Tech startup upLYFT, co-founded by UCL and Imperial College London students, has won the Health award in this year’s prestigious entrepreneurial competition held at London’s City Hall.
The smart wearables startup has won £20,000 in funding from the competition plus mentoring to help bring their product to market. Four other UCL businesses were also in the finals.
The London Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition is open to London students and recent graduates who’ve set up businesses or have an idea for one. The annual competition awards funding, in particular to support new ideas designed to make London ’cleaner, greener and ready for the future’.
upLYFT won against four other businesses in the Health category. The business was co-founded by UCL student Zuzanna Kosobudzka (MSci Natural Sciences) and Aalok Rai from Imperial College London.
Zuzanna and Aalok are working on the next generation of smart wearables - technology embedded within clothing or accessories such as watches - to improve mobility and musculoskeletal health, using a combination of machine learning and mechanical stimulation.
Co-founder Zuzanna said: "Winning the Health award is honestly a dream come true. After months of hard work on our prototype and the business, this recognition will supercharge our development and next steps, which include large scale testing and developing our product further. I strongly recommend anyone who’s got a passion for what they are building, and a vision for a better tomorrow, to apply for competitions such as this one.
"For me, the most important thing is the people I am building this vision with. I am forever grateful to my team, our advisors and my co-founder Aalok for what we are creating. Support from UCL has been also absolutely invaluable and I look forward to seeing more UCL startups join me as winners in the coming years."
This year’s competition rewarded innovative ideas in four categories: the creative industries, environment, health and tech. 360 startups applied and 20 were chosen to take part in the finals, with five of the proposed businesses coming from UCL.
The four other UCL finalists were:
Environment finalists, Vertical Grounds: a biodiverse and resilient living wall system that replaces current plastic systems with organic cork.
Founded by: UCL graduate Mac Van Dam (Master in Architecture, 2022)
Environment finalists, Phyta Biodesign: a module tiling system that creates safe havens for solitary bees, with the aim of boosting pollination and biodiversity across the capital.
Founded by: UCL graduates Arnav Kele and Zain Ansari (Master in Architecture, 2022) and current student Dana Molzhigit (MSc in Bio-Integrated Design)
Tech finalists, Catalyst AI: a new kind of passport that uses AI-powered visualisations and gamification to bring health, lifestyle and behaviour data together in one place.
Founded by: Ariel Sereda (PhD in Neuroscience)
Creative Industries finalist, Renee Materials: new ’circular materials hubs’ where designers, makers and other creative practitioners can find companies’ offcut waste to transform into new products.
Founded by: UCL graduate David Hamon (MSc in International Public Policy, 2021), Friederike Bischoff and Vassiliki Deij
The five UCL finalists, and 15 startups others from universities across London, were each invited to give a two-minute pitch to an expert judging panel at City Hall.
Arnav Kele from Phyta Biodesign said: "Having the chance to get involved in competitions like this is fantastic for our profile and for practicing pitching. This will be extremely useful to us in the following weeks, as we are now looking to raise investment. It’s incredible to think how far we’ve come since we started this journey - and none of it would have been possible without the support of UCL."
upLYFT, Phyta Biodesign and Vertical Grounds are all current members of the Hatchery incubator programme at BaseKX, UCL’s dedicated entrepreneurship space in the heart of Kings Cross. Here, they have access to free, tailored support and dedicated office space, to develop their entrepreneurship skills and take their ideas to market.
Andreas Feller-Ryf, Entrepreneurship Advisor, UCL Innovation & Enterprise, said: "The fact that five of the 20 businesses in this year’s final involved UCL students and graduates underlines the quality of the businesses that are coming out of the university. We are thrilled to be able to support so many entrepreneurs with such innovative and promising ideas, and we look forward to seeing where all of these businesses go next."
UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement) Professor Geraint Rees said: "Congratulations to upLYFT and all the finalists. Having such a strong representation from UCL at this year’s competition is testament to the high-quality support and strong entrepreneurial community here at UCL. We are delighted to see so many students and graduates coming up with ideas to tackle issues in areas like health and the environment, which are not only relevant for London but for many other cities and countries around the world, too."
In total, over 400 new graduate businesses were set up at UCL between 2014 and 2022. Collectively they’ve raised over £300m in investment and currently employ more than 1,700 people.
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