann.

"This pioneering development looks to harness nature's capacity to make biomaterials which will promote human health and provide a solution to a key environmental issue," said Professor Bill Bonfield, chairman of the Armourers and Brasiers Venture Prize judging panel. "Our prize looks to encourage entrepreneurship in materials science and provide funding to help developments like this realise their potential."  

The £25,000 prize will enable CustoMem to better characterise and test the technical performance of CGM for removing PFCs from waste water in industrially relevant conditions.

CustoMem is based at Imperial College's Incubator and supported by SynbiCITE, the Royal Academy of Engineering, Innovate UK, and Climate-KIC.

For further information, please contact:

Shayne Petkiewicz, CustoMem on 07795 518025 or via email

2016 - Hexigone Inhibitors Ltd

Hexigone Inhibitors Ltd, is a spinout company of Swansea University. The project team of Professor Geraint Williams, Patrick Dodds and Dr Adrian Walters has developed an alternative to hexavalent chromate, the commonly used corrosion inhibitor facing an EU ban in 2019.  

The replacement technology developed by the team is a material and manufacturing process for a smart release coating which outperforms hexavalent chromate in laboratory tests.  The new product should be of significant interest to the coiled coated steel market, potentially worth £3bn per annum in Europe alone.  Corrosion inhibitors are commonly used in a wide range of sectors including: coated steel products used to construct industrial, commercial and other buildings; aerospace and aircraft; and the car industry.

The development team believes the new product and process offer a smarter, safer way of reducing corrosion.  The technology is environmentally sound, economical and outperforms the market leader in laboratory tests.  It creates a stored reservoir of corrosion inhibitor and works by channelling aggressive electrolyte anions into the coating, triggering the release of the inhibitor 'on demand', thus preventing corrosion. 

For more information contact Professor Geraint.Williams

2015 - Pertinax Pharma Ltd

Pertinax Pharma Ltd is a spinout pharmaceutical company of the University of Bristol. The company's Chief Scientific Officer is Dr Michele Barbour, Senior Lecturer in Biomaterials in the University's School of Oral and Dental Sciences.
Pertinax is a new formulation of chlorhexidine, an established antimicrobial agent. Chlorhexidine is used widely to prevent and treat a range of infections, but the traditional formulation is effective for only a very short length of time.  As a result of its novel formulation, Pertinax has an unusually low solubility which can provide a continuous slow release over a controlled period of time.  It could increase protection against antibacterial and antifungal infection for weeks, months or years.   The initial focus will be on the dental market where one in seven composite fillings currently fail within seven years, with 86 per cent of those failures caused by bacterial infection.   Other possible applications include catheters and wound care products, which are especially prone to infection by antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as MRSA.
For more information contact Ashley Cooper, CEO

2014 - Sirakoss Ltd

Sirakoss Ltd, is a biomaterials company that was spun out from the University of Aberdeen in 2011. The principal investigator is Professor Iain Gibson, a biomaterials chemist at the University.
The SIRAKOSS MaxSi® Graft technology produces a purely synthetic material that mimics bone.  It uses a unique chemical composition and scaffold structure to achieve bone repair and fusion and has the potential to treat many thousands of patients who need spinal fusion surgery for back pain, or repairs for bone injuries. The product contains no human or animal proteins which removes the risk of potential batch-to-batch variability in performance. Because it's made in the lab, it could be available in endless supply.
Figures for 2012 show there were 1.7 million clinical procedures using bone graft substitutes in the USA, Japan and Europe, with approximately 90% of these procedures in spinal or trauma surgery.  In America alone, that same year, the market value of bone graft substitutes was $1.8 billion. This new technology could help the many hundreds of thousands of people who need bone grafts or bone repairs following the type of fractures suffered in road accidents which can be difficult to heal.
In December 2014, Sirakoss raised £3 million in development funding.
For more information contact Brian Butchart, CEO,  +44 (0) 7545 186410.

2013 - Biomin Technologies Ltd

Biomin Technologies Ltd is a spin out company of Queen Mary, University of London. A research team led by Professor Robert Hill, Head of Dental Physical Sciences at Queen Mary's Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, has developed a new technology to combat the kind of tooth pain caused by hot or cold food or drinks.
The team has created new degradable particles, about the same size as the very small holes in teeth that are associated with this kind of pain. These tiny holes lead to small tubes located within the tooth. These tubes can become exposed as a result of the gums receding, hence the expression "long in the tooth" or through the loss of the outer enamel coating as a result of tooth decay, acid erosion or mechanical wear associated with tooth brushing.  Fluid flow through the holes can trigger pain.
The new bioactive particles are designed to enter the holes and physically block and repair decayed teeth.  They can also re-mineralise the holes via the release of calcium and phosphate ions.
The particles are made of special glass which can be incorporated into toothpaste and will dissolve in the mouth, releasing calcium and phosphate that form tooth mineral. This reduces tooth pain, cuts back on the incidences of tooth decay and repairs teeth.
The new technology has been described as: "Mini marbles that can repair tooth decay".  
This innovation could bring relief to the estimated 20 million adults in UK (40% of the UK adult population) who are prone to tooth sensitivity. Untreated tooth decay or cavities in permanent teeth is the most common of all 291 major diseases and injuries assessed in the latest Global Burden of Diseases study. It affects 35% of the world's population. This development comes at an appropriate time. The latest Global Industry Analysts report outlined that the total world market for toothpaste is forecast to reach US$12.6 billion (£8.1billion) by the year 2015. This growth will be led by product innovations, rising population levels and greater awareness about oral hygiene.
For more information contact Richard Whatley, CEO.

2012 - Oxford Advanced Conductors

A team from the University of Oxford  led by Professor Peter Edwards, Head of Inorganic Chemistry, are developing a high-technology transparent conducting oxide (TCO) coating and manufacturing process with the potential to reduce significantly the manufacturing costs of new-generation solar photovoltaic cells. 
The global market for solar photovoltaic cells was worth US$28 billion in 2009 and currently indium tin oxide (ITO) is used by 97% of the TCO market as it possesses a near-ideal combination of high visible-light transparency and high electrical conductivity.  However, indium is relatively scarce, expensive and has a highly volatile price.  The new coatings were developed as part of a programme to investigate low-cost, earth abundant materials and inexpensive deposition routes which could be used for large-area TCO coatings for products such as solar photovoltaic cells. 
The new coatings are based on silicon-doped zinc oxide and provide a much-needed alternative to ITO.  Zinc is a much more abundant material than indium and the zinc based material offers electrical conductivities around two thirds of ITO, with comparable optical transparency.  In addition to solar cells, the new coatings could be used with lighting and LCD displays used in smart phones, computers and televisions and could seriously reduce costs for manufacturers and consumers in a very exciting and growing industry.

For more information contact Dr Jamie Ferguson, at Oxford University Innovation. 

2011 - Xeracarb Ltd (Sheffield Hallam University)

Xeracarb Ltd has been established as a spinout company of Sheffield Hallam University to take forward the development and commercialisation of a material formed from silicon carbide, silicon nitride and alumina.  
The sialon ceramic composite material is now being used by a number of leading companies as ceramic kiln furniture, burner nozzles and wear resistant parts. It is lightweight, highly durable, demonstrates excellent thermal stability and can be produced in complex shapes and sizes
The lead investigators are Dr Hywel Jones of Sheffield Hallam University and Dr Anthony Pick.
For further information contact   

2010 - ATOCAP Ltd 

ATOCAP Ltd is a spin out company of University College London established to commmercialise a technology developed by Mohan Edirisinghe, Professor of Biomaterials at UCL, and Dr Eleanor Stride, now at the University of Oxford.  They have developed simple and economic electrohydrodynamic mass production methods for devices and processes to generate a wide variety of bubbles and capsules.  

The technology has applications as a delivery vehicle for contrast agents and drugs in clinical settings.  It also has potential in markets for novel material architectures, engineered food substances and cosmetic materials as it is able to co-process gaseous, liquid and solid phases simultaneously varying the size, size-distribution shape and surface texture of the products.

For further information please contact Ann Savell, CEO

2009 - University of Liverpool

Dr Rachel Williams and Dr Luke Dawson of the University of Liverpool  were awarded the 2009 Venture Prize to fund the clinical trial of a silica coating for dentures designed to prevent oral thrush.
28% of the UK population wears dentures and a quarter of these are likely to develop oral thrush.  As not all denture wearers are able to use established drug therapies to combat oral thrush, there is a clear need for preventative treatments.
This new materials technology has been developed in the form of a transparent solution.  Each silica nanoparticle in the solution has an adhesive patch which promotes attachment to the denture.  The coating which results inhibits the adhesion and proliferation of the cells and micro-organisms which promote oral thrush.  The solution is renewable, tasteless and can be used by denture wearers as part of their normal cleaning procedure.
For further information contact Professor Rachel Williams.

2008 - Green Pb and University of Cambridge

The first Venture Prize was awarded to a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge to develop a pilot-scale processing facility for a new lead recycling technology.
Established processes for recovering lead from lead acid batteries are environmentally unfriendly and increasingly costly as energy prices rise and environmental regulations are tightened. 
This new technology uses non-toxic household chemicals to form a lead organic precursor.  Lower temperatures are needed to bring about decomposition and recovered products can be used for the production of new lead batteries.  Sulphur is fixed in the recycling processes, reducing environmentally harmful emissions.

For further information contact Dr Vasant Kumar at the University of Cambridge Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy.