George Journeaux (Ginium)
It started over coffee; we were coming to the end of our bachelors degree and four of us had formed a work group and were brainstorming ideas to get a head start on the industrial project we’d have to complete for our masters year. Ben (Parkes) suggested we look into controlled environment agriculture as it’s an emerging field that’s in need of some interdisciplinary work between engineers and growers. After a few discussions with some academics at the University, we found that, to our surprise, the institution already had a vertical farm on campus – Agri-Tech’s Plant Factory Cornwall. We had a chance to look around the plant factory and speak to the research team, and we found that a significant amount of their day was spent taking measurements and collecting data. We also learnt that it was difficult for them to set up, manage and maintain the farm. So, we’d found our project: designing and building an automated, vertical, hydroponic growing environment – project ‘ecoGRO’. The main objective of this project was to create a smart control system that would make these futuristic farms simple to set up, manage and maintain. We were given a budget of £1,000 and around eight months to get it working, ready for a showcase at the end of the academic year.
Jake Shaw-Sutton (Robotriks)
The idea to create a company actually began while I was studying on the MEng (Hons) Robotics course at the University. During the second year of the degree, we were designing and putting together so many different projects and prototypes that the idea formed to try and continue doing this professionally after graduation. We were making from scratch, for the cost of just a few pounds, electromechanical devices that you would often see online or elsewhere for sale for hundreds or thousands of pounds. It was during this period that I realised that electronics and robotics do not have to be so expensive. The barrier to entry is not the cost, but rather, the time and the specialist knowledge of the area. So, if someone had a problem that they wanted to solve, but they didn’t know where technology can be used, that is where I could come in. We could build a business that solved these issues for people at a fraction of the cost, while still being highly specialised for their use. And you never know, during that time, you may end up creating something that is widely desirable and usable, and it becomes a sustainable successful business!
Diana Kviatkovskaja (Chisel Robotics)
I was just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. Back in 2018, when I completed my psychology degree, I was seeking something exciting in the area of AI and robotics. During a start-up networking event in Bristol, I met with the inventor Mayur Hulke (at the time studying robotics engineering in Bristol). He shared with me the challenges that lower limb amputees have, especially issues with prosthetic sockets fitting and continuous visits to clinics for adjustments. He was conducting research with Dr Appolinaire Etoundi at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (University of the West of England) into how to measure pressure inside the prosthetic socket. As Mayur had experience and skills in the area of electronics and software engineering, he was determined to take the next step and work on the project outside of the research area and so became involved with the start-up communities at the two universities in the city. So when I met Mayur at that event, I was excited to hear his vision, and I honestly wanted to help him accomplish his dreams. A couple of months later, we registered the company and started working more intensively on building our brand, preparing for the pitching competitions, and creating connections that are essential for our business growth and development.